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Molokai Music Students Release CD

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

A group of Molokai musicians of the first ever cohort of students in the University of Hawaii Maui College Institute of Hawaiian Music have released a CD and celebrated with a live streamed concert at Hiro’s ‘Ohana Grill last week.

Photo courtesy UH Maui College Institute for Hawaiian Music

Over the last two years, the group remained intact through the pandemic and their compilation CD, called Awaiaulu ‘Ia E Ke Aloha No Molokai (Bound Together By Love For Molokai), features nine recordings, seven of which are original compositions by the students.

Natalie Sambajon, Kelly Kaawa Richardson, Lehiwahiwa Ritte, Valerie Temahaga, Po’okela Napoleon, Keakaokalani Kaiama, Daniel Pelekai, Jr., Kaui Kapuni Manera and Shaye Lauifi performed last Saturday in a concert that streamed live on Akaku.

“We are incredibly proud of this accomplishment by our Molokai students. Their dedication and perseverance during trying times was incredible,” said Keola Donaghy, assistant professor of music and faculty coordinator for Institute of Hawaiian Music and music studies at UH Maui College. “We had to take our class online until it was safe to resume in-person classes, and once we did, we were able to complete the composition of their mele and recording of their release before their graduation.”

The Institute of Hawaiian Music mentors and trains aspiring musicians in performing, singing, composition, repertoire development, recording techniques and marketing of Hawaiian music. It offered its first class on Molokai, Applied Hawaiian Music, in the fall of 2019.

Those who joined the class “found collective strength” to face the challenges over the next two years.

“This project, like many others, was nearly ended by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021. During those trying times, the bonds that had been created between faculty, staff and students were tested, but never failed,” the CD description relates. “Everyone had other important responsibilities to attend to, but they found a collective strength in coming together through music. The experience created “he lei pili pa’a hemo ‘ole” — a lei firmly bound and never to be broken.”

The new Awaiaulu ‘Ia E Ke Aloha No Molokai CD is available for purchase online at mele.com. Prior Institute of Hawaiian Music compilation CDs have been recognized with two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.

“We have been bound together by our aloha for Molokai and for each other,” the students wrote. “We honor the island, its people and its rich history with this offering of mele, as they have inspired both these compositions and musical performances. We hope that it also inspires future generations of the island’s residents to perpetuate its rich musical and cultural heritage.”

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