Kamaehu Kawa’a crowned 19th Richard Ho’opi’i Leo Ki’eki’e Falsetto Champion

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Kamaehu Kawa’a crowned the 19th Richard Ho’opi’i Leo Ki’eki’e Falsetto Champion. Pictured: (left to right) Chief Justice Cody Pueo Pata; Judges Olelo Kuulei Alcomindras-Palakiko and Joshua Noeau Kalima; Kamaehu Kawa’a; and musical judges Iwalani Hoomanawanui Apo and Carlson Kamaka Kukona III. PC: Courtesy

Kamaehu Kawa’a won the league title at the 19th Annual Richard Ho’opi’i Leo Ki’eki’e Falsetto Competition, which took place on Saturday, September 18 at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. The competition featured five contestants presenting their high profile voices in the unique falsetto style.

Kawa’a’s prize package includes: wood prize, Maui Ku’ia Estate chocolate, makana donated by 2016 champion Gregory Juan, Aflac and New York Life consultant and business solutions broker, shirt and a Makaku Maui bag, designed by Kumu Hula Kamaka Kukona, a Lei hulu by Leonani Meyer, an opportunity to record a single with Kimie Miner’s Haku Collective team and $ 600 cash.

Kawa’a also won the Hawaiian Language Award – presented by the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, which includes a two-night stay at the resort with breakfast; and the Sheldon Keahiawakea Brown Music Award for his musicality.

Kamaehu Kawa’a crowned the 19th Richard Ho’opi’i Leo Ki’eki’e Falsetto Champion. PC: Courtesy

The winning song was an original composition written for Kawa’a’s wife, Madi, which compares her to Pulelehua, the butterfly. Kawa’a said he loved his daughter Ceralena, to sing and dance the hula as a student of award-winning Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻalaʻiliahi, under the direction of na kumu hula ‘Iliahi and Haunani Paredes.

Second place went to Micah Manzano of Maui, who received an award for wood, Maui Ku’ia Estate chocolate and $ 400 in cash; and third place went to Kaliko Pascua from Hanapēpē, Kaua’i, who received an award for wood, Maui Ku’ia Estate chocolate and $ 300.

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Other attendees at this year’s event were: Troy Alika Hussey from Lahaina, Maui; and David James Kealoha Auna of Lā’ie, O’ahu.

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“Due to COVID, our work team was reduced to limit the number of people in the room during filming. I missed them, my aunt Nani Watanabe ‘ohana and Tina Thompson’ ohana. We all worked so hard. The staff at Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua really went above and beyond: Hawaiian cultural advisor Clifford Naeole and General Manager Andrew Rogers, judges, houseband, our sound technician David Nakamura and the film crew. We couldn’t have done it without everyone doing their part, big and even small, ”said event coordinator Daryl Fujiwara.

This year’s judges included: Chief Justice Cody Pueo Pata; judges Olelo Kuulei Alcomindras-Palakiko and Joshua Noeau Kalima; and musical judges Iwalani Hoomanawanui Apo and Carlson Kamaka Kukona III.

Due to improved COVID regulations, the committee did not offer seats to the public and asked viewers to log into Facebook LIVE at https://www.facebook.com/FestivalsofAloha/videos/ 909604719932169 /.

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The purpose of this event is to provide a championship opportunity for amateur falsetto singers, as well as to provide a dynamic platform for the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaii’s unique falsetto traditions.

Additionally, it is designed to honor and uphold cultural and entertainment ideals and integrity such as the late Uncle Richard Ho’opi’i role model –– The Hawaiian falsetto legend, a member of the famous musical duo, The Ho’opi’i Brothers, a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award Winner, a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award, National Endowment of the Arts Folk Heritage Fellowship, Co-recipient of a Grammy Award and Founder of the Richard Competition Hoʻopiʻi Leo Kiʻekiʻe.

Kamaehu Kawa’a (center) crowned 19th champion Richard Ho’opi’i Leo Ki’eki’e Falsetto. PC: courtesy

Past contest winners are displayed below:

2021 – Kamaehu Kawa’i, Waiehu, Maui
2020 – COVID-19 / Canceled
2019 – Ikaika Mendez, Ulupakakua, Maui
2018 – Kaulike Pescaia, Kihei, Maui
2017 – Kason Gomes, Wailuku, Maui
2016 – Greg Juan, Wailuku, Maui
2015 – Kamalei Kawa’a, Waiehu, Maui
2014 – Grant Kono, Honolulu, Oahu
2013 – Micah Hoapili Ku’aimoku De Aguiar, Kona, Hawai’i
2012 – Joshua No’eau Kalima, Hilo, Hawaii
2011 – Ezra Kaui Krueger, Maui, Hawaii
2010 – Po’okela Wood, Maui, Hawai’i
2009 – Pomaika’i Krueger, Maui, Hawai’i
2008 – Kamakani Kiaha, Moloka’i, Hawai’i
2007 – Kapono Na’ili’ili, Oahu, Hawai’i
2006 – Kalani Benanua, Lana’i, Hawai’i
2005 – Hiroshi Okada, Japan
2004 – Kai Ho’opi’i – Maui, Hawai’i
2003 – Kamaka Fernandez, Maui, Hawaii
2002 – Ramzey Ho’opi’i, Maui, Hawai’i


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