For the first time ever, a contingency of leading performers from across Hawai‘i will represent our state at the 18th Annual Pasifika Festival in Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand). The two-day cultural event this March in Auckland is the largest gathering of Pacific peoples in the world—attracting nearly 225,000 each year—and highlights traditional and modern art, culture, music and dance from the diverse cultures and individuals across the Pacific. It’s like Bonnaroo for Polynesians.
Attending in Hawai‘i’s honor is the Mana Maoli Collective (MMC)—an eclectic conglomeration of prolific, up-and-coming performers who will share with the world the arts and culture of the Hawaiian Isles of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Mana Maoli is actually a nonprofit formed in 1999, compiled of educators, musicians, artists, practitioners and families who share a common vision of community-based education and awareness, pooling and sharing of resources, and sustainability in regards to the environment, economy and community.
Hawai‘i’s soulful songbird Paula Fuga is a member of the Mana Maoli Collective.
Photo: Sean Michael Hower
Their mission is described with just three words—ho‘okumu (building a foundation), ho‘okele (forge direction and connections) and ho‘omana (provide sustenance and empowerment).
They focus on providing for programs that work toward their vision, including Na Lei Na‘au‘ao, an alliance that provides resources and support for a combined 12 Hawaiian charter schools.
The passionate leader behind Mana Maoli is Keola Nakanishi, coordinator of the nonprofit and the music collective. He said “Maoli Music” is made up of hundreds of highly-respectively individuals including John Cruz, Amy (Gilliom) Hanaiali‘i, Kaumakaiwa Kanahele, Fiji and many others.
“Maoli Music” is a part of the nonprofit, which focuses on such groups as MMC. “Through the exchange of our culture, dance and music, they will share among the best and most authentic of what Hawai‘i has to offer,” said Keola.
Altogether, nearly 25 individuals will travel for a two-week tour in Aotearoa—Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine and a group of dancers from various halau, a technical crew and 12 band members, so far, with potential to grow.
MMC is playing gigs across the isles to raise funds for their trip “Down Under.” The current MMC artists are also in the process of completing an album, most likely around March. Mana Maoli has released three music volumes, one that included the addictive track Country Road by Jack Johnson and Paula Fuga.
Vocalist Leimaile Quitevis said the music they have been playing is not traditional Hawaiian, but not contemporary. “There’s hip-hop, Hawaiian, dancehall, funk, reggae—such a unique sound,” she said. “I have found our strength is our diversity, as within it, there is a common thread that ties us all together—our love of our culture and our land.”
Imagine the visions and sounds of hula, ‘ukulele, guitars, bass, drums, various percussion, harmonica, keyboards and seven lead vocalists. Unreal. And, the harmonies are falling into place beautifully.
“The fusion that comes together is just amazing,” said Leimaile. “You hear the heart and soul of each member come out in the music.”
Besides performing on Pasifika’s main stage, MMC plans on participating in an array of cultural workshops and shows across four major cities of Aotearoa.
“It’s a wonderful place to share our cultures and traditions—discover where we are today musically, culturally,” said Leimaile. “Everyone’s so talented yet so humble, working collectively, looking to each other. We all feel very honored.”
“The group is conscious in their lyrics and drive for change through music, and you experience that through their performance,” said Keola. “They embody ‘Mana Maoli.’”
“To me, ‘Mana Maoli’ is accepting the true essence of mana or power, that we get from our kupuna and ‘aina, and our ancestors,” said Leimaile. “We stand on the shoulders of our beloved kupuna and stand for the love of the ‘aina. We will do our best to make them proud.”
“To hear vocalists, and see the musicians, from the prolific to the unfamiliar, taking turns, backing each other up, is awesome,” said Keola. “I wish I could convey the magic, and capture the energy. You must experience it.”
Maui has three opportunities to support MMC’S magical musical tour. Make your way to the Historic ‘Ïao Theater on Friday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m. Visit www.MauiOnStage.com. Then fly over to West Maui for a late-night show that same evening at Lulu’s Lahaina Surf Club at 9 p.m., with Lahaina Grown and Na Mele Pono kicking things off. Both Friday shows include an acoustic set by melodic Maui sweetheart Anuhea.
On Saturday, Feb. 6, catch MMC at Mulligan’s on the Blue at 9 p.m. Call 874-1131 for reservations. A signed ‘ukulele from Jack Johnson will be auctioned off this evening as well.
Visit 808 Deli, Wings Hawai‘i or Requests Music to pick up your presale tickets for a minimum donation of $10. Tickets are $15 at the door, with additional contributions welcomed.
For more information, call 295-MANA and check out Mana Maoli Collective on Facebook.