Punahele Productions // 2007 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // April 10th, 2008
An unforgettable evening of traditional and contemporary Hawai'ian song and dance.
"It is said that Hula is a reflection of life, and in that reflection we see ourselves and very clearly the countless generations of our ancestors who stand behind us. It is a way for us and for them to cross the veil of time to come to a place where past and present become one. That place is here. That time is now."
With that, award winning recording artist and kumu hula Keali'i Reichel welcomes us into his world, his music, and his home. It's a world of rich beauty, love, and respect not only for indigenous people of Hawai'i, but for all people who are drawn to the island's magic and majesty. And music is the perfect invitation because its rhythms and lyrical poetry transcend language, economic, and cultural barriers. Its universal truths are devoid of prejudices and preconceptions, originating instead from deep within the humanity that connects us all.
Over the next 98 minutes, we are family. Through a unique balance of traditional meles (chants), ceremonial hula (dance), personal and historical stories, and contemporary music, Keali'i instantly transports us to the islands. If you've already visited their shores, Kūkahi will reawaken memories of those experiences. Yet even if you've never been, you cannot help but be touched by the reverence the Hawai'ian culture has for all that has come before. In a day and age when the 48 contiguous United States have all but become homogenized to a point where most of its regional uniqueness is forever lost, people like Keali'i uphold the grand Hawai'ian tradition of carrying the torch for their Kapuna (ancestors) by educating the next generation.
Kūkahi's opening meles begin the journey from past to present and Keali'i is the perfect host -- welcoming, charming, and quite funny. With a soothing singing voice, skilled guitar playing, and complete absence of pretention, he does an exceptional job of guiding the evening, taking center stage when needed, and relinquishing the spotlight to his many guests. From the semi-traditional upbeat stylings of "Pūpū A'o 'Ewa" and the personal recollection of "Koali," to the beauty of "Ke Aloha" and historically-based comedy of "Ko Ma'i 'Aukā Kula Lā A Keu," the 26 song concert is a refreshing communal experience.
Recorded live at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on the big island of Hawai'i in late 2006, I hesitate to liken the evening to something you might see on PBS (Leahy, Andre Rieu, Celtic Woman, et. al) and yet there are unmistakable similarities. However, Kūkahi goes beyond those expectations and delivers something you can experience time and again. Be forewarned, not knowing the Hawai'ian language, there will be a few references that sail right over your head but, at this writing, I've viewed the main presentation on three separate occasions and found something new to appreciate each time.
Presented in beautifully rendered 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, the vivid color separation of the costuming and stage lighting jump right off the screen, adding to the warmth and enjoyment of the evening. Yet, for as enticing as the visuals are, it's the audio that makes all the difference in the world. Not a pop or hiss to be found, this Dolby 5.1 Surround track puts you front and center in the auditorium. Whether watching intently or letting it play in the background while you do other things, the music from Keali'i and his guests will fill both your home and your heart. With an HD version already available and a Blu-ray on the way, the high definition experience should be even more impressive.
Two bonus features enhance the presentation. The first is a tribute to the legendary Uncle George Holokai, who passed in November 2006 at the age of 76. George was a revered singer, 'ukulele and guitarist, dancer, and kumu hula, a protege of both Tommy Hiona and Lillian Maka'ena. Recorded nine months before his death, this 20-min concert excerpt serves as a wonderful extension of the main presentation. The other feature is a brief EPK-style retrospective on the musical career of Keali'i Reichel. If you enjoy the concert presentation, you won't need any additional commercial convincing to purchase his music, which is really what this is.
We should never underestimate the influence and impact music can have on our life. It underscores our experiences, imprints our sense memories, and inspires to greater things. If you're looking for a brief escape from the pressures of life, you can't help but be rejuvenated by Kūkahi: Keali'i Reichel Live in Concert. And if you're looking for a deeper connection to the islands, I've included a few links under "Accomplices" to aide your quest. Mahalo for reading and a hui ho.
Review content copyright © 2008 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Punahele Productions
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Uncle George Holokai"
* "Kamahiwa" - Keali'i Retrospective
* Official Keali'i Reichel Site
* Wikipedia: Music of Hawaii
* Hawaii Music Island
* Hula Preservation Society
* BeachWalks with Rox