Kumu Robert Cazimero’s Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua made a triumphant return to the 52nd Merrie Monarch Festival (2015), winning the overall title Saturday night 10 years after the Honolulu troupe last competed and won.
Cazimero’s halau enters the hula festival only once every decade. It captured the overall title in 2005 while sweeping the kahiko (ancient-style) and auana (modern-style) competitions in the kane division.
In 2015, Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua, which has young as well as seasoned dancers, again wowed Merrie Monarch judges over two nights at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium, earning the Lokalia Montgomery Perpetual Trophy.
The halau was also clearly a crowd favorite as it performed “Ka ‘Aha Kilu Le‘ale‘a i Ka‘akopua” for its kahiko number, telling the story of festive games in Nuuanu and a sailing trip to Haena, Kauai. His men sang in harmony and displayed skill and precision in creating various formations onstage.
For auana the men, decked in plumeria lei over aloha shirts, performed “Le‘ahi,” a tribute to Diamond Head that was first published in 1895 in “Buke Mele Lahui” (“Book of National Songs”) as “Daimana Hila” before it evolved to the popular song it’s known as today. The dancers smiled broadly, singing along with Cazimero and obviously enjoying the hula.
Cazimero Honors the Late Maiki Aiu Lake
Cazimero was already one of Hawaii’s best-known Hawaiian musical entertainers when he was persuaded by hula master Maiki Aiu Lake to start an all-male halau in 1975, a time when most men didn’t dance hula for fear of being perceived as effeminate.
His halau won the kane (male) competition at Merrie Monarch the following year, the first time men had their own division.
When his halau was declared the Merrie Monarch’s overall winner Saturday, he said his thoughts immediately turned to the late “Auntie Maiki,” who died in 1984.
“We lived through the teachings of a great woman, Maiki Aiu Lake. She’s responsible for me being here today,” said Cazimero.
2015 Merrie Monarch Re-Cap
Twenty-eight groups — 10 kane and 18 wahine — brought the best of hula to the famed stage Friday and Saturday nights, following Thursday night’s Miss Aloha Hula event.
Besides two groups from California and 16 from Oahu, there were halau from Hawaii island, Kauai, Maui and Molokai.
Merrie Monarch Festival 2015 Results
Listed are halau, location, kumu, score:
» Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua; Honolulu; Robert Uluwehi Cazimero; 1,210
» Hula Halau ‘o Kamuela; Kalihi, Waimanalo; Kau’ionalani Kamana’o and Kunewa Mook; 603
» Halau Na Lei Kaumaka o Uka; Kula, Maui; Napua Greig; 596
» Ka La ‘Onohi Mai o Ha’eha’e; Puahuula, Koolaupoko, Oahu; Tracie and Keawe Lopes; 589
» Halau Na Mamo o Pu’uanahulu; Kapahulu; Sonny Ching and Lopaka Igarta-De Vera; 587 (816 tiebreaker score)
» Halau Ka Liko Pua o Kalaniakea; Kaneohe; Kapua Dalire-Moe; 587 (815)
» Halau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine; Manoa; Ka’ilihiwa Vaughan-Darval; 600
» Halau Na Lei Kaumaka o Uka; 591
» Halau Na Mamo o Pu’uanahulu; 590
» Hula Halau ‘o Kamuela; 589
» Ka La ‘Onohi Mai o Ha’eha’e; 588
» Hula Halau ‘o Kamuela; 1,192
» Halau Na Lei Kaumaka o Uka; 1,187
» Halau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine; 1,179
» Ka Leo o Laka i ka Hikina o ka La; Honolulu; Kaleo Trinidad; 600 (841 tiebreaker score)
» Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua; 600 (832)
» Halau Hula ‘o Kahikilaulani; Hilo; Nahokuokalani Gaspang; 599 (838)
» Kawaili’ula; Kailua, Manoa; Chinky Mahoe; 599 (838)
» Halau Na Mamo o Pu’uanahulu; 594
» Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua; 610
» Halau Hula ‘o Kahikilaulani; 602
» Ka Leo o Laka i ka Hikina o ka La; 601
» Halau Na Mamo o Pu’uanahulu; 597
» Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua; 1,210
» Halau Hula ‘o Kahikilaulani; 1,201 (1,680 tiebreaker score)
» Ka Leo o Laka i ka Hikina o ka La, Kaleo Trinidad, 1,201 (1,677)
Miss Aloha Hula
» Jasmine Kaleihiwa Dunlap, Hula Halau ‘o Kamuela
*Courtesy Nina Wu, Honolulu Star-Advertiser