Most of us know his voice and hear his songs over the radio, but Keali’i Reichel is now the kumu hula whose halau took the overall title at Merrie Monarch Festival 2011.
Reichel’s Halau Ke’alaokamaile also took first in the wahine kahiko and wahine overall categories, and second in wahine auana.
Tori Hulali Canha from Reichel’s halau also took the Miss Aloha Hula title on Thursday.
In his third year participating at the festival, Reichel is definitely making his mark as a kumu hula, having swept all of the women’s categories last year, and having taken the Miss Aloha title the year before in 2009, his first time competing.
Hula Halau ‘O Kamuela under the direction of Kau’ioanalani Kamana’o and Kunewa Mook took first place in womens hula auana, and came in second for overall winner, trailing by just 11 points.
Kumu hula Manu Boyd’s Halau o ke ‘A’ali’i Ku Makani returned from a hiatus to take third place in women’s kahiko, fourth in women’s auana, and third overall in women’s.
Reichel’s artistry and unique choice of mele set him apart from the other halau — his voice, too, soared in the stadium.
For kahiko, Reichel’s halau performed a mele ma’i, or procreation chant, with a sense of humor about the well-endowed Prince Leleiohoku. For auana, the halau danced a mele from the late 1880s known as the “Kaniakapupu Song.”
The ladies of Ke’alaokamaile were one with the song as well as one another as they danced and moved gracefully across the stage, as if woven together.
“We represented Maui the best we could,” said halau member Liliana Koa. “We represented in the best way we could, our families, our kupuna, and those who came before us.”
In the kane division, kumu hula O’Brian Eselu’s Ke Kai O Kahiki once again took the top place for men’s kahiko as well as the overall men’s division.
Eselu said he was pleased with the results, and proud of his haumana (students). Last year, Ke Kai O Kahiki swept the men’s division and took the overall winner title. In 2009, the halau also won the top ranking for its hula kahiko and took overall winner.
This year, kumu hula Kaleo Trinidad’s halau, Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La, took the top spot in men’s auana, with a fun-filled tribute to surf legend Duke Kahanamoku.
Dressed in surf shots and blue tanks, his men clearly had fun on stage telling the story of Duke’s Olympic career, and were a crowd pleaser.
Trinidad’s halau also came in second in kahiko, and second overall for kane. His halau used the ulili, a triple gourd rattle that is seldom seen in a competition.
Kumu hula Nahokuokalani Gaspang, who took over for the late kumu hula Rae Fonseca after his unexpected death last year, also put forth strong performances, taking third in men’s kahiko, auana and overall men’s division.