- Ahumanu is Maui radio personality Liz “Kopa’a Tita” Morales, surfer/artist Joni DeMello, and Aunty Bessie DeMello (long-time Maui entertainer and Joni’s mom). Together they are a spirited trio whose style features Polynesian harmonies, skilled musicianship, and a vast repertoire full of delights and surprises.
- Ahumanu are seasoned entertainers who develop a reputation and demand wherever they perform. Regular performances at the world-famous Grand Wailea Resort treat visitors to their charm and in one case (so far) resulted in their being flown with their families to Seattle to perform at a wedding. Local crowds turn out to cheer the “titas” at the Blue Marlin in Ma’alaea on Thursday nights.
- Ahumanu the Gathering is a collection of musical aloha that takes the listener from traditional songs penned over a century ago through Waikiki’s “golden era” and up to the present with genuine Hawaiian heart and soul. Their fondness for Elvis is reflected in two of the selections and suggests that Ahumanu the Gathering is just the beginning for these gifted and lively wahine.
- Multi-instrumentalist Liz (uke, guitar, upright bass, Hawaiian steel guitar, Tahitian uke . . . and counting) seems to have grown up in the “backyard” where Hawaiian families share their music -- just try finding a song she doesn’t know! Samoan ancestry on her mother’s side schooled her in their rich tradition of complex harmonies and contributed “Tofa My Feleni” to the CD’s selections. She enjoys sharing her musical knowledge with her church’s youth choir group and other interested musicians. Joni is her best student so far!
- Joni is best known around Maui as a surfer who more than holds her own in surfing competitions. (She sacrificed many mornings in the water to come into the studio, and she never complained.) If you’re looking for a new surfboard or accessories, go visit Joni at Hi-Tech Surf Sports in Kahului. She is also known for her artwork (especially charicatures, so watch out). Now she is astonishing her surfer buddies with her sexy vocals and animated upright bass playing, sometimes turning it into a percussion instrument for “Drums of the Islands.” What next, Joni??
- Aunty Bessie is the group’s kupuna (elder), contributing wisdom and elegance as well as uke, percussion, and the third harmony. She is well-known and loved around Maui and was one of the first kupuna to go into the schools to share Hawaiian culture, always bringing along her uke. Don’t think that Bessie isn’t a “tita,” too; one of her many activites is creating a homestead in Hawaiian Homelands in remote Kahikinui, Maui. Her energy belies her age (not telling!).
- Now you’ve met the women of Ahumanu enjoy their music and sound on what John Berger of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin deems is “everything a first album should be”!
Ahumanu “The Gathering" the songs:
(G. H. Steventon)
The women bust out their best harmonies in this song about their beloved hometown.
- Ua Noho Au A Kupa
Ata Damasco joins Liz in singing this old-timers’ favorite: “I’ve grown accustomed to your face and the sound of your voice . . . we should remain with each other.
- Ahe Lau Makani
A syncopated rhythm and rich harmonies grace Ahumanu’s tribute to Hawaii’s last reining monarch and celebrated song-writer, Queen Lili’uokalani.
- Wedding Medley
(Kawohikukapulani / If I Give My Heart to You)
(Helen Desha Beamer/Jimmie Crane, Al Jacobs, Jimmy Brewster)
This creative medley earned the women a trip to Seattle to perform it at a wedding! Starting with the poignant Kawohikukapulani, written by a mother as a gift for her daughter’s wedding day, the medley seques into a perfect English-language standard before closing in Hawaiian, as it began, with Kawohikukapulani. The medley is perfect for a bride’s walk down the aisle and could mean more travel for the Ahumanu women.
- Tofa My Feleni
This song has deep personal meaning for Liz, who was taught it by her Samoan grandmother. Telling of departure from the beloved homeland, bound for “Amelika,” it is the grandmother’s own story. It features the lush Polynesian harmonies so well known in Samoan choral singing.
- Sweet Lahaina Nights
(Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett)
This English language song expresses the warmth and romance of an evening in Lahaina. Since Ahumanu performs regularly at the Grand Wailea Resort, which has a similar leeward-side climate, they do a final tag “sweet Wailea nights.” (It will weave its romantic spell wherever Ahumanu performs it!)
- Pua Carnation
(Charles E. King)
This gorgeous song, enhanced by Ata Damasco’s Hawaiian piano, brings to the mind’s eye a hula dancer in satin holoku with long strands of delicate carnations . . . “Oh thou fairest of all flowers, sweet carnation I adore.”
- Drums of the Islands
(Polynesian Cultural Center; words by Tepper/Bennet)
The women rock on this song, popularized by Elvis Presley in the movie Blue Hawaii, and Joni lets loose on bongos (or the back of her upright bass). It’s a real crowd-pleaser!
Another English-language song, its minor key adds variety to Ahumanu’s performances and to the CD. Waves on the shore and the blow of the conch set the scene.
- Ipo Lei Manu
Gorgeous harmonies contribute to the pathos of this song, written for King Kalakaua by his queen while he was away, never to return alive to hear it. But we hear it now and understand the queen’s love.
- KP Shuffle
Liz displays her ukulele virtuosity in this joyful tribute to the maker of her instrument, Ken Potts.
- Crying in the Chapel
The women of Ahumanu close their debut CD with this expression of their Christian faith. Liz’s powerful R & B-influenced vocal floats on Ata’s perfect piano while the wahine do their version of the Jordanaires singing backup. The selection gives them another opportunity to remind us that they are big Elvis fans - amen!