Kamakele “Bulla” Ka`iliwai
- A native of Kona and Kohala on the Big Island, Bulla plays, sings, and writes music that reflects his deep spiritual connection to ancestral places and his aloha and mahalo for the kupuna (elders) who have shared their knowledge. Na Hulukupuna, his second CD project, was released on November 16, 2004.
- “... as perfect as they come in Hawaiian music. . . . Beyond the beauty of Ka`iliwai’s voice, his album makes an important cultural statement . . . . and brings the musical traditions he embodies forward another generation.”
John Berger, Honolulu Star-Bulletin (11/19-04)
- Bulla’s voice is distinctive, strong and memorable. His falsetto has been well-known since he won the 1997 Clyde “Kindy” Sproat Storytelling and Falsetto Singing Contest. Other songs feature his rich, expressive low voice. Harmony vocals by Cody Pueo Pata and Kaiolohia Smith take several songs to another dimension!
- Although Bulla plays many of the instruments, including 6- and 12-string guitars, lead, rhythm and slacked (ki ho`alu), upright bass, and `ukulele, Na Hulukupuna features some talented guest musicians: Willy Wainwright of Gypsy Pacific on violin, Vinton Castro on steel guitar and banjo, Sam Ako on piano, Kaiolohia Smith on guitar, and Bob “Lopaka” Vogele on autoharp.
- Grandson of slack-key legend Raymond Kane, Bulla shares his ki ho`alu on several numbers. Other special contributors to Na Hulukupuna are JayJay Ahulau Akiona (oli/chant), the keiki girls (kahea/calls) that’s why kumu Pueo Pata is saying in the picture “They’re so cuuute and Bulla’s daughter, Kahanu, who shares memories of a day with the dolphins and her mahalo to the kupuna.
- Although Na Hulukupuna acknowledges the gifts of the elders, it is truly Bulla’s gift to us. Says Kahikina of KAPA radio (99.1 FM in Kona):
“Na Hulukupuna is a benchmark for all who sing, write, or
perform Hawaiian music. If you love Hawaiian music and
things Hawaiian, you must have Bulla’s latest work entitied
- Photography by Randy Jay Braun (a memorable day at Ke`anae, Maui) and graphics by Na Hoku Hanohano award-winner Bill Ernst reflect the quality of the music within.
“Na Hulukupuna” the songs:
- Ke Akua
Composed by JayJay Ahulau Akiona and Eleanor Makita, Ke Akua acknowledges the spiritual forces that Bulla credits for inspiring Na Hulukupuna.
“In fond memory of my beloved elders,
my piko na hulukupuna.
He`eia is a bay at Keauhou in Kona where the ali`i would come to relax, surf and practice the sport of holua (“land surfing”). The islands’ longest holua slide ends at the bay. The opening chant by JayJay Akiona was written by `Iolani Luahine.
Bulla’s version of He`eia is unique: its power reflects the mana of a spiritual place; its complex arrangement is a tour de force of Bulla’s vocal and musical talents.
- Nani Kaua`i
(by Lizzie Alohikea)
Bulla chose this song to honor his maternal grandfather, Raymond Kane, who was born on Kaua`i. Fittingly, Bulla accompanies his vocals with slack-key guitar, Pueo Pata and Kaiolohia Smith add harmony vocals, and Willy Wainwright contributes violin. Together, they create a lush aural picture as beautiful as the places described.
- Kukuna O Ka La
(by Rosalie Flores & Johnny Noble)
This one Bulla chose for his Grandma Cissy, who was a well-known entertainer in Kona in her younger years and often sang this song. The Kukuna O Ka La is a plant used in lei-making that grows in marshy areas along the shore. It also means “rays of the sun,” but has other interpretations as well.
- Lei `A`ali`i
(words by Lucky Hudman & Kealoha`aina Simeona; music by Kamakele Ka`iliwai)
A woman shared with her friend that, despite the many trials and challenges in her long marriage, the love she and her husband shared was strong enough to survive the rocky times. The friend translated that thought into this song, which compares their love to a lei of `a`ali`i, a plant that stands firm in the wind. This is a first-time recording of a song that is destined to become a new favorite for romantics.
- Hale O Nai`a
(by Kamakele Ka`iliwai)
Bulla wrote this joyful song after a day with his daughter and friends at Ho`ona on the Kona coast. As they looked across the bay, they saw hundreds of dolphins coming their way from the place called “Hale o Nai`a.” Vinton Castro alternates his Hawaiian steel and lively banjo.
(by George Kaleiohi, Sr.)
A favorite among the old-timers, Waiaulu speaks of love and desire seasoned by time. Bulla sings it for his grandfather, Daniel Kamakele Ka`iliwai, Sr. Bob “Lopaka” Vogele’s autoharp perfectly compliments Willy Wainwrights violin.
- Aia La `O Pele
As a hula dancer, Bulla often danced this mele inoa (name song) for Hi`iaka, the youngest and favorite sister of Pele. JayJay Akiona contributes oli, and Keralyn, Krystal, and Kukui, under Kumu Pueo Pata’s guidance, contribute charming kahea (verse calls) to the mele. It’s a rousing tribute to Pele that will make you want to dance.
(by Sam Li`a Kalaiaina, Sr.)
On a visit to Waipi`o Valley, JayJay Akiona and Bulla met “Li`a,” the great grandson of this song’s composer, who shared with them the 13 verses of this mele he called “Hali`a Laulani.” Pueo Pata and Kaiolohia Smith add harmonies that cascade like a vocal waterfall; Willy Wainwright’s violin evokes Sam Li`a , Jr., the poet laureate of Waipi`o Valley -- a very chicken-skin version of Hi`ilawe!!
- Aloha Slack Key
(by Kamakele Ka`iliwai)
Bulla wrote this song while he was in Japan and really missing home. He was playing his guitar called “Aloha” and recalling the slack key legends he admires: Gabby, Sonny, Ledward, and of course, his grandfather Raymond Kane.
- Pua Mae `Ole
(by John “Squeeze” Kamana)
This song was inspired by a young girl whose father envisions her blossoming into a beautiful woman. Bulla sings it for his daughter, Kahanu, who is his never-fading flower. Bulla’s voice is beautiful for this falsetto classic.
- Kaulana Na Kona
(lyrics by Alice Ku; music by Alice Ku and Kini Ka)
Written in the 1930s, this mele aloha `aina tells of the composer’s home on the slopes of Mount Hualalai and all the things that remind her of home: the fragrant maile and the surrounding districts that can be seen up and down the coast. Bulla says this song makes him proud to be from Kona.
(words by Konia; music by Eliza Holt)
This song was taken from a chant honoring Lili`uokalani. Bulla includes it because it was one of his Grandma Lucy’s favorites. Sam Ako contributes Hawaiian-style piano to this beautiful old mele.
- Aloha Mai E Ka Haku
(Traditional; Hawaiian lyrics by C. Pueo Pata)
Bulla closes Na Hulukupuna as he opened, with his voice lifted in gratitude for the talents he has blessed with and the gifts of knowledge shared by the kupuna (elders).