"'Cloud Warriors' soars with a new take on Isle tales."
Wayne Harada / Honolulu Advertiser

December 12, 2008

'Cloud Warriors' soars with a new take on Isle tales. Storyteller Tau'a and composer Kauahikaua's collaboration a winner. Tau'a, the wordsmith with the wisdom of numerous Maui stories, asked Kauahikaua, with his fertile music mind, to help interpret and re-imagine these tales for a new kind of Island experience. All tunes are the collaborative efforts of the pair; Tau'a composed one of the 12 tracks alone. All are sung in Hawaiian, with an enlightening liner booklet with lyrics and brief descriptions of content, but it's the force and the energy of the tunes that set this one apart from the field.

"Cloud Warriors" is an inventive and refreshing take on old themes with a modern twist. Hawaiian in tongue, but contemporary in tempo and structure - like a new path to folk music, if Hawaiian can be termed "folk," being born.

"Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" swimmingly tracks that famous fish, but re-examined with a jazzy undercurrent, instead of the hapa-haole hula-friendly refrain most people remember from a lu'au experience.

"Kealaikahiki," about a passageway for Hawaiian voyagers between Kaho'olawe and Lana'i, probably is the closest to a "Hawaiian" mele in the roster, but the backbeat certainly makes this also a popster.

"Pueo Hoot Hoot" is about the owl 'aumakua revered in Hawaiian culture; again, tradition melds with modern styles. And a bit of old-fashioned fun on "Pu'unene," dealing with pidgin and communication amid multicultural elements.

Our take: This journey of revelation embraces the riches of story provided by Tau'a and the musical tapestry formatted by Kauahikaua - it's powerful stuff.

"Island soul permeates local musicians’ new CD"
Jon Woodhouse, Contributing Writer / Maui News

January 8, 2009

The combined talents of a respected kumu hula and composer whose early recording projects included chanting with the Gabby Pahinui Band and collaborating with Roland Cazimero, and a veteran producer/ arranger who has worked with the likes of Don Ho, Loyal Garner and Frank De Lima, have produced a fascinating, unique CD honoring our island.

Sung entirely in Hawaiian (with English translation included), "Cloud Warriors" explores Maui's many treasures with a collection of original songs cast in a contemporary musical setting that embraces jazz and pop influences.

It's an adventurous project that could only arise from the creative vision of artists who have spent years steeped in the culture. A former student of revered hula teacher Maiki Aiu, Tau'a graduated in a class with Robert Cazimero and Kalena Silva. With Roland Cazimero in 1977, he created the Hoku-winning tribute album "Hokule'a - The Musical Saga," and 20 years later released "Pule Mua," which combined chants written for Polynesian voyaging canoes with crew conversations. Over the years his songs have been recorded by a number of artists including the Brothers Cazimero and Amy Hanaiali'i (including her latest Grammy-nominated CD, "Aumakua").

The musical director for Frank De Lima for close to 15 years, Kauahikaua played with Don Ho and produced and arranged albums for Loyal Garner. With Melinda Caroll in the group Ka La, he's crafted serene soundscapes designed to induce harmony and relaxation.

Introduced by a mutual friend, the two artists met Upcountry one day and felt drawn to create something new.

"David told me his real joy is jazz, and I said, you've tapped on my favorite type of music," says Keli'i. " So that's why we're now enjoying the ride of writing songs. I want to hook people into appreciating the Hawaiian language, and be able to write in the Hawaiian language, but make it understandable for non-native speakers."

With Keli'i creating the poetic lyrics and David the contemporary music, Maui's natural splendor inspired the duo to craft enchanting songs like the opening "Haiku Rainbow," which illuminates our rare night moonbows, "No Kai Oi," which pays tribute to sacred mounts and valleys, "Maui O Ka Lani," honoring the demi-god, and "Hana Breeze."

"There are great song writers out there, but very few thematic album writers and that's my passion," Keli'i continues. "I'm a historian by education and it's my passion to tell a story in a whole album."

"Cloud Warriors"
Barry Sultanoff / Maui Weekly

February 5, 2009

The story goes like this: Two men, both Hawaiian musicians, met over dinner at a friend’s cozy Kula home. They discovered a mutual love for music and became inspired to collaborate artistically. In that mutually held vision, they would create a musical product—a unique blend of storytelling and harmonic accompaniment—never before heard on the Hawaiian musical scene.

Late last year, with the assistance of their ‘ohana, they birthed that “product.”

Cloud Warriors is a CD whose name, on first impression, looks like a contradiction in terms. Warriors, after all, are renowned for their fierceness, their bravery, their solidity in the face of assault or challenge. They are the fearsome protectors of their clan. Clouds would seem to denote the opposite quality: softness, yielding, malleability, the capacity to be easily shaped and reshaped by wanton winds.

In the liner notes of the CD we learn, however, that there were indeed “cloud warriors” in the early Hawaiian cosmology. Battling for control of Haleakala’s summit were ‘Ukiukiu, the northern cloud, and Naulu, the southern cloud. After neither was able to reign victorious over the other. They called a truce and both pulled back, leaving in their wake a clear “pathway to heaven” (alanui o lani) in the skies over Haleakala Crater.

In the Cloud Warriors CD, this tale and nearly a dozen others are recounted in word and song through the masterfully crafted lyrics of Kumu Keli‘i Tau‘a and the songwriting and musical complement of David Kauahikaua.

This CD is No Ka ‘Oi. Referring to the song by that name which is featured on the album, the two musicians write: “No Ka ‘Oi is a special phrase referring to great persons, places and things on the island of Maui. In this song we recognize the greatness of Haleakala, Mount Kahalawai [West Maui Mountains] and the sacred valley of ‘Iao. The song takes you [vicariously] to many of the special places that you’d experience directly and powerfully if you were actually to visit each location. In the end, though, we acknowledge that it’s the people who, most of all, make Maui No Ka ‘Oi.”

I first met Kumu Tau‘a at a gathering on the beach in North Kihei, where he was teaching a group of German students who had traveled to the U.S. to learn about Hawaiian culture and customs. When I joined Halau Maui Nui O Kama in 2004, I began to know him as our spiritual director, the heart of our ‘ohana. More recently, this very versatile kumu was my instructor at an introductory class in ‘ukulele offered at Maui Community College.

Kumu Tau‘a is the warrior and chanter on this CD project. David, on the other hand, might best be seen as representing the clouds in his musical interpretations. He weaves his musical and engineering skills like a Hawaiian haku lei-maker using Keli‘i’s lyrics and stories as centerpieces to make it come to life. For example, in the song Pu‘unene, David’s musical notes paint a visual backdrop for the Hawaiian lyrics that describe the dusty city of Pu‘unene during the busy days of the sugar boom, with its tall smokestacks sandwiched between and reaching out to Haleakala and Mount Kahalawai. Yesterday, the center of Maui’s busy sugar cane island; today, just another ghost town.
In another song, the writers explore the subject of the state triggerfish, claiming it as part of Maui’s legacy. David, with his creative musical skills, breaks down the long Hawaiian fish name into simple phrases that repeat themselves along with a catchy, but simple melody. You will soon be singing along to humu, humu-humu, humu, humu-humu nuku-nuku ‘apua‘a.

Kumu Tau’a taught in Hawaiian public and private schools for many decades and he continues to instruct at the college and community level. Though highly educated in the formal sense, having earned both masters and doctorate degrees, Tau‘a’s real authority comes from his depth of connection with ancestral truth and his association with Hawaiian elders.

Though Cloud Warriors intends to be a unique contribution to the genre of Hawaiian music, Kumu Tau‘a is by no means new to the musical scene. He had an early career as an entertainer and is considered to be one of the foremost composers of Hawaiian language lyrics. He has worked with top island stars such as Roland Cazimero and Gabby Pahinui, and has recorded a half-dozen solo and nine group albums. He even landed a Na Hoku Hanohano Award for “New Songwriter” and “Artist of the Year.”

He is the proud father of daughter Hokupa‘a and son Hokuloa. His best friend and loving companion is his wife, Chelsea Ann, who has encouraged him to come out of retirement to start composing again.

In every context where Kumu Tau‘a appears, one sees a twinkle in his eye that reveals an attitude of the perennially-youthful student, always eager to learn encouraging to kulia i ka nu‘u: reach for the summit.

Cloud Warriors offers a flood of songs and chants from the musical hale of Kumu Tau‘a. It can be purchased on line at www.keliitaua.com or by calling 573-1643.

"Cloud Warriors"
John Berger / Honolulu Star Bulletin

February 13, 2009

Keli'i Tau'a has been known since the 1970s as a Hawaiian composer and occasional recording artist. David Kauahikaua has had a high-profile career for two decades as Frank DeLima's keyboardist, although his showroom credits go back much farther. In short, Tau'a and Kauahikaua both bring solid musical credentials to this highly significant project.

Call it "Hawaiian" because of the lyrics, or "hapa haole" because many of the arrangements and much of the instrumentation are not Hawaiian in the traditional sense. But whatever you choose to call it, Tau'a and Kauahikaua are exploring a new frontier in Hawaiian-language music.

True, they are not the first in the last few decades to set Hawaiian lyrics to some type of contemporary "haole" (non-Hawaiian) music -- jazz, rock, rap or pop -- but it hasn't been done often.

"Place songs" have been a tradition in Hawaiian music for generations, and almost all of these newly written songs relate to Maui in some way. "No Ka 'Oi" celebrates the beauty of several scenic locations, four significant winds and the spirit of the people. Other compositions honor alii, famous clouds or demigods. Another describes the magic of watching a night rainbow over Haiku on a misty evening.

The duo also works in English. They add a memorable lounge-style tune with "Hana Breeze," a romantic paean to the "village they call heaven by the sea."
Traditional chant provides a link to the past in "Pueo Hoot Hoot," a song about how "one of Hawaii's favorite 'aumakua" saved a family member from harm. Western percussion adds a contemporary rock feel.

Tradition is also honored -- in language and in the choice of instruments -- on "Ka Me'e O Ka Wa," as Tau'a and Kauahikaua proclaim the true Hawaiian hero of these days and times as "the simple kanaka who plants his taro, cares for his family, paddles his canoe or just shares what he has with everyone."

The duo reaches out to hula students and the mainstream English-speaking audience alike with an illustrated 14-page liner notes booklet that completes this Grammy-worthy album with the Hawaiian lyrics, English translations and important cultural information