This album won the Hawaii Music Award for Best Traditional Hawaiian Album of the Year and has 7 Na Hoku Hanohano Award Nominations (Hawaiian grammies!)
When the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards are announced next year, Uluwehi Guerrero will undoubtedly be among the winners. Back in 2001, his last CD, "In My Heart," deservedly won Male Vocalist of the Year. Eight years later he's delivered another outstanding treasure of Hawaiian music, "Uluwehi Sings Na Mele Hula Aloha - Beloved Hula Songs."
The acclaimed Maui kumu hula (traditional Hawaiian dance Master Instructor) has lovingly crafted a majestic collection of classic songs with hula students in mind.
"It was made for dancing and listening pleasure," Uluwehi explains. "I wanted to create a kind of musical photo album of my hula. These are some of my favorite older classics. It's a musical contribution to all the students I've shared hula with."
Embellished with lush string arrangements, Uluwehi applies his heavenly falsetto to gems by such notable Hawaiian composers as Helen Desha Beamer ("Na Kuahiwi 'Elima"), Bill Ali'iloa Lincoln ("Ku'u Milimili"), Alice Namakelua ("Haleakala Hula"), Charles E. King ("Lei 'Ilima"), Mary Kawena Pukui ("Pua 'Ahihi") and Irmgard Farden ("Laupahoehoe Hula").
Devoting years to the project, this gifted entertainer draws on the talents of a number of Maui musicians including steel guitarist Sam Ako and keyboardist Gilbert Emata, and he managed to create an angelic backing vocal choir all by himself.
"I did all the vocals on this recording," he notes. "Partly it was because I was so busy. I knew what I wanted and triple tracked all of my backing vocals to create this nice, full sound. It's reminiscent of the music I grew up with."
A number of tracks feature a string section evoking a classical ambiance. "I did that because I wanted to capture that era during the '20' and '30s when visitors were brought in by steamship," he continues. "There was a lot of elegance during that time and the songs and the lushness of the strings reflect the feel of that period."
The one original song on the CD, "Nani Kamakura," composed by Uluwehi with Barry Pono Fried, celebrates the annual blooming of Japan's cherry blossoms. A frequent traveler to Japan where he performs and conducts hula classes, he felt inspired to pen a song after visiting the ancient city of Kamakura.
"I was pretty well received on our last trip," he says. "After going to Japan, people would ask me, 'Did you get to see the sakura blossoms?' I always missed it, but on one trip I saw thousands of cherry blossoms in Kamakura."
Hoping that his new CD will help remind us of the value of aloha and what makes Hawaii special, Uluwehi reports we won't have to wait too long to hear more music from him.
"As much as I've been perpetuating traditional music and dance of our culture, I'm inspired to write about the time now," he says. "I've been writing a lot of songs of my travels and things that have inspired me spiritually, and the beauty that still surrounds us. We're actively looking at going into the studio to start a new project of all original compositions."