Sisters from one of Hilo’s most prominent entertainment families, Lehua and Iwalani Kalima, are teaming up for a benefit concert with special guests Saturday, Dec. 28, at the Palace Theater.
The theme of the concert, a benefit for the nonprofit Hula Halau O Kou Lima Nani E Inc., is Na Hoku ‘Imo‘imo, “the twinkling stars.” Doors open at 5 p.m. The show starts at 6 p.m.
Advance tickets are $35 reserved, $25 general, available at CD Wizard, Basically Books, the Palace box office and from halau members. Admission will be $5 more at the door.
Iwalani Kalima, who studied hula under the late, revered Uncle George Na‘ope, is the kumu hula of the halau, which will perform. Her Hoku award-winning sister, Lehua, part of the legendary vocal trio Na Leo, will perform with musical partner Shawn Pimental.
Also on the bill are Hoku winners Kainani Kahaunaele, Kekuhi Kanahele and Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole, as well as up-and-coming singer Hawane Rios.
The show is a fundraiser for a couple of projects that Iwalani Kalima hopes to accomplish via her halau’s nonprofit arm.
“I was a student of Uncle George’s all my life. It’s been over 40 years,” she said. “And he had wanted to do a hula cultural center for a number of years. And he actually wanted it in Hilo. We were trying to get that done, and of course we did not finish it since he passed. I actually put it on the side, but this year I decided that it’s time that we try to go on with the project, because I think it’s very important. And it’s important that we do it in Hilo, since Hilo’s known as the hula city because of the Merrie Monarch starting here and, of course, Uncle George was the festival’s co-founder.
“When Uncle was still alive, we actually went to the mayor (Harry Kim) to see if he would be able to help us. But unfortunately, the logistics of things just didn’t happen and then there was uncle’s illness.”
The other is the preservation and perpetuation of the palapalai fern, which is used as an adornment in hula.
“There are really only two places that we can go to pick, unless you are on Kaloko Mountain (in Kona),” she said. “One is in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at the bird park in a place called Kipuka Ki, but the volcano is destroying (the fern’s habitat). So, even with a permit, we haven’t been able to pick for the past couple of years. The other is Kalopa.
“I was thinking if we farmed this, we would have more for the future.”
Lehua Kalima, whose most recent solo CD “Rising in Love” won the 2012 Hoku for Contemporary Album of the Year, recently released two Christmas singles with Pimental, “It Can’t Be Christmas Without You” and “Someday at Christmas.”
“We recorded that for the Christmas season and put it on iTunes. It’s playing on some of the radio stations,” she said.
She said she’s looking forward to helping her sister and sharing the stage with the other artists, as well.
“We were at a hula competition either in July or August and Kainani just happened to stop by,” she said. “We were talking about the concert. It’s exciting that we get to do something together. And, of course, I love Hawane. I met her earlier this year and she has known my sister for awhile. Very talented girl and connected to the ‘aina. I love that we’re all Big Island girls. Kainani is from Kaua‘i but she’s a Big Island girl now.
“I also love that it’s at the Palace Theater because, gosh, I grew up there and I saw all my movies there. Honestly, it’s just exciting for me to come home and see all the people. It’s been a long time since I’ve played there.”
She also said that she’ll have her entire family there and called the occasion “warm and fuzzy.”
The 30th anniversary of Na Leo — originally Na Leo Pilimehana — is in 2014.
“We’ll be doing a new album and probably do some touring on all the islands. We’ve been doing a lot of compilations and special releases and stuff,” she said.
Three successful decades is an eternity in the music industry, which is always looking for fresh, new and latest. The secret to Na Leo’s longevity, she said, is “because we were friends first.”
“We liked each other for a long time; we were all friends before we even started playing music together,” she said.
“Then, there’s the fact that we don’t really do that much stuff together anymore. We pick and choose what we want to do. And because of that, it’s still fun. It’s still fresh. It’s kind of like a marriage. We all have our own space, so every time we come together, it’s still fun and it’s still magical for us and we still enjoy it. And the people that we sang to 30 years ago are still coming and now they’re bringing their grandkids with them.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.