Natalie Ai Kamauu
Raised in a Hawaiian home honoring traditional hula by renowned Kumu Hula Howard and Olana Ai of Halau Hula Olana filled Natalie Ai Kamauu’s soul with music and dance. From a young age, she performed hula and learned the art of entertainment. In 1990, Natalie won Hawaii’s coveted title of Miss Aloha Hula at the Merrie Monarch Festival. An important part of Miss Aloha Hula is chanting an oli–a beautiful ancient Hawaiian way to orally preserve genealogies, stories, and traditions.
During Christmas season 1990, Natalie called to thank radio DJ, Iolani Kamauu, for playing a Christmas song she’d recorded with veteran studio engineer Dave Tucciarone. He tried to keep her on the line until she’d give him her phone number, but she didn’t. He asked her to call him back at the radio station. She called back the following week.
Iolani Kamauu was part of another hula family–a more modern hula halau. As their friendship moved towards romance, they were warned that their relationship wouldn’t last because they came from such different halau traditions. But they persevered and to this day show the power of true love. Io suggested she record an album professionally. In 2005, she released “E.” And the rest is history.
The music that Natalie creates is a family affair. Iolani joins her on guitar and vocals. Their beautiful daughter Sha-Lei performs nearby, adding hula to their music. Their son Chaz participated, too, before serving his mission in West Virginia. Now that he’s home, he joins the family again in Japan, where they regularly tour. They love their adventures sharing Aloha with Japan.
From the PBS Broadcast NA MELE: Natalie Ai Kamauu and Family, Natalie shared the most important aspect of picking their music. “When we pick songs, they have to touch our hearts. And usually, it’s songs from our past, songs that we’ve heard our parents sing or our parents dance, songs that tell about the history of our family or the places that they come from. So even though we stand as 3, what you hear and see, it goes back generations.”
Iolani emphasizes that “One thing that we were taught from a very young age is that families can be together forever and we truly believe that. Those that have gone before us have left us with a legacy to carry on. It was their love that they shared their talents with us.”
Natalie added to her husband’s comment saying, “That’s really what our music is about. It’s about love, whether it’s love for a place or love for the person who it’s about or even love for the person who wrote it. There’s so much love in Hawaiian music.” You can feel that powerful effect of love in their music.
Natalie Ai Kamauu’s album “La La La La” was 2015 GRAMMY® nominated for Best Regional Roots Music Album. “La La La La” was also nominated for 6 2016 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, the Hawaiian music equivalent of the Grammys. She took home 3 Hoku awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year and Single of the Year, to add to her collection of Hoku trophies.
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