Join the Lu’au: Grammy Award winner Kalani Pe’a set to perform at CMU event
By this time in the school year, the longing for the islands dramatically intensifies for some university students.
If only they could see the brilliant orange petals of a bird of paradise. If only they could hear some live island music that spreads like warm sunshine over your skin. If only finals and major projects weren’t darkly looming, making it a test of will to make it to the end of the semester.
Thank goodness there’s a lu’au this weekend.
Organized by Ho`olokahi Polynesian Alliance at Colorado Mesa University, the Lu’au is set for Saturday, April 1.
It will feature a performance by Kalani Pe’a, who won a Grammy Award in February for his debut release “E Walea,” and it leads off the events planned for Unity Fest, which is sponsored by CMU’s Cultural Diversity Board.
Breanne Meier, the University Center director and Ho`olokahi club adviser, was at CMU’s first Lu’au in 2001. In fact, she started it.
She was then a freshman at Mesa State College and struggling with winter and finding a fit in western Colorado for what she loved growing up in Kauai. That was dancing, which she had done since she was 4 years old.
“I knew if I wanted to continue my career at Mesa, I knew I was going to have to find a way to bring that here,” Meier said.
So she choreographed the dances for the first Lu’au. It was organized by Ho`olokahi and held in Brownson Arena. “It was big. It was probably about 900 people,” Meier said.
Students were able to use their meal plan pass to get in and it was a hit.
Some of the students involved in Ho`olokahi — the club includes students from all of Polynesia as well as some who aren’t — never danced at home but they danced at the CMU Lu’au because it was a needed connection to their home and culture, Meier said.
Ho`olokahi moved the Lu’au to the Meyer Ballroom in the University Center in 2010. Attendance was maxed out at 500, and students and community members could purchase tickets to attend.
The Lu’au has remained popular and tickets sold out late this week for the Saturday event.
“It should be a fun, fast, dynamic show,” Meier said.
Students began working in September on the choreography for the dances from Samoa, Hawaii and other Polynesian cultures.
“We had practices twice a week for them to learn the various dances,” Meier said.
The performance, which will begin after a traditional la’ua dinner is served, will include about 12 dances with music from Pe’a intertwined.
This will be the first time Pe’a has visited CMU since graduating and returning to Hawaii in 2007.
Pe’a is “super excited” to come to CMU and see all the changes on campus and reconnect with friends, Meier said.
“I actually have never seen him so excited before in a while,” said Pe’a's manger, Allan B. Cool, in an email this week.
Pe’a also is looking forward to reuniting with his vocal instructor, Jack Delmore, Cool said.
Pe’a studied for two years with Delmore, currently emeriti professor of voice and former head of vocal studies at CMU.
Since winning a Grammy, “I think his comment was, ‘things have gotten crazy,’” Meier said of Pe’a.
Such an honor for a Hawaiian doesn’t come around all that often, and Pe’a can’t go anywhere in Hawaii without being recognized, Meier said.
But Pe’a has remained humble and thankful, she said.
And the Ho`olokahi Polynesian Alliance is happy to have Pe’a return to the Lu’au, which he participated in as a student and now will be its first ever guest artist.
“I think a lot of people are excited about that,” Meier said.