Mahalo! CMU grad wins Grammy

Kalani Pe’a, a 2006 CMU graduate, won the Grammy on Sunday for Best Regional Roots music.

Draped with a lei and a huge smile on his face, Kalani Pe’a accepted a Grammy Award on Sunday.

“Aloooha!” exclaimed the Colorado Mesa University graduate and Hawaiian singer whose album “E Walea” won Best Regional Roots music album at the 59th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

“I mahalo everyone who participated, believed in my debut album,” said Pe’a, 33, during his acceptance speech, which slipped between Hawaiian and English. “I’m overwhelmed with joy and happiness.”

Pe’a attended Colorado Mesa University from 2001–2006, initially studying vocal performance before switching his major and graduating with a degree in mass communications.

“I am really proud of him,” said Jack Delmore, with whom Pe’a studied while at CMU. Delmore currently is emeriti professor of voice and former head of vocal studies at CMU.

“All of us as teachers hope our students will have this kind of achievement. So, kind of a dream come true,” Delmore said.

“He’s really bloomed beautifully,” Delmore said of Pe’a's singing and song writing. “I hope we hear more from Kalani.”

“E Walea” is “an album that defines who I am,” and the title means “to be exuberant, to be elated and to be happy,” kind of like a flock of chirping birds, said Pe’a in phone interview from Hawaii before the Grammys.

The album’s 12 tracks include two Hawaiian chants, traditional and contemporary Hawaiian language songs and covers of “You Are So Beautiful” and “Always And Forever” sung in a mix of English and Hawaiian.

After changing his major at CMU and later becoming curriculum developer for Kamehameha Schools Maui, Pe’a said he never thought he would make an album.

And then when he did, recording “E Walea” in Honolulu, it was costly. “I could have five cars right now,” Pe’a said, joking about his travel expenses flying between Maui and the Big Island, Pe’a joked.

But music is ingrained in Pe’a, whose mother had him start singing at age 4 to overcome a speech impediment.

“Music saved my life,” he said during his Grammy acceptance speech. “I love you, mom!”


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