Aloha Pumehana Serenaders was founded by Darrell Lupenui, to record “Hula Gems,” which has endured for 40 years providing dancers with a hula repertoire to learn their craft.
In 1976 producer Bill Murata approached highly respected Hawaiian dance instructor Ku‘ulei Clark to select the songs. For the recording she recommended the son of her good friend Muriel Lupenui, who was herself a dancer and singer at the Kodak Hula Show in Waikiki.
Darrell Lupenui was an accomplished falsetto singer and hula dancer. To record “Hula Gems” Lupenui formed the Aloha Pumehana Serenaders. The group consisted of Lupenui on çukulele, Wendell Silva on bass, Lanakila Manini and Ainsley Halemanu on guitars. Elena Amaki, assistant to Clark, provided technical assistance, and dancer Ku‘ulei Balino was pictured on the original cover.
Lupenui continued in the hula tradition of his mother Muriel Lupenui, and Ku‘ulei Clark. In 1976 together with John Kaimikaua he formed the hälau hula (school) The Men of Waimäpuna, one of a very few to teach men at the time. Waimäpuna danced in the ku‘i Moloka‘i style originating from that island which is characterized by foot stamping and heel twisting, thigh slapping, knee dipping, vigorous gestures imitative of sports and war-like pursuits. This dynamic, high-energy style showcasing the strength of male dancers caught the imagination of the hula world at the time. Beginning in 1978, for three consecutive years, The Men of Waimäpuna won the Men’s Overall trophy at the annual Merrie Monarch Festival. Lupenui repeated this feat again in 1986.
The current CD re-release of the originally vinyl and cassette recording of “Hula Gems” traces the legacy of Darrell Lupenui’s Men of Waimāpuna by including two songs and a chant by Chinky Māhoe. Māhoe was a student in Lupenui’s hālau Waimāpuna, joining a year after its founding. He rose to become one of the lead dancers and after two years under Lupenui’s tutelage formed his own hālau.
Hälau Hula ‘O Kawaili‘ulä made its debut in 1979 at a fund-raiser for The Men of Waimäpuna. At that event Mähoe received the blessing of both his kumu hula (hula teacher) and Auntie Muriel, the spiritual leader of the hälau. Even as kumu hula of his own hälau Mähoe continued as a dancer in Waimäpuna. Mähoe has followed in the footsteps of Lupenui and Kawaili‘ulä and has been consistent winner at the Merrie Monarch Festival over the years.
Chinky Mähoe is but one kumu hula to come from The Men of Waimäpuna. Others include Buzzy Histo, Blaine Kia, Luka Kauhola, Keoni Nunes and Healani Youn. Still others who have studied with Lupenui and who have gone on to form their own hälau include O’Brien Eselu, Thaddeus Wilson, Tammy Silva, Stennett and Derek Nu‘uhiwa, and Mark Keli‘i Ho‘omalu. Lupenui was one of the major influences of the hula in the 70s and 80s, and his many students have continued the legacy while enriching hula with their own interpretations, creations of original songs, dances and chants.
Darrell Lupenui passed away in 1987.
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