Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole takes the Discovery Theatre Stage Friday
Anchorage is about to get a whole lot hotter on Friday as a tropical breeze brings Hawaiian songstress Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole to the Discovery Theatre stage.
Kanaka’ole, who has been singing since she was 2, comes from a musical linage that spans seven generations. Her great-grandmother Edith Kanaka’ole was a revered dancer, chanter, composer and advocate for Hawaiian cultural education. Her grandmother, aunts and mother are also purveyors of the same musical history that seeks to heighten indigenous Hawaiian cultural awareness and participation.
But singing is only one part of what makes Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole a remarkable artist. Identifying as Māhū, or third gendered, Kanaka’ole proudly represents the often-disenfranchised transgender community. In a 2015 interview with Mana magazine, she famously remarked that: “[Māhū] is the expression of the third self. It is not a gender, it’s not an orientation, it’s not a sect, it’s not a particular demographic and it’s definitely not a race. It is simply an expression of the third person as it involves the individual. When you find that place in yourself to acknowledge both male and female aspects within and accept the capacity to embrace both…that is where the māhū exists and true liberation happens.”
By embracing both the male and female aspects of herself, Kanaka’ole has been able to develop a unique voice that seamlessly sways between rasp to clear, bell-like tones that she refers to as her “skinny girl voice”. Her astounding vocal range has made her a five-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano (Hawaiian “Grammy”) Award-winner and internationally recognized artist. She is also a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship Awardee and the first Hawaiian performer to appear at globalFEST in New York.
Those who are not versed in traditional Hawaiian music may be initially intimidated by Kanaka’ole but her performances are dotted with wry commentary and stories to give context to her songs which makes her set both deeply powerful and accessible. She will be accompanied by award-winning musician and producer Shawn Pimental, who will provide background vocals and guitar rhythms.