Page 7 - Hawaii Island MidWeek - August 11 2021
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Songbird Prepares For Flight With New Album
And while good friend and vocalist Natalie Ai Kamauu doesn’t appear on the album, she has been reserved for a special role.
While the children remain her heart, singing has always been her passion — even though she had no aspirations of be- coming a profession- al recording artist un- til the day DeMello told her “you have a voice that should be recorded.”
“Natalie’s going to be danc- ing hula in one of my videos — so that’s a surprise,” gushes Ku‘ulei with excitement.
(Above) The Taniguchi ‘ohana: (clockwise from top) Shane, Stacie, Aurelia, Kazu, and sisters Melody and Shala. (Right) Among the many to help Stacie Ku‘ulei with her new album were Louis “Moon” Kauakahi, left, and Horace Dudoit. PHOTOS COURTESY STACIE KU‘ULEI
AUGUST 11, 2021
  and trials,” says Ku‘ulei, who recently returned to Tapa Bar at Hilton Hawaiian Village for Sunday evening perfor- mances and who continues to be a fill-in for Glenn Me- deiros at the Hale Koa Ho- tel’s Lū‘au Show. “This song is more like Romeo and Ju- liet — two people who love each other so much but who can’ t be together. I actually know people who are going through something similar, so that’s how the song came about.”
— and producers Gerard Gon- salves and Aron Nelson. Even vocalist/guitarist Eric Lee makes an appearance on the track Mokihana Lullaby.
And although she’s had some experience at the ele- mentary (“I taught third grade and it was the toughest year of my life because I cried every day”) and high school levels (“Some students start- ed writing love letters to me, and when I complained to the principal about it, he laughed at me and said I was being ridiculous”), she soon came to the conclusion that middle school was “perfect” for her.
they crack me up as well because they’re middle-schoolers. They’re sassy and they’re wise; they’re also puberty stricken, so every day is a new day with them.”
 But what makes this hu- la-friendly album particularly special for her are the guiding hands behind it. They include well-known artists Horace Dudoit of Ho‘okena, former Mākaha Sons’ backbone Lou- is “Moon” Kauakahi — whom Ku‘ulei affectionately refers to as “Anakala (Uncle) Moonie”
s much as it would appear that Ku‘ulei’s world revolves sole-
“I love doing what I do, which is teaching the kids,” admits Ku‘ulei, who received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in teaching from Chaminade University. “My students inspire me, but
ly around music, the truth is that it doesn’t. On most fall, winter and spring days, she can be found teaching 7th- grade English at Kalākaua Middle School. She even re- mains busy during the sum- mers, too, guiding students at Kamehameha Schools.
“I never really thought of singing as a career or some- thing that I had to do to make money,” explains Ku‘ulei. “My mom used to say to me, ‘I know you love to sing, but you always need a backup plan. So maybe teaching would be good, and then who knows? Maybe when you move to Honolulu, you’ll get big?’”
sic still flourished in the home.
“The weekends
were all kanikapila,”
she notes. “My entire
family is musically inclined, so it’s basi-
cally anybody with the ‘ukule- le and guitar. We’d even make music with spoons and buck- ets. And it was always, ‘Stacie, get up there and sing because Aunty wants to dance hula!’”
of course, how sad he was when he didn’t.”
   (Above) Stacie Ku‘ulei is a powerhouse singer who, although known for her contemporary Hawaiian music, is also comfortable singing R&B, pop, gospel and classical opera. LAWRENCE TABUDLO PHOTO (Inset) The budding singer had already grown comfortable with a mic in hand by age 7.
Despite that standard, mu-
Or as she succinctly puts it, “I’m not holding back any- more.”
Thinking back on her mom’s comments and how she’s been prepared for a life in the limelight, Ku‘ulei Tsays, “It pretty much worked out the way she said it would.”
When she was 7, she com- posed her very first song. It would be the first of “1,001 songs I wrote in diary books and on folding paper.”
In many ways, Ku‘ulei owes much of her growth as a somewhat reserved performer turned powerhouse singer to her brother Shane, who passed away 16 years ago at age 38.
he youngest of four children born to Kazu and Aurelia Taniguchi,
“It was probably done all in pidgin,” she recalls with a chuckle, “but I remember hearing my brother, who ran cross country, talking to my dad one day about how upset he was and how he thought he was going to be in the top three in this race. I remember say- ing, ‘It’s OK, Big Brother’ — that’s what I used to call him — ‘you’ll do better next time.’
“I used to hold back a lot as a singer because people could be mean and sometimes come across as jealous, and they’d tell me, ‘All you want to do is show off!’ A nd that used to bother me,” she explains. “Then, one day, I remember my brother telling me, ‘Why you care about what people think? God gave you a gift, so just share it.’”
Ku‘ulei (her given middle name) was raised in a devout Christian household. Her fa- ther served as pastor of two churches — first at The Way of Salvation and later at Door of Faith in Kekaha — and chose to limit the type of mu- sic his children could listen to.
“When we got home, I started writing about him, about how he worked out ev- ery day running in the sand from Pākalā to Waimea and hoping that he was going to finish in the top three. And,
Following her brother’s death, Ku‘ulei insists she stopped listening to her nay- sayers and began dilating upon “giving it my all.”
“We were a close-knit fam- ily, but my dad was strict. We couldn’t listen to the radio be- cause he’d call it devil music,” laughs Ku‘ulei.
For the dressed-for-success entertainer, being true to her heart is what matters the most.

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