When Lon Malapit speaks of the Kanahele family, he does so quietly, respectfully.
This is a family he treasures.
“They are very humble, hard-working and smart,” Malapit said.
But there is more that sets them apart.
Malapit, associate pastor of Calvary Chapel Lihue, pauses as he explains exactly what that is.
“I believe it’s just the love of God, their willingness to encourage people to live for God,” he said. “They have an unconditional heart for others. They are beautiful.”
It’s their love and their faith the Kanaheles will share when they give their first public concert, singing in Hawaiian, on Dec. 8 at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
About 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren will be singing, while Mama Ane Kanahele explains the meaning of her songs.
The lyrics of each song will be displayed on a large video screen for all to sing along. There will also be a translation of the Hawaiian lyrics into English, to understand the meaning and purpose of each song.
Mama Ane, the family matriarch at 81, displays a kindness as she looks around while sitting on the lanai at the family’s Kekaha home. When asked why she wanted to make this concert happen, she offers a short answer.
“I want Jesus’ name to go around the world. That’s what I want,” she said.
Her wish is that the concert touches those who attend. And she wants everyone to be there.
“If you love the music, grab the music, and put it in your heart,” she said. “Whoever wants to sing, let them sing, yeah?”
K-Iesu Radio, 94.9FM, is hosting the free concert.
“How often, if ever, have you ever met a native who has lived on the island of Niihau, let alone learned about this ancient people group?” Malapit asked. “This humble, gracious and peaceful group of family members have a desire to share their spiritual lives with the rest of the world, through their gift of music.”
The daily exercise of singing, from an early age, has developed the power and control of their voices, Malapit said.
“Their music and voices are rich in sound, melodious, beautiful and pleasant to listen to, and yet powerful to the core of man’s soul,” he said.
Most of their music was written by Mama Ane, who was honored by the Kauai Museum in 2012 for being a Living Treasure. She was recognized for her service to the community and for being one of our most prolific composers of himeni, or Hawaiian hymns.
In 2001, her ohana won a Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Religious Album of the Year, for “Na Himeni Ho‘omaikai‘i I Ke Akua.”
Born and raised on Niihau, she is also known for her spiritual leadership and for being a master shell lei maker. She is also a retired teacher who perpetuated Hawaiian language and culture at Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha school.
Malapit said well-known secular artists have offered to produce a CD and concerts with the family. However, they have declined.
It’s not about the songs, or the music, or the artist, or the money, or the fame, or the things of this world, Malapit said.
“It’s about God.”
The Kanaheles hold Sunday morning services — in Hawaiian — at the Waimea Hawaiian Church. If you attend, plan to sing. Singing himeni involves the participation of all in attendance at a church service, instead of the congregation simply listening as a choir sings.
The Kanaheles are not entirely comfortable in the public eye. Only Mama Ane agreed to speak with the media on a recent visit to their Kekaha home.
But this concert is their outreach to the island and a way to highlight their heritage.
Malapit said within 30 years after the first missionaries arrived, Hawaii experienced one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in history.
The awakening broke out on Hawaii Island in 1837 and spread throughout the kingdom, all the way to the island of Niihau, he said, and this period became known as Hawaii’s Great Awakening.
It was said, “One could scarcely go in any direction, in the sugar cane or banana groves, without finding children praying and weeping before God. Families would also rise well before dawn to pray. In outdoor meetings, multitudes would be weeping aloud in repentance and prayer.”
The Kananheles “would like to share a glimpse of this spiritual experience,” Malapit said.
“It’s time to start sharing their gift, their love and to share the love of God with others,” he added.
Mama Ane will also share how the Lord has gifted these songs to her. Before she writes a song, she hears it in her head. She writes songs to preserve the Hawaiian language.
“When it’s lost, it’s not coming back, so they have to listen to the song,” she said.
Mama Ane was ill about two years ago, but rallied and is healthy today. There is a joy about her, and she smiled and laughed often during her meeting with TGI and Dickie Chang of “Wala‘au.”
She looked intently at whomever spoke to her.
“I’m back,” she said, laughing.
Chang beamed throughout their talk story time.
“It’s an honor to go to their ohana at their home in Kekaha because nobody goes to the Kanahele house,” he said.
At Chang’s request, she offered a brief prayer, and sang a song, in Hawaiian. Then, she looked at her guests.
“Thank you for coming to share this with the world,” she said.
Mama Ane, like the rest of the Kanaheles, spends time on Niihau and in Kekaha. But no matter where she is, her faith remains strong, as does their family bond.
Family is important. It is a gift from God, she said.
“You need each other, to love each other,” she said. “You need to love each other.”
Skin color doesn’t matter to Mama Ane.
“Your blood is just like my blood,” she said.
During the interview, it poured rain. That, she said, is a good sign. It is a blessing from God.
“God’s work is free. Give to him, he will give you the blessing that you need,” she said. “So you give free.”
Malapit said it is typical for churches throughout Polynesia to sing with a heavy and powerful voice.
“This tradition can be heard through the hearts of this Kanahele family, as they relate to God and each other,” he said. “Their singing style reflects their relationship to God, and their obedience to His 1st great commandment, which is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart.”
He said one could apply that command to the purpose of this concert: “To love and to sing to the Lord with all of your heart.”
“The Lord has blessed this community by preserving this ancient people, their living language, cultural norms and traditions,” Malapit said. “In response, this Kanahele family gives honor to the one who gave them this world class talent, and desires to share it with the rest of the world.”
The concert is set for 7 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. It’s expected the convention hall will be packed to hear the Kanaheles.
Mama Ane, though, said she and her family shouldn’t get the credit.
“Praise Him, give Him glory,” she said.