Updated: December 2, 2023
The 21st annual Richard Ho‘opi‘i Leo Kiʻekiʻe Falsetto Contest featured four contestants during a cultural showcase and competition held on Saturday at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Maui.
Liam Moleta of Oʻahu earned this year’s title for his performance of “Aloha Nō Kahului.” He took home a wood award, Big Island Candies, a Tanoa gift card, a HIC Lifestyle Apparel Pack, a $150 Pulelehua gift card, a lei hulu by Hulunani Leo Meyer, $600 cash from Honua Consulting, a Kanilea ʻUkulele and an all expense trip to perform at Keauhou Shopping Center on Hawaiʻi island.
A haumana hula of Hālau Nā Kamalei o Līlīlehua under the direction of Kumu Hula Robert Cazimero, Liam loves to make lei, trade crypto and stock, teach music lessons, write poetry, do tax accountant work and social media marketing. Growing up in Palmdale, California, Liam would imagine that he was a professional Hawaiian music entertainer, studying videos of Hawaiian Falsetto singers who have competed at this very contest.
“I believe this is the first year we’ve had three different winners for our first three awards,” said Daryl Fujiwara, Festival Director and coordinator of the falsetto contest. “Usually our first place scoops both the ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i and Sheldon Keahiawakea Music Awards but this year it was split between three of the four contestants which really speaks to the talent pool we had, and the extremely difficult job the judges had this year.”
Tevita Lisiate Apina-Pacheco from Waiʻanae, O‘ahu was awarded the Hawaiian Language Award for his performance of “Ka Beauty A’o Mānoa.” This included a prize of a two night stay in a Residential Suite, with club lounge access at the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua – a value of $7737. Apina-Pacheco also earned second place in the overall competition, taking home a wood award, Big Island Candies, a Tanoa gift card and $400 in cash from Honua Consulting.
The Sheldon Keahiawakea Brown Music Award was given to Antonio Robles of Wailuku, Maui for his performance of “Pua Līlīlehua.” The awards presented by Sheldon Brown’s brother Kevin and niece Kaena Brown. Robles also earned third place overall and took home a wood award, Big Island Candies, a Tanoa gift card and $300 cash from Honua Consulting.
Via Tiumalu Jr from Kīhei, Maui earned fourth place overall for his performance of “I Kona.” Tiumalu took home Big Island Candies, a Tanoa gift card and $100 cash from Honua Consulting.
Judges this year included: Head Judge, Uluwehi Gurerro; ʻŌlelo Judges, Hailama Farden and Luana Kawa‘a; and Music Judges, Matt Sproat and Kamaka Kukona. The event hostess was Alakaʻi Paleka, and the house band featured Kaiolohia Smith, Jacob Delanux and Wailau Ryder.
“We’re fresh off our Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award win in May where we took home ‘Compilation of the Year’ and ‘Hawaiian Engineering’,” said Fujiwara. “To celebrate we had a wonderful afterglo in the ballroom with falsetto sensations Heather Kalua and ‘Āina Asing, two-thirds of the group Uheuhene and Nuff Sedd, led by Joshua Kahula until 1 a.m. Producing music is not cheap and the industry has changed with streaming, no one has CD players anymore but when you download the artist gets less than a fraction of that .99 cents. I commend all the artist out there who make music. So when an artist performs and has merchandise or anything, please support.”
The contest in its entirety can be viewed on the Festivals of Aloha Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FestivalsofAloha/videos
The purpose of this event is to provide a championship opportunity for amateur falsetto singers, as well as to provide a dynamic platform for the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiʻi’s unique falsetto traditions. Additionally, it is designed to honor and uphold the cultural and entertainment ideals and integrity as modeled by the late Uncle Richard Hoʻopiʻi––Hawaiian falsetto legend, member of the renowned musical duo, The Hoʻopiʻi Brothers, a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winner, a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award co-recipient, a National Endowment of the Arts Folk Heritage Fellowship co-recipient, a Grammy Award co-recipient, and the founder of the Richard Hoʻopiʻi Leo Kiʻekiʻe Contest.
In celebration of 20 years of the Richard Ho‘opi‘i Leo Kiʻekiʻe Falsetto Contest, Festivals of Aloha along with Haku Collective released a legacy project entitled “Hawaiian Falsetto Vol 1” with all proceeds going back into producing this contest. You can stream it on all digital platforms.
Hawaiian Falsetto Vol 1 features:
- Green Rose Hula – Grant Kaimana Kono 2014
- Ka Loke – Po‘okela Wood 2010
- E Ku‘u Morning Dew – Kama‘ehu Kawa‘a 2021
- Manu ‘Ō‘ō – Joshua No‘eau Kalima 2012
- Hōnaunau Pāka – Micah Hoapili DeAguiar 2013
- Moanike‘alaonāpuamakahikina – Pōmaika‘i Krueger 2009
- Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua – Kason Gomes 2017
- Pua ‘Āhihi – Kamalei Kawa‘a 2015
- Nani Wale Ke‘anae – Ezra Kau‘i Krueger 2011
- Mānowaiopuna – Cody Pueo Pata Judge
- Nāwiliwili – Gregory Kahikina Juan 2016
- Akaka Falls – Kalani Pe‘a Judge
- ‘Ohu‘ohu Kahakuloa – Richard Ho‘opi‘i Namesake
Contest winners over the years include the following:
- 2023 – Liam Moleta, Honolulu, O‘ahu
- 2022 – Heua‘ohu Sai-Dudiot, Hilo, Hawai‘i
- 2021 – Kamaehu Kawa‘i, Waiehu, Maui
- 2020 – COVID-19 / Cancelled
- 2019 – Ikaika Mendez, Ulupakakua, Maui
- 2018 – Kaulike Pescaia, Kihei, Maui
- 2017 – Kason Gomes, Wailuku, Maui
- 2016 – Greg Juan, Wailuku, Maui
- 2015 – Kamalei Kawa‘a, Waiehu, Maui
- 2014 – Grant Kono, Honolulu, Oahu
- 2013 – Micah Hoapili Ku‘aimoku De Aguiar, Kona, Hawai‘i
- 2012 – Joshua No‘eau Kalima, Hilo, Hawai‘i
- 2011 – Ezra Kaui Krueger, Maui, Hawai‘i
- 2010 – Po‘okela Wood, Maui, Hawai‘i
- 2009 – Pomaika‘i Krueger, Maui, Hawai‘i
- 2008 – Kamakani Kiaha, Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i
- 2007 – Kapono Na‘ili‘ili, Oahu, Hawai‘i
- 2006 – Kalani Benanua, Lana‘i, Hawai‘i
- 2005 – Hiroshi Okada, Japan
- 2004 – Kai Ho‘opi‘i – Maui, Hawai‘i
- 2003 – Kamaka Fernandez, Maui, Hawai‘i
- 2002 – Ramzey Ho‘opi‘i, Maui, Hawai‘i
2023 Festival Ribbons are available. Proceeds generated from sale of our ribbons help to produce the events. Please call or text 808-268-9285 or visit Hale Ho‘ike‘ike at the Bailey House.
For the most up to date info visit festivalsofaloha.com.