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After years of performing together, these ‘hula brothers’ are ready to take the Merrie Monarch stage

During hula practice, they’re called Kumu Tracie and Kumu Keawe of award-winning halau Ka La Onohi Mai ‘O Ha’eha’e. But when the ipu heke is put away, it’s aunt
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 7:42 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 23, 2022 at 12:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - During hula practice, they’re called Kumu Tracie and Kumu Keawe of award-winning halau Ka La Onohi Mai ‘O Ha’eha’e.

But when the ipu heke is put away, it’s aunty and uncle.

“He’s awesome, great, great uncle,” says Micah Lopes, the halau’s first kane dancer. “I kind of started this group, I guess, because I was the first one of the family and then my brothers, cousins joined in.”

Although not everyone in the men’s line is related by blood, they all consider each other “hula brothers.”

“It’s awesome growing up with them,” said Lopes.

From their first competition at the Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition as young boys, to now entering the men’s division at Merrie Monarch, it’s a moment Kumu Tracie says came in the blink of an eye.

“We looked at them and said wow, you guys are old now. Let’s give it a try,” explained Kumu Tracie.

2022 is the year the halau will fulfill the words of her Kumu Hula, O’Brien Eselu, and honor the 10-year anniversary of his passing.

“The words that he gave me, that one day your boys will become men and you will have them as your first halau when entering Merrie Monarch,” explained Kumu Tracie.

“The real inspiration for deciding to take our men was to honor our kumu, you know, 10 years later ... it all started with both O’Brien and Thaddeus, you know, and I feel so grateful that I was able to learn from both of them... I feel like every time I come in here and I look at their picture, I feel plugged in to all those things I used to hear him tell the men because at one time I was the only woman in the halau.”

Today, Kumu Tracie’s daughter is also the only wahine at the kane practice, helping to train her hula brothers, just like her mom did, as they prepare for this monumental moment.

“Often times, you know, Brian would see certain elements in a Kane or even in a wahine that we were doing well,” said Kumu Tracie.

“At those times he would ask us to come to the front of the group and we would be his hands and feet. ... To now be able to train men and not be so physical anymore, but yet, like O’Brien and Thaddeus, know what I want. Who is going to be our hands and feet? Well, that’s where our daughter came in.”

Kumu Tracie says from day one of the halau’s journey to the Merrie Monarch stage, it’s been an exciting and honoring experience.

“I hope these men just take back the most awesome experience that they could ever take because it’s their culture, but it’s their aunty and uncle, too, who’s taking them on their journey. And I think for me as an aunty and as a Kumu it’s just a whirlwind of beautiful experiences.”

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