Big Island singer and songwriter Christy Leina’ala Lassiter has just released a new CD of traditional Hawaiian Hula songs called Kou Lima Nani E. It’s available on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, and other digital platforms. The CD is also available at Basically Books in downtown Hilo.
Kou Lima Nani E is an album of traditional Hawaiian hula songs that Christy Leina’ala Lassiter recorded with a Hawaiian music ensemble, including Jj Ahuna (pictured above) on bass and harmony vocals, Kyle Kaaa on guitar and harmony vocals as well as Dwight Tokumoto on steel guitar.
“The idea for this album came with the goal of preserving the sound of this group, who have been playing together for several years. Our gigs came to an abrupt halt in March 2019 with the beginning of Covid. There was no goodbye, just a set of three texts that wiped us off the board in a matter of days,” says Lassiter.
“We really love playing Hawaiian music together, and we were fortunate to play for some lovely hula dancers along the way. This album of favorite Hula songs is dedicated to these dancers who share the art of Hawaiian dance we know as the hula.” Lassiter adds, “I didn’t want this sound to run away, so I asked our friend Pepe Romero for some recording advice.”Pepe called me one day and said, ‘Hey, I have a great idea! All of my sound equipment is in the Palace Theater; let’s record in there.” Says Lassiter.
“So, we got together. Sat in our usual lineup and did our usual thing, and a sweet album of hula songs was born.”
Lassiter grew up in Hilo and began dancing hula, and playing the ‘ukulele and piano when she was eight years old. She was a young student of George Naope and performed at one of the first Merrie Monarch Hula events when it was still held at the Hilo Armory. This began a lifelong devotion to hula. She has 50 years of hula involvement as a dancer and a singer for hula dancers, and in 2019 she was chosen to sing Hawai’i Pono’i and the National Anthem at the opening of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.
Lassiter says, “Playing for hula dancers requires the musician to have a good sense of timing, a good knowledge of the songs that the dancers prefer, and a sensitivity to the nuances of each story that is being told. Each song benefits from an emotional delivery, and when the singers and dancers are working in sync, a thing of beauty can occur with that invisible bond. This is where art is created and where hula becomes a powerful storytelling medium.”
Christy Leina’ala Lassiter is a kama’aina from a Koha ranching family and has been an active storyteller and entertainer for 40 years, most recently as a part of The Lei Aloha Hawaiian Duo on the cruise ship “The Pride of America.” She played Hawaiian music at the Hilo International Airport for 14 years and also greeted the ships that came into the port of Hilo. She has played at many resorts and hotels on the island and has been featured at the Gabby Pahinui Kani Ka Pila at Waimanalo since 2015. In 2016, she released an album called “Le’ale’a.” In 2018, she composed and released a single entitled “He Aloha No Pohoiki,” and in 2019, she composed and released “O Mauna Kea.”
Her 2020 project was an EP entitled Eha. It included two original songs: “Corona Blues” and “Aloha Au o Hilo Nei” as well as two family compositions. Lassiter was nominated for a Na Hoku Hanohano Award in 2021 for this EP.