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Keala Kawa'auhau


Donald Keala Kawa’auhau, Jr. (April 09, 1971 - August 27, 2018) was a Native Hawaiian activist, Hawaiian Language teacher, radio personality, and a founding member of the Hawaiian rap group Sudden Rush.


Born and raised in Hilo, Kawa’auhau was a student in the Hawaiian Studies program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo when he helped form the group Sudden Rush alongside Shane Veincent, and Caleb Richards. As the first group to popularize Hawaiian language in rap, Kawa’auhau was instrumental in integrating Hawaiian chant and English and lyrics with beats inspired by popular Black North American hip-hop groups. Coined as “Nā mele pāleoleo”, their music explicitly explored and commented on Hawaiian sovereignty issues, criticized the American settler-colonial occupation project in Hawai’i, and established cultural pride amongst their widely kānaka fanbase.


Kawa’auhau’s fluency in ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i was apparent throughout the group’s 24-year long career spanning four album/EP’s and performances across the globe, bringing the language and message to a worldwide audience and inspiring younger generations of consciously aware kānaka musicians, rappers, and vocalists. Their music has since become synonymous with the Hawaiian sovereignty, with original songs and remixes to classic reggae and Hawaiian songs like “’Ea”, “Roots Radical”, and “Hawai’i 3000” serving as a figurative and literal soundtrack for the movement throughout history.


Throughout his career, Kawa‘auhau simultaneously worked as a Hawaiian Language teacher at Pūnana Leo O Hilo and a DJ and radio host at KWXX-FM. He was a prominent figure in the Big Island community and is continually remembered for his music and legacy throughout the lāhui.


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