￼￼￼￼In Na Leo Pilimehana’s earliest days, the trio would travel to gigs in Nalani Choy’s ’66 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible.
“All three of us in the front seat and all our instruments in the trunk, like the Go-Go’s,” she recalls. “The radio didn’t work, so we sang wherever we went.”
As juniors at Kamehameha Schools, friends Choy, Lehua Kalima and Angela Morales joined the concert glee club. Then the school needed musicians to play for hula dancers, marking the genesis of what would eventually become Na Leo.
A lot has changed since then — 2014 marked 30 years together. They’ve recorded 23 albums, written more than 120 original songs and have received multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. Together, they also founded NLP Music, their own record label, which allows them to maintain the intellectual property of their music. It also makes Na Leo the only local musicians to have had that type of complete control during their entire career.
This, of course, doesn’t include the memories accumulated within those 30 years. For Choy, 1996 was of particular importance. It was the year Na Leo signed with Sony Music Entertainment Japan and won a Na Hoku for their single Flying With Angels.
“I always tell people, ‘Imagine what it would be like if you took your two best friends from high school and you worked with them for the next 30 years,’” says Choy. “It’s pretty fun — it’s hilarious at times.”
These days, the trio, who last appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in August 2006, may be found doing various solo activities.
Kalima released her first solo album a few years ago and is involved in the King Kamehameha Celebration. Morales performs at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.
And Choy has since founded independent record label OneHawaii Music, LLC (home to musicians like Anuhea) and an entertainment company that provides cultural pro- gramming, such as ukulele lessons and lei making for conventions.
All of that in addition to serving as senior vice president with Communications Pacific, where she utilizes her combined areas of expertise to specialize in consumer marketing and community building, along with management responsibility.
“I really enjoy working at (Communications Pacific),” she says. “I am able to work with a lot of different people across many industries.
“I find something new every day I come to work.”
Still, it hasn’t kept the group from performing together. To celebrate their anniversary, Na Leo completed eight sold-out shows in Japan and a holiday tour in California.
“But mainly, we’ve been reminiscing and reconnecting with old friends and fans,” she adds. “It’s been great!”
Choy is hoping to get back into the studio with Kalima and Morales soon, to hopefully release something new in 2015. And next summer, be on the lookout for a Na Leo summer tour in Japan and the Mainland.
“If you do something as your life pursuit, you really hope that people like it and that they are somehow touched by it, by what you do,” says Choy. “So the fact that we’ve been able to do this for this long and to do as many things as we have, is really, gosh, I can’t think of anything better.
“We are truly thankful for our families, friends and fans who have supported Na Leo throughout our career,” she adds. “We celebrate these 30 years with all of you.”