KITV4 News has learned that Kumu Hula O'Brian Eselu has died at the age of 56. He died overnight at his home in Halawa after battling diabetes for nearly two decades.
His halau, Ke Kai O Kahiki, is a longtime competitor in the Merrie Monarch Festival winning the best overall halau honors and best male halau in 2011.
Aside from being a kumu hula, Eselu was an entertainer at the Paradise Cove Luau at the Ko Olina Resort. He worked there for 32 years.
As Entertainment Director for Paradise Cove Luau, Eselu taught two generations of hula dancers and Hawaiian musicians, entertained many thousands of island visitors, and provided cultural guidance at the popular attraction.
"O'Brian Eselu was a cultural treasure, a talented composer and musician, and a gifted kumu," said Keith Horita, President and CEO of Paradise Cove Luau. "As humble as he was, O'Brian was born to entertain. He loved it. Audiences loved it. And I'm so glad that his aloha spirit can live on through the performers and musicians in his halau and here at Paradise Cove."
"O'Brian was, by far, our most popular emcee,” said Horita. “We've literally had visitors come back to Paradise Cove and ask if O'Brian would be emceeing that evening's show. We've had requests from U.S. Senators, APEC delegates and even the White House."
Eselu directed the Paradise Cove Hawaiian Revue, a popular evening show that features hula, fire knife dancing, comedy and live Hawaiian music.
"O'Brian will be missed – no doubt about that. But his spirit will live on in our performances. He always encouraged our dancers and musicians to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture through song and dance," Horita said. "I really think those were O'Brian’s great loves – his students and his culture. And those are his legacy."
Eselu was also a recording artist winning a Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Most Promising Artist in 1998.