2 04, 2012

When Sistah Robi rolls into town, expect the unexpected

2019-09-02T18:37:15-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

Photos on Facebook  for March 26 EKK #9; Mahalo to Tashi

Photo by Tashi

It really was not through any fault of theirs when Sistah Robi and Ku Kahakalau came to do EKK Monday in March 2006 that the electrical circuit for Island School bombed out and EKK could not happen without any electricity.There we were at 6:00 pm with hundreds of excited fans waiting in the parking lot and nowhere to go.

Panic button #1: What to do? The only place close by that could hold our group would be the cafeteria at Chiefess Middle School next door. Luckily I had Vice Principal Pohaku Nishimitsu’s cell number on my phone so I rang him and gave him our dilemma and asked him if there was any possibility to regroup at his school. “I just got home to Kapa’a but I will turn around and go back,” said our lifesaver Pohaku, so I yelled out across the parking lot, “Go across the Kaumuali’i Highway to Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School cafeteria!” and the long lines of cars slowly snaked around and around the long roads circling KCC, some following cars going in the wrong direction, but in about 15 minutes everyone was excitedly seated on the cafeteria table/benches and the Kahakalau Family Show went on, embellished by the wonderful accompaniment of Kekai Chock and Dennis Chun who unexpectedly showed up.

I started scheduling EKK 2012 back in August 2011 and by early November 2011 had Sistah Robi and Ku Kahakalau scheduled for March 26 with a high school Hawaiian choir to open. EKK 2012 started and rolled along beautifully but no word from anyone for March 26 and I needed to book flights, so I started sending persistent emails. A month before the event, Ku said she was unable to come due to urgent family matters but she could send her daughter I’inimaikalani in her place and would take care of all the arrangements so I booked their flights and printed up the song sheets. I cc’d Robi on every conversation, not knowing that RoadRunner dropped the ball for her internet, so she was completely in the dark on all these preparatory emails. Same time the high school choir could not come so that was just crossed off the list. I tried to find Kaua’i musicians to accompany Robi but everyone was tied up.

Panic button #2: The night before, I get a late night call from Robi that the song sheets received and printed three weeks ago had wrong chords so could I re-print the songs with the correct chords. “If it does not come through by email, I will meet you at the airport at 12:45 to get the song sheet.” It came through fine but Monday was a holiday so finding a copy machine was problematic. Luckily UPS store does not do holidays so I got the songs printed. I met the artists at the airport to make sure that everything was okay with them.

Panic button #3: An hour later I picked up a voice mail from Robi and called her. She said, “If you think the song sheet was last minute, I have one more thing for you.” It turns out that during her early morning KKCR interview with Linda Lester, she found out that EKK was not only a workshop but a followed by a concert.  “Concert!?!” Robi panicked. So at 2:00 pm she asked if she could locate John Cruz, is there any possibility we could fly him to Kaua’i for tonight?  “Ahhhhh . . .” Silence! (thinking thinking . . .) She was expecting me to breathe fire through the phone line and I could picture her wincing (she does that a lot). I said, “It’s kinda late but see if you can find him and let me check online if there are any flights left; but I need his birth date because can’t make reservations without birth date.”  Luckily Kaya was next to her and could supply that information, so I went online and found one seat left on one available flight leaving in two hours, so I booked his one way ticket, since I did not know when he would go back. 

Panic button #4: HAL email confirms he has the flight but no seat guarantee, so I had to call HAL office to make sure that John Cruz and his guitar would not have to stand in the aisle from Honolulu to Kaua’i. In the meantime, they located Johnny and he said he could make it and wanted the last flight out, so I booked his last flight out. Not only did John Cruz show up and put on a wonderful spontaneous show with Robi and I’inimaikalani plus Mike Young, he also jammed in Shutters after EKK until time to catch the last plane out. Oh . . . these musicians who love to perform . . .

Good thing the nurse tells me every time they take my blood pressure, “Wonderful! Your blood pressure is like that of a sixteen-year-old.” Often the drama behind the scenes is enough to fill a book, but it pumps up the juice for everyone and that is part of putting on a wonderful show.

Life as a musician…roll with the punches

The average person looks at a musician and sees a glamorous gregarious spontaneous person oozing with talent who can whip out an instrument and sing his heart out on the spot, but the stories shared by Robi and John, both so willing to be transparent about their experiences, gave new insight into the lives of musicians. They shared their experiences with so much humor that if they ever could NOT sing, at least they could join the Comedy Club.  

First thing John thanks the sound man for being here with a sound system. He said that sometimes with last minute gigs, another musician will call him to show up at a restaurant and add, “Oh, by the way, bring a sound system with you . . . and I may be hour-and-a-half late so just go ahead with the gig until I show up.”

Robi was profusely thankful that Johnny showed up; tonight he could do no wrong.  She shared a story about her Thanksgiving night gig at Chai’s Bistro when her usual partner said she could not play because she has big family dinner, so Robi is wracking her brain to see who among her musician friends has no family or is member of the “lonely hearts club” . . . “Oh!  Johnny! Johnny! He came to help a friend in need…I love Johnny! And tonight my good friend Mike Young showed up so now we have a surplus of musicians; the more the merrier.  Anybody who knows me knows that I do not like to play by myself.” 

She also dreads tuning her guitar on stage.  When she and Cyril Pahinui were opening for the Makaha Sons at Carnegie Hall, she could tell that one string was off but did not know which one. Cyril did not want to say anything but he winced every time she strummed; her imitation of Cyril’s wincing expression was hilarious.  Finally he told her, “Put your volume down, baby,” so she ended up playing “air guitar” for that performance.

When she and John were playing in Seattle, “John’s mic kept drooping and drooping because they don’t take care of their equipment like you guys, so John said, ‘Take it, Robi!’ ”  She did it and admitted that only twice in her life she sang solo.

But sing she can, as he and John harmonized beautifully on Makua. “I have only one song and that’s it. I hope you like it.”  Someone who can write a song like Makua should really be pumping out more songs, but her sister Ku Kahakalau is the poet in the family. They followed with Kaua’i Nani La and No Ke Ano Ahi Ahi about Prince Lunalilo. It’s a good thing that Robi and John play music together a lot so they can put on a show with no rehearsal….just a lot of whispering back and forth as they created their playlist on the spot.

Robi talked about the early days when they traveled so much from place to place so often they were confused what island they were on and could not tell if they were coming or going.  At a concert at the MACC in Maui, John calls out to the audience, “How we doing, Kaua’i?” John’s rebuttal, “Lemme, lemme, lemme explain. Everywhere I perform I ask, ‘What’s up, Maui?’ but since we were in Maui, I could not say that so I said, ‘What’s up, Kaua’i?’ ” Robi expressed surprised to learn he had a method to his madness.

John shared a song that will be in his new CD coming out this summer about being away too long. Robi loves John’s version of Waimanalo Blues composed by Liko Martin; it’s her Mom’s favorite song, and Waimanalo is her favorite place to swim with her dogs. Her dogs must be important as she later shared a story about Bula’ia who “kidnapped” her dog so she finally had to go and retrieve her pet.
The ‘ukulele class went on stage to play Na Pali Alo Lua composed by Ku Kahakalau in 2003; the hula gang that learned the dance from I’inimaikalani, Ku’s eldest daughter, performed the hula. Robi imitated the way that I’ini used to say her whole long Hawaiian name  — I’inimaikalani Keali’ikua’aina Kahakalau which translates to “Desirefromheaven TheChiefessoftheCountryside” — when she was little and could not pronounce the letter “k” and substituted “t” in its place. Isn’t that what they do on purpose between Tahitian and Hawaiian words?  I’inimaikalani was a linguist even as a toddler. I’inimaikalani danced to the beautiful Hi’ilawe about the famous waterfall in Waipio valley . . . most appropriate as that is her home.

Mike Young joined the artists on the stage and sang the song he wrote in the early 70’s — Nani Kauai (Beautiful is Kaua’i). Robi was supposed to record it years ago but either Hurricane Iwa or Iniki twarted their plans. Such passion in his singing brought shouts of hana hou. Mike sang his favorite Dennis Kamakahi song Koke’e while Robi spoke the translation and of course Donna Stewart could not resist the hula. Other hula songs that enticed hula dancers to the stage included Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett’s Kapalina, Dennis Kamakahi’s Wahine ‘Ilikea and Ku’u Hoa by Francis Keali’inohopono Beamer for his wife, enticing her to share a moonlit night together.

Robi introduced John’s signature song Island Style which describes life in the islands no matter where you are — mauka, makai, backyard, no matter which island. John sang another favorite Shine On and a song that will come out in his new album to be released this summer, We Should be Together.

 Pi’i Mai Ka Nalu is another well known favorite composed by sister Ku as a final exam for Hawaiian language instructor Larry Kimura’s poetry class. Song describes how everyone drops everything and heads for the ocean when the surf is up. She followed with a haunting song Mele O Kaho’olawe by Uncle Harry Mitchell that was recorded by Olomana. Mitchell told her “Baby, stick to the singing.”  So Robi sings, Ku writes the songs and I’ini, a Hawaiian language scholar, dances the hula.

When Robi and I’inimaikalani arrived at the Jasmine ballroom, they asked, “Are we late?” She was surprised “There were some really early people out there!”  Yes! That’s how it is at EKK; can you believe that some folks used to be in line outside from 3:00 pm for a 6:00 program, so we have been trying to get folks to comes just a tad later so we don’t feel so panicky ourselves. Robi said, “One anakala just looked at me and said Blue Bayou. I hope it was a request for that song as I took it as a request.”  Slow and sultry the song fit her voice perfectly.  No wonder uncle requested it.

For an evening that stood on a precarious ledge at one point, the final EKK Monday 2012 turned out to be a fun and animated workshop concert full of great singing, spontaneous hula, great audience participation and the hilarious stories you rarely hear about life as a musician.

One more final concert this Saturday!
Saturday, March 31, 7:00 pm
EKK Finale Concert with Hot! Hot! Hot! Super Stars!”
Nathan Aweau & Jeff Peterson
plus lovely solo hula dancers from Leina’ala’s halau
Kauai Beach Resort Jasmine Ballroom

PS! Bring heavy sweater or jacket with you; the ballroom temperature will make you feel like you are in Minnesota.
2 04, 2012

When you see, hear and feel the Aloha, it’s the real deal

2019-09-02T18:37:14-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

I first laid eyes on Troy Lazaro when he was a slip of a boy, probably still in high school, at Nathan Kalama’s 50th birthday party which was a back yard-under the tent-singing and dancing all night kind of Hawaiian lu’au party. I could not believe the way this young man danced in one continuous smooth movement like his bones could all bend. More than his fluidity, I held on to the memory of the most joyful expression on his face. I can still visualize the way he danced.

Soon he was appearing on stage as a singer as he became involved in Hawai’i Stars. When the audience applauded I would often say to whoever was sitting next to me, “. . . but, you should see him dance the hula!” I wondered if I would ever see him dancing hula again because he seemed headed in the direction of aspiring young singers. 

It wasn’t until last year when I was coordinating the Aloha Week events for Kaua’i that he surfaced as the singing dancing emcee for Kumu Hula Doric Yaris. Since Doric was in charge of the program for the westside celebration at Waimea Plantation Cottages, he got Troy to hula, sing and emcee. With his spontaneous gift of gab he was the most entertaining emcee. He also started attending last year’s EKK Mondays and expressed so much appreciation for the artists who came to EKK.

It was time to have Troy share his talents at EKK. Not only was he ready and willing to present at one of the EKK Mondays, he came up with the brilliant idea to leave the audience with the “Perfect Hawaiian Memory” by sharing the most exquisite hula mele danced by solo hula dancers. What a concept! It turned out to be a wonderful gift to everyone there. The morning after, my email was flooded with comments from many who were there and appreciated what Troy shared.

Troy was a difficult person to pin down because does the cultural programs at Waiohai Marriott and teaches ZUMBA probably eight days a week, but I am persistent so when Troy said that he was thrilled with the invitation because it gave him a chance to get back to his hula roots, I was elated. When someone possesses a gift like Troy’s, it’s important to explore the possibilities of sharing that unique gift. He did just that in a mesmerizing non-stop two hour program of singing, dancing and the sharing of Aloha.

An Evening of Angelic Music and Hula 

Troy is theatrical. Dressed all in white accented with red feather head lei and sash and Niihau shell leis cascading out from under his flowing white short pareau, he set the tone for the evening with a beautiful hula and asked everyone to stand and join him in a pule and followed with a Christian spiritual Magesty as he presented his kumu with a lei.

Accompanied by the wonderful music of Na Molokama — Fred Aki, Jr., Alberto Genovia and Bruddah DeFries — Troy launched into an exciting program of solo hula dancing to angelic hula songs of Kaua’i and Hawai’i. As he put it, he loves to see the spotlight on a dancer who “owns the stage.” Stunning were all the hula dancers. It felt like we were having our own private Kaua’i Style “Merrie Monarch” exhibition as dancer after dancer came up and showed us why they had won their much deserved titles. 

Kainani Viado, stunning in a long red velvet holoku setting off long strands of rice-style shell lei, was captivating as she dance Hopoe by Kawaikapuokalani Frank Hewett. Troy shared the story of the flowing lava from the volcano that inspired the song. She also danced to the song Where I Live There are Rainbows as sung by Troy.

Jayden Pavao, Miss Keiki Hula 2010 and niece of kumu hula Leina’ala Pavao Jardin, brought to life the beauty of Wai’ale’ale, Nohili near Polihale and the swaying hala on the north side of Kaua’i in the song Nani Kaua’i. Youthful and poised beyond her years, Jayden captivated the audience with her sweet energy and smile.

Hi’ilawe, a hula favorite, was exquisitely danced by Miss Keiki Hula 2009 Breeze Ann Pavao, daughter of Leina’ala Pavao Jardin. At her young age Breeze already has a number of “titles” for her accomplished hula ability; it was evident as she floated across the stage and moved like the wind on bamboo that she was born a hula dancer.

Jenny Lynn, former Mrs. Kaua’i Mokihana Hula, won her title in the annual Kaua’i Mokihana Festival.  Her hula rendition of Waika was stunning as Troy harmonized with Na Molokama. She also dances in Leina’ala’s halau and moves with the elegance and grace exhibited by her dancers.

The beautiful Jayna Shaffer, former Miss Kaua’i Filipina and Leina’ala’s halau representative to this year’s Merrie Monarch Ms. Aloha Hula solo competition was stunning as she danced to Kawaikapuokalani Frank Hewett’s Ola’a Beauty, a song that Frank shared when he came to EKK last year. Jayna’s exquisite and sensitive beauty captured everyone’s heart as she commanded the stage with her mesmerizing grace and poise.

Troy Sings and Works the Audience

Troy honored the majestic uplands of Koke’e with the song Mokihana Lullaby made popular by the late Loyal Garner. He talked about the rarest of blossoms found only in Koke’e. Later in the show he sang Me and Mrs. Jones to represent the years he spent as part of “Hawai’i Stars”.

The audience loved the interactive activities. Troy invited anyone who wanted to dance up to the stage and the adorable Yumi Teraguchi, formerly of Japan and now Anahola, swished, swayed and paddled her boat in Hula O Make’e, another hula favorite about Captain Make’e’s ship which sank off the coast of Kapa’a.
Kainani, during the ‘ukulele hour had taught the party hula Papalina Lahilahi so Troy invited everyone to stand up and dance the hula in their own style. Jayden, Breeze Ann and Jayna danced on the stage while Troy and all the hula dancers filled the dance floor; it was truly a party with so many hula dancers everywhere . . . all happily dancing this most popular party hula about “her rosy cheeks.”
Troy’s playfulness with the audience was infectious as he said, “I want to do something. Can I do that?  Of course I can do what I want, yeah?” and had the whole audience finger snapping and singing faster and faster as he taught a Samoan song he learned from his cousin who married a Samoan princess…the real kine princess. When he started adding fast-moving hands and feet dance motions, no one could keep up with the agile Zumba master but everyone tried and had great fun.

Further involving the audience, he asked all the ‘ukulele circle players to sing and play Hawaiian Superman made famous by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole. Troy dramatically  shared the legend of demi-god Maui that inspired the song.

Honoring Momi and Doric and Uncle Nathan

The most touching part of the evening was when he sprang a surprise on Kumu Hula Doric Kaleonui Yaris to come up on stage to sing. “Shall I dance a hula for you? asked Troy; shouts of “Yes!” came back from the audience.

“What shall I dance, Kumu?” asked Troy; Doric instantly called out I’ali’i No’oi which Troy recalls he learned in the Waimea High School band room. Troy invited Kumu Doric to come up and sing while he shared his heartfelt appreciation for Doric for all he had done to help Troy become the person he is and learn the hula without ever spending a penny. As Doric slowly approached the stage, the playful Troy shared a story about this person from Pakala (Doric) in a fun melodramatic interactive storytelling style inviting the audience to join in with expressive words. Troy loves to dance the hula to the beautiful voice of Doric because it takes him back to the moment he learned the hula and the hula comes so naturally; his feeling to dance comes from deep inside and becomes more than just a hula. As he spoke of Doric it was so evident that the love and respect he felt for his kumu was as tangible as the hula itself. Doric sang the fast-paced hula as Troy danced it just as fast . . . no wonder he won the Mr. Mokihana Hula competition when he danced this number.
Doric, on the other hand, being so down-to-earth, said something like, “One thing I taught Troy is never show up to the gate dressed like this with basketball shorts. This is what going happen…Look! . . . look what happened . . .gunfunit . . . I tell you!”

“I am so proud of Troy; my work is shown through my students,” said Doric. Of course the audience called for a hana hou and Doric obliged with Manu ‘O’o which Troy dedicated to all the kupuna in the house.  “I have not danced this since junior high,” said Troy, but no one could tell as he moved sensuously around the stage.. He confessed that the show was being put together right on stage with no rehearsal….and that is why it was so fresh, spontaneous and delightful. 

Building up to honoring Kumu Hula Doric, Troy shared his experience with Doric’s late wife Momilani Yaris who has left a lasting impression on Troy just because of how she treated everyone. A shy person, Momi over the years gained confidence in playing the ‘ukulele and even sang in Japan her favorite song by Amy Hanai’ali’i Gilliom. Troy sang the song while Kainani danced to Palehua. As a tribute to Aunty Momi, he asked Kumu if he could dance to her beautiful song, Ke Kauoha Kumu Kahi-Mele.
Troy expressed his appreciation for Uncle Nathan Kalama, who together with Doric, Maka Herrod and Aunty Puna Dawson, form the hula hui called “Hui o Kalama’ola”.  This hui believes in the sharing of hula resources and provides the dancers the freedom to learn the hula from many sources. Uncle Nathan unfortunately could not be present, but his presence seems always to be felt by everyone there.
Troy called Kainani back to the stage to dance Queen’s Jubilee written for Queen Emmalani. Troy harmonized with Na Molokama so the singing was simply great and the whole evening of angelic hula music with gorgeous dancers left everyone with a natural high and great appreciation for the gift.

PS! Bring heavy sweater or jacket with you next week; the ballroom temperature will make you feel like you are in Minnesota.
Who’s Coming Up Next at EKK — the FINAL EKK MONDAY of the season!

Monday, March 19, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
E Kanikapila Kakou “Legacy of Hawaiian Music 29th Season
Sistah Robi Kahakalau & I’inimaikalani Kahakalau
“Capturing Hawaiian Lifestyle in Song”

P.S. The Kamoa ‘Ukulele donated by Larry’s Music will go to one lucky winner TONIGHT!
2 04, 2012

Kaua’i’s Own Ukulele Boy Wonder – Aldrine

2019-09-02T18:37:14-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

Meet Aldrine Guerrero

Photo by Tashi


At the end of last Monday’s program, a gentleman came up and told me how much he loved my introduction of Aldrine; I saw him again in line at Cost-Co outdoor snack shop and he again told me how much he enjoyed the intro . . . so . . . as well as I can remember what I said, here is Aldrine:

I first met Aldrine when he was fifteen years old, back in the last century when we held EKK in the church parish hall. When some musicians could not make it to EKK, Fran Nestel invited the Kauai High School Hawaiian Club to perform at EKK. A whole group of very talented high school students showed up and Aldrine was a standout.  Twelve years later and in the 21st century, here is Aldrine looking pretty much the same but now twelve years older and whole lot more experienced. My favorite story about Aldrine was told to us by Aunty Stella Burgess from the Hyatt who used to drive the school bus for Koloa School. Stella picked him up at kindergarten to drive him home but Aldrine did not know where he lived….now the roads in Koloa are not neatly gridded streets and avenues like on the mainland so you need to drive in and out of small camp roads to get to the houses, so Stelle did that until they found his home.  Now a world traveler, Aldrine travels all over to perform but always finds his way back to Kaua’i…so let’s give Aldrine a big Kaua’i welcome home.

Aldrine made a correction that at that time he was in the second grade so had no excuse to not know where he lived. However, being an 8-year old first generation Filipino who had just moved to Koloa the day before was his excuse for not knowing where he lived plus all the streets had Hawaiian names which he cannot pronounce . . . even to this day. He considers tonight his homecoming to Kaua’i as he just got off the plane after spending three weeks helping a young ‘ukulele player in Victoria, Canada.

“The Rise and Tide of the Ukulele in Hawaiian Music as experienced by Aldrine”

Aldrine wanted to share his personal experiences and insights on the topic of the ‘ukulele. Going back to Aldrine’s first public performance at EKK when the Hawaiian club showed up with matching aloha shirts, the Hawaiian Club members got together every lunch hour to watch the video of their first performance. They thought at that time “it’s never going to be better than this” but now when they look at the tape they want to throw it away. That is how much they have grown in their musicality.
Aldrine today is the ‘ukulele instructor on a website called “Ukulele Underground” which originally started as a little program under <www.IAmHawaii.com> with Aaron Nakamura videotaping the lessons. The mission of the website is to build a whole new generation of ‘ukulele players. When the website owners decided to focus on the Japanese-Hawai’i market, many programs were “let go,” including the ‘ukulele lessons. Out of concern for the roughly fifty loyal ‘ukulele players who posted constantly, the program kept going s a separate entity with the name “Ukulele Underground.”  Today they cater to ‘ukulele players all around the world with about a million and a half views per month, boasting 60,000 registered members with 6,000 actively logging each day to either “Learn the play the ‘ukulele” or “Learn to play the song”. They are now expanding to new areas such as “Learning how to build an ‘ukulele.”  Not bad for someone who could not find his way home; now the entire ‘ukulele world is home and family to him.
Although Aldrine was always playing the ‘ukulele, he went to school to become a teacher, worked as a pool boy in a local hotel and one day just threw in his rake and quit his job to focus on what he loved most — play the ‘ukulele.  He hooked up with Jake Shimabukuro as his mentor and focused on developing his own style and writing his own ‘ukulele compositions. Many of these original songs were played for the appreciative audience. Among them were “Schizophrenic Snowflake” where both his playing and his body movements expressed the feeling of the first snowfall, “Bandido Tyler” who was inspired by his unsuccessful superhero friend who stole from the rich to give to the poor but was always trying to get away from the cops and getting caught, and Tyler’s nemesis “Senor Victor” who was always out to get Bandido Tyler.  “Only Mine” was a song for his ‘ukulele but also for that special girl.

Aldrine traces the progress of the ukulele as waves and that we are now in the third or fourth wave…first wave being the time when the Portuguese fist introduced the ‘ukulele in Hawai’i. Later, Elvis and Hollywood gave the ‘ukulele renewed attention but this time the ‘uke was viewed as a toy instrument. About the same time, Tiny Tim, who is known as the “Patron Saint of Awesome” to the members of “‘Ukulele Underground,” gave a new life and outlook to the humble instrument.

In Hawai’i, the ‘ukulele played a big part in Hawaiian music. Innovators such as Ohta-san, Troy Fernandez, Eddie Kamae, Ka’au Crater Boys, Peter Moon, Lyle Ritz and Jake Shimabukuro changed the way the instrument was played.  Although the big question is, “Is the ‘ukulele just a fad this time?” Aldrine feels that the big difference about the ‘ukulele is that there are ‘ukulele clubs forming all over the world.  Last year he went to Thailand for the ‘ukulele club convention and there were between 3,000 to 5,000 participants; this year 7,000 showed up. Aldrine said you would never find clubs with guitar players, dijiredoo players or flute players, but ‘ukulele clubs are popping up all over; the ‘ukulele is an instrument of peace that brings people together.

He also feels that the ‘ukulele is magical and has healing powers. Case in point.  He just returned from Victoria, Canada, where he was invited to help a young boy in the ‘ukulele underground club who amazingly was able to figure out Aldrine’s complicated arrangements.  Victor was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and not given much chance for survival.  Benefit concerts were held to help him with medical expenses. Where doctors said that little could be done to help Victor, through his music he has now learned to speak again, is now able to walk, and is beginning to play his ‘ukulele again.
Even if Aldrine has trouble pronouncing Hawaiian words, he lets his ‘ukulele say it all, so he started out with a Hawaiian tune titled “Healoha no Honolulu.” He shared his own arrangement of songs by artists he admired.  Some of the songs included “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Something” by John Lennon, “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Pepper, “Me and Shirley T” by Jake Shimabukuro about getting a sugar high on too many Shirley Temples, Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Drift Away,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the Judy Garland style, “Close to You” by the Carpenters, and John Lennon’s “Imagine” which is his favorite song of peace.  It was so quiet when he played the song with such sensitivity that you could hear a pin drop in the ballroom. The varied styles ranged from quiet and sensitive, to wildly percussive, to gently melodic, and on and on.
“I have ten more songs I want to play,” but there was time for only two more, so he ended with a song dedicated to his early mentor, the late Kaui Low who was a huge early inspiration to Aldrine.  I remember that he played it that first night in the church parish hall when he was fifteen years old, but after suggestions for improvement from teacher Jake Shimabukuro, he played it even better by inviting the audience to egg him on as hey played “Crazy G” faster and faster and faster until his fingers were a blur.  He knows how to end on a high note.
5 03, 2012

The Traveling Troubadours of Paniola Music

2024-01-02T15:32:52-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

“The Traveling Troubadours of Paniola Music”

Photos on Picasa for February 27 EKK #5; Mahalo to Anne O’Malley


“Local Folks” Spread Their Musical Aloha

Musicians seem to have the tightest schedules — juggling their gigs with their family lives and day jobs, composing songs, recording albums, and keeping up with their social media; it is really a gift if any musician tells me, “I am at your disposal for the weekend; where would you like us to play?”

And so it was with the Traveling Troubadours of Paniola Music — Gordon Freitas, Greg Sardinha and Ricardo Gonzalez — who came to Kaua’i a couple of days early both to immerse themselves in the Kaua’i rain (which they brought from O’ahu) and to share their music. On Saturday they played a few songs at the Waimea Town celebration (in the rain) and on Sunday they spent over an hour entertaining the long term care patients at Mahelona Medical Center in Kapa’a (in the thunder, lightning and rain). At one point the crack of the thunder was so LOUD that it sounded like the man up above had dropped his cast iron skillet on the roof of Mahelona . . . everyone visibly jumped!  Good thing Gordon thought it was thunderous applause and upped his music and stories talking about Johnny Almeida, Ellison Onizuka’a Grandmother, history of the Parker Ranch, the vaqueros on the Big Island and more.

It was quite an amazing hour to witness.  For the most part, each patient was quietly taking it all in with slight side-to-side nods of their head, gently tapping one hand over the other, tapping their wheel chair footstool with stockinged feet, or keeping time with their head. One patient kept getting up and did her marching steps when they played “Kohala March” and switched to a definite hula sway when they played “Kaimana Hila”. One lady in the front row sang along on nearly every song, but when they played familiar old favorites like “Koko Ni Sachi Ari” and “You Were Always on My Mind,” many recognized the melodies and hummed along with joyful smiles on their faces.

One of the staff dragged Ricardo off the stage and asked him to rhumba; you would think that someone with the last name Gonzalez was born dancing rhumba, but all he could do was try. It did not matter as the dancing patient kept cutting in so he had little time to figure out the steps. They added an extra fifteen minutes of music because it took that long for the staff to push each wheel-chaired patient back to their rooms; the three played until the last patient left the room.  What great guys!

photo by Anne E. O'Malley

When the Rodeo Comes to Town the Ladies Come Out of the Woodwork!

photo by Anne E. O'Malley

One of the fun things about attending a GIAC event is that everyone really gets into the mood and so it was with the loyal volunteers at the EKK Monday. Carol Sue Ayala, Jodi Ascuena and Diane Wry give Gordon an unexpected boost to his ego and add their charm to greeting the guests at this joyful rodeo.

The ukulele gang opened the evening showing their vigorous mexican style strumming as they sang Big Island and Paniola Yodel with the audience joining in on the “Ee da lay hee… Ee da lo ooh… Ee yo- da lay hee tee… Ee yo_ da lay hee tee…” every time Gordon waved his arm.

Nani Kaua’i in a mellow nahenahe style, complete with the sweeping sounds of the steel guitar, conjured up nostalgia as four hula dancers and Aunty Bev Muraoka came up to hula. Even though dressed in jeans and tees, the dancers were reminiscent of swaying hula dancers with flowers in their hair under the swaying coconut trees . . . it’s the strains of romance that we associate with the steel guitar.

The musicians launched into an evening of songs about and for the paniola and their cattle. I never knew there were so many songs in this genre but apparently the Local Folks music just touched the tip of the iceberg . . . or should I say saddlehorn.

Paniola o ka Pakipika is a song about how the cowboys road their cows into the Pacific Ocean as described to Gordon by his paniola grandfather whose job was to rope and drag the cattle to the boat while chasing sharks away by slapping the water with fans. Through his compositions Gordon is writing the history of the Hawaiian paniola in song.  Whether based on tall tales or true experience, the songs describe the unique experiences of the colorful cowboys in the westernmost frontier of America. Greg could switch up the tempo from graceful hula music to a lively cattle chasing beat, complete with the horse’s whinny…Uihaa! 

With lyrics like “Some day I’ll ride that painted pony down the mountain and into the sea,” these ballad-like songs tell stories so the lyrics are all important; if you don’t hear the lyrics, you miss the story. You can really hear every word Gordon is singing so it’s easy to follow the story. In addition, they repeat the same words over and over so if you don’t get it the first, second or third time, you can get it the fourth time. Gordon’s skill in songwriting is evident in this song written for his  Grandfather.  

Saddle City” in Waimanalo is a place where cowboys from all over the real western world of cowboys get together to compete for the title of “Jackpot Roping”. Another competition that took place many years ago inspired another beautiful song. Cheyenne Waiomina,” or Wyoming, which sounds like a lovely girl’s name is also the site where the famous steer roping championship took place many years ago. The famous paniola Ikua Purdy and other Hawaiian cowboys with flowers in their hats and jangling spurs swept the competition winning first, third and sixth place in spite of the less-than-hospitable conditions they experienced from the rodeo organizers. It was a big thing for a Big Island boy to win the tour, and Gordon wrote a song that just wants to rub it in.

Gordon shared a well-known song about Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” cowboys. Greg’s steel guitar playing is truly outstanding in this song.  Gordon pointed out that while he had the title of being Jerry Byrd’s worst student, Greg was positively influenced by Jerry Byrd and is today very active in perpetuating the instrument.  Easily one of the outstanding steel guitar players in the state, Greg was given a chance to shine in the instrumental “Ka Nahona Pili Kai” inspired by a Japanese melody. Kohala March is another song that shows off Greg’s virtuosity.

Gordon and Ricardo, the bass player, have a long history as they served in the Navy for 20 years, but here they are years later playing music together. Although they never got to visit Koke’e in the pouring weekend rain, they decided to sing Ricardo’s favorite song Koke’e. Steel accompaniment takes me back to the days when Feet Rogers played the steel with the Sons of Hawai’i. Not only did the four young hula dancers race up to share their hula, but Gordon, who donates his lovely handcrafted purses to the weekly give-away package added his sensuous hula moves and had everyone exclaiming, “Where did he come from?” EKK is full of surprises. Hanohano Hanalei took us to the opposite end of Kaua’i and Paniola Country, made famous by Melveen Leed, takes us to Molokai where paniola history runs deep.

Gordon is a prolific songwriter, and being a paniola at heart, many of his songs tell stories. Songs he shared included Local FolksStanding in the Ua (rain), Sing Hawaiian Sing (the EKK song), Pineapple Road and Swept Away (about the Hilo Tidal Wave). Everyone on Kauai can relate to these songs during these weeks of relentless rains that are carving new trenches in the yard and piling tons of debris along the edge of these massive puddles).

All too soon, the time was up and although the musician had gotten through only half of their play list, it was time to say adios and Gordon just had to sing the song for which he is well known.  Hawaiian Cowboy started at fast speed and amped up verse after verse to fast, faster, fastest, and everyone who learned to yodel had their chance to join in on the yodeling. It’s really not as hard as it sounds….if you do a slow yodel….but Gordon is really the one who can yodel up a storm and bring the cattle safely home.

I want to tip my cowgirl hat off to Gordon for being a true ambassador of music sharing his music from the heart. Write, Gorgon, Write . . . you have such an ability to capture island life and have so much more to share!

Who’s Coming Up Next at EKK?

Monday, March 5, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
E Kanikapila Kakou “Legacy of Hawaiian Music 29th Season
Aunty Beverly Muraoka
“Epitome of Chalang-alang Music”

If you have never been invited to a Hawaiian-style party, this is your chance to hang out with one of Kaua’i’s Queen of Entertainment — Aunty Bev will make you sing, dance, laugh and just have a great time at her party.

 If you have a disability and need assistance call Carol Yotsuda at (808) 245-2733 for Monday events.
 Contact:  Garden Island Arts Council, <giac@hawaiilink.net>

(s) Carol Kouchi Yotsuda, www.gardenislandarts.org — “Celebrating 35 years of bringing ARTS to the people and people to the ARTS”

E Kanikapila Kakou 2012 Hawaiian Music Program is funded in part by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, the County of Kaua’i Office of Economic Development, and the Garden Island Arts Council supporters with support from Kaua’i Beach Resort.

Garden Island Arts Council programs are supported in part by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts through appropriations from the Hawai’i State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

1 03, 2012

“The LT Smooth Phenomenom”

2019-09-02T18:37:14-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

Photos on Facebook for February 20 EKK #5; mahalo to Tashi:

Taking a Journey with Vakanui

Each Monday as EKK groupees and new attendees step through the doors of the Jasmine Ballroom, there is an air of anticipation for what’s to come. The big question is, “Can you top off last week’s outstanding program?”

By the end of the evening, the glowing faces speak for themselves, “Ya done it again!  Tonight is phenomenal!”  The way to do it is to hide in the shadows and let the musical stars shine brightly; we are so gifted in Hawai’i to be witness to the kind of talent that grace our stages and share music of the heart for us to enjoy.

And so it was with LT Smooth (Leon Toomata), Bruce Collins, Pati Taulaulelei, and Heidi the hula dancer.  Known as the group “Vakanui” they took us on a musical journey that made us laugh, swoon, cry, dance, cheer and fall in love all over again with our significant other, old friends and new friends. For three wonderful hours we were transported into a place of musical joy — we moved from island to island, sat in church with missionaries, danced in the lounge and whistled and yelled with appreciation.

photo by Tashi

The ukulele and hula hour ended early with instant graduation as all the players and dancers had to go up on stage before they got cold feet and perform for the audience to Beautiful Kaua’i. Instant gratification … good move!

Another good move, LT invited Ed Blanchet up to the stage to represent the audience as LT greeted him with “honge” or touching of the nose and sharing of the breath of life, love, joy and peace. Ripples of nervous laughter quieted to a subdued and respectful silence as the audience witnessed the cultural greeting.

Before coming to Kaua’i, LT called his Mom to tell her of his trip to Kaua’i; she told him to be sure to pray on the airplane and “plant the seed” of joy, peace and happiness. So he was here on this mission. Many songs were familiar as we have heard them sung by Bruddah Iz, Gabby, and countless other singers, but LT certainly puts his own spin on every song. When he took off on his guitar, all you could do was hold your breath. His life story is one of hope.

Overcoming Adversity and Rising Above The Past

LT’s Mom is half Maori and Half Samoan; his Dad was Irish. They met at the University in Oakland, but home was in New Zealand where they lived off the land and had few modern distractions resulting in a large family of ten boys and one girl. His father was strong so they all followed him, but many bad things happened in their life. LT took his first cocaine at age 10 and began heroin at 12; at age 20 he had to free himself from 10 years of addition or die; with a lot of help, “…17 years later, here I am…” 

“Close your eyes and think of how blessed you are,” said LT as he began talking about the Captain in the belly of the ship, feeling the slave, humming and weeping, “…and that was me chained up with ten years of cocaine…I had to clean myself up or die.” His voice hummed resonantly and as he sang the moving lyrics to Amazing Grace, Heidi stepped out in her black holoku and began to sign the words, bringing out goose pimples on my arm. LT’s voice resonated through the first verse and when percussionist Bruce Collins added his Samoan voice on the second verse, you could feel chicken skin on top of your goose pimples. As Heidi moved from signing into a hula, and the voices soared in harmony, you really had to close your eye and feel the blessings. Bruce is from Las Vegas and bass player Pati Taulaulelei is from Samoa; they all live in Kona and met in church. They play together every Sunday night right on the ocean where many supporters go to enjoy their music.

Acknowledging his love for his Irish Dad, LT sang Danny Boy. His singing oozes with emotion. In fact, LT does not sing; he emotes the music….it just comes pouring out like a dam that just gave way. He pours his heart and soul into his music and everyone present can feel it.

Bruddah Iz definitely influences LT as he does so many others in Hawai’i and around the world. To pay tribute to those who came before and paved the way for musicians of today, LT sang, White Sandy Beach and Somewhere Over the Rainbowthe Iz version known worldwide. Gabby’s Hi’ilawe, one of the most famous Hawaiian songs about the waterfall in Waipio Valley on Hawai’i Island was brought to life as Heidi danced about the gossiping birds, the lovers, the waterfall, and closed the song chanting an oli.

Exotic Heidi is a vision of loveliness in her white flowing angel-like dress as she dances to the beautiful song, Beautiful Kaua’i, a song for the host island which was taught to the ukulele gang and hula dancers; it made us all appreciate the beauty of our home island all over again.

photo by Anne E. O'Malley

LT liked playing with the audience as he was trying to take a poll of who was married long, very  long, short, or not at all; he invited everyone to grab their spouse and dance in the aisle to Only Fools Rush in. This is really a dancing crowd because you don’t have to ask them twice, they all love holding, hugging, smooching, and moving their bodies to music.
When they were little kids growing up they liked to sit in a circle and ask each other, “What will you be when you grow up?” Ten years, from age 10 to 20, was lost to drug addiction which he began to lick starting at age 20 with the help of his mother and her tough love. The song he wrote for her, Momma Don’t Cry, speaks of his love for his mother. He recently called his Mother and told her that he was nominated for a Grammy. She told him how glad she was. Twenty minutes later before hanging up, she asks, “By the way, what’s a Grammy?”

The talented LT plays 13 to 14 different instruments, but when he met and started playing the guitar eight years ago, he gained a new friend that does anything he asks it to. He loves the way the instrument is made, the contrast, the speed and especially the strings. Fingers flying up and down the fret, tuning it up, tuning it down, never pausing, his face mirrors the joy of playing as he played a song about the vaqueros in the 1800’s.  For five minutes everyone held their breath as he played Desperado until finally everyone started clapping to the manic music … or burst. As he strummed the last chord, the audience stood up en masse and clapped, whistled, stomped and cheered. Standing “O”!

To calm everyone down, LT played one of his favorite songs in a way that I’ve never heard it before. It took him a long time to record it as the song brought tears to his eyes whenever he heard it. The song honors the missionaries who came to spread their teachings. With LT, Pati and Bruce harmonizing the hymn E Holu Mea Nui, we were no longer sitting in a ballroom with clam shell chandeliers but transported into a place of worship surrounded by voices that cradled us in spirituality.

LT once again showed off his amazing skill on the guitar with an instrumental titled LT Smooth. He acknowledged his band members — Pati who showed off on the bass and Bruce who could not show off too much on the cajon but hammed it up by doing body builder poses in between his drum beats . . . a percussionist with an extraordinary voice and a great sense of humor. No wonder he was invited along on the trip.

LT honored musical greats whose music lives on for generations to come by singing the songs they made famous. Bruddah Iz is definitely one of LT’s idols. When LT first came to Hawai’i, he was dressed in a suit and tie. Not knowing how hot it was here, he was sweating like a pig. He heard Bruddah Iz singing Ahi Wela/Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He closed his eyes and took it all in; it’s now one of his favorite song.

Composed in 2003 by Mickey Ioane and made popular by Iz and the Makaha Sons, Hawai’i ’78 is one of the most powerful and influential songs of the last half century. The three voices harmonizing the haunting melody with Heidi dancing the hula will certainly be an image that many took home with them. “What A Wonderful World is my Mom and Dad’s favorite song;” LT gave it the old Sachmo spin and many voices joined in to sing the upbeat song.
“We lost a good sister in music,” said LT , acknowledging the sudden unexpected loss of  one of the outstanding singers of our time. Heidi danced the hula with sign language as the three power voices rose to sing Greatest Love of All  popularized by Whitney Houston.

Of course no musical event with LT would be complete without a whole lot of rocking and rolling; it would have gone on all night had it not been for the hotel pumpkin hour . . . and so another wonderful night of musical sharing became history.
1 03, 2012

“Take Me Back to the Days of Old Hawaii”

2019-09-02T18:37:14-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

on Facebook for March 6 EKK Monday; mahalo to Tashi:
Guess who is coming to EKK?

Statistics and data may sound boring to some, but surely not for those of us who are presenting EKK for our community enjoyment! Thanks to the willingness of our participants to let us know where they are from and how they found out about EKK, we can share some interesting tidbits with you:

Moving to higher places:  Few years ago, our participants divulged the fact that they learned about EKK while in the resort hot tubs. This year our participants found out about EKK while driving by and seeing the roadside banner, while standing in the elevator, while shopping at the Farmers Market, while visiting our local Kaua’i Museum, and best of all….while attending CHURCH!  Yes, folks like to share the wonderful program called E Kanikapila Kakou with our visitors.  EKK is in your face!

Each week when we ask the first timers to stand up about one-fourth of the audience stands up; many of these first timers come back next year or in some future visit looking around for EKK so they might again enjoy the great feeling of Aloha they experienced. By far, the biggest “salespersons” for EKK are family, friends and previous participants who want to make sure their ‘ohana does not miss out on a great thing.

Also wonderful to share is that the largest block of audience is still the folks that live on Kauai — from Ha’ena to Koke’e, they make the weekly trek to Kaua’i Beach Resort to enjoy the best Hawaiian music program in the state.

photo by Anne E. O'Malley











K F C Finger Lickin’ Good Music

Who better to take us back to the music of old Hawai’i than the KFC team of Keith Haugen, Frank Uehara and Carmen U’ilani as they tried to squeeze a hundred songs into their two-hour program and managed to reach about a fourth of their goal.

Performing for decades in Honolulu, Keith and Carmen Haugen together must have sung many thousands of songs in their musical career. Their repertoire of 500 – 600 songs helped them to do 4 – 5 hour gigs. They have teamed up with pakini player Frank Uehara’s whose ingenious black five-gallon plastic barrel has been elevated to a viable percussive instrument as he is able to play actual notes on his drum. In addition to knowing choke songs, Keith also knows in-depth background on just about every song he sings, so you get a lot of background whenever he performs.

He loves to open his program with Koke’e by Dennis Kamakahi, who he regards as one of the all-time top-ranking greats in composing Hawaiian music.  We were so fortunate that we could open the 2012 EKK season with a concert by the prolific Kamakahi and Stephen Inglis.

Ali’i Poe by Reverend William Maka’ehu, taught to the ‘ukulele circle, is about the composer’s love affair in Nawiliwili. Keith points out that the lovers’ trysts in the shelter of calla lily plants meant that they were either very small people or they were meeting in a supine position.  When KFC performed it once in Waikiki, a woman came up to Keith after the show and said, “Thank you for not mentioning my mother’s name.” Whatever the background, the song was beautiful as Carmen spoke the English translation as Keith sang the Hawaiian lyrics translated by Aunty Alice Namakelua, well known authority of Hawaiian language.

Keith at one time researched every single hapa-haole song and tried to find a subject that was not written about and he came up with Brown Skin Woman, one of many songs written about Carmen. When they harmonize, it’s really quite beautiful. Keith often receives songs from friends; one that he especially liked, ‘Ukulele Lady  by Richard Whiting and Gus Kahn, became one of their CD titles with Carmen featured on the cover; there are many ‘ukulele ladies around the state now.

One of his favorite Hawaiian songs He Nani Molokai by Ida Hanakahi is written in the old Hawaiian style where the composer takes you on a musical tour around the island always moving in the same direction. For the island of ‘Oahu he sang a song about the Ko’olau mountains sleeping peacefully now.

Keith took the time to commend KKCR Radio for doing such a wonderful job supporting arts and culture and GIAC and talked about the Monday morning phone interview with Linda Lester. Not being able to leave his sixth graders in Hawaiian language class, he asked them all to be very quiet, which they did, and when Keith got off the phone, everyone asked, “What did she say?”  Every Monday morning at 8:00, Linda interviews the EKK musicians for that evening.  Mahalo!

Hi Lili, Hi Lo, written by Helen Deutsch, from the movie Gigi starring Leslie Caron was translated into Hawaiian in 1952; for many in the audience, it was a very familiar song as many hummed along “…A Song of Love Is A Sad Song, Hi Lili Hi Lili Hi Lo…”  Keith shared his new look, the shaved bald head, with a story. The best of many bald sayings came from his friend Burt who said, “I’m not bald; that’s a solar panel for a sex machine!”

Keith and Carmen have boasting rights for their 17-year longest running gig in the history of the 85-year-old Royal Hawaiian Hotel; it also meant they sang the song “Royal Hawaiian Hotel” soooooooo many times, but they still sang it for us.

Another less known song Ku’u Home Lunalilo that has been recorded only once by the Haugens, was taught to them when they visited the Lunalilo Home for old folks. Joseph “Wiki Bird” Halemanu of Iokepa, Utah who wanted to live out his life in Hawai’i,  sang this song.  Like “Wiki Bird”, Keith was born and raised in Minnesota; he left in 1958 to be stationed in Hawai’i.  When he got off the airplane, he said, “This is really better than Minnesota,” and never left.

Carmen danced two hulas to acknowledge the gorgeous host island of Kaua’i — Hanalei Moon by Bob Nelson and Kipu Kai by composer Maddy Lam and Hawaiian language authority Mary Kawena Pukui on their visit to Jack Waterhouse’s estate. The gorgeous view of Kipu Kai is one of the most stunning shots of Kaua’i in the movie Descendents, a scene rarely ever seen by most folks. While in the hula mode, the EKK dancers got up bravely and danced Auntie Irmgard Aluli’s Puamana.  Can’t believe they just learned it.

O’ahu  is a collaboration between Keith and Carol Miguel of Seattle who wanted a beautiful song written about the place she called home. 
Kaimana Hila, Hawai’i’s famous landmark called Diamond Head, was written by Charles E. King and later revised by falsetto singer Andy Cummings of Kaua’i; it became a world-wide hit because so many Hawaiian musicians performed around the world in those early days.

The second half of the evening was filled with a variety of music in their repertoire. Trying to squeeze as many songs into the short time as they could, KFC launched right into a medley of five well-known favorites.

They shared an unusual song written in Hawaiian about the battleship Missouri. In 1998 the Arizona Memorial was brought back and docked next to the Arizona Memorial; Keith had a chance to sing his composition, Mokukaua, on the deck of the battleship.

Carmen led off with her beautiful voice and Keith came in with harmony in an all time favorites by Alice Everett, a close friend of the Queen, Ua Like No A Like which they sang in a medley with  I’ll Be Thinking of You by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning written to the same melody as Everett’s. I’ll bet someone in the audience was thinking that this exquisite song has to be sung at their wedding or at their renewal of vows.  Hmmmmmm?

A wonderful harmony by Keith and Carmen is the song He Nani Ku Kilakila. Makes you close your eyes and imagine that you are sitting in the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel watching women waltzing by in their elegant holoku. The song is also called ‘Aina Kaulana o Moloka’i or Moloka’i Waltz…. you can’t help humming along — “…in the shade of the old Banyan tree…”

Truckers Lament by Sheb Wooley and Dick Feller with the chorus “I just don’t look good NAKED any more” was written for the TV show Hee Haw. “Here is a song you must learn to sing!” said the friend who sent it to Keith. Many in the audience could relate to the hilarious lyrics.

Mi Nei by Keith Haugen is about a young maiden who describes herself to her lover; if she was as sensuous as Carmen danced it, you know she got her man. A very catchy upbeat tempo song, Hapa ‘Ilikini, is about a half-Indian boy who lived in Panaewa in the rain forests of East Hawai’i Island. Another song about Hawai’i Island is 
Moku Puni Nui written in 1970. It’s a song that slack key King Ledward Kaapana has recorded three times on three different CD’s.

Keith is one of the few musicians that sings all the verses of Hawai’i Aloha as it were taught to the 60-plus in the ‘ukulele circle so singing was especially full and rich as we closed the evening’s program.
1 03, 2012

“When Kaukahi Comes to Town”

2019-09-02T18:36:54-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

Photos on Facebook for March 13 EKK #4; mahalo to Tashi:
The “WOW Factor”

Phone calls pour in each week before EKK Monday and the main question is “What is the program going to be?” My answer is always, “I never know because each week is very different and what you see is what you get….but it’s all good! Just show up; you won’t regret it.”

Some weeks you roll in your seat with laughter at the stories and enjoy the great music; some weeks you learn so much about the songs and enjoy the great music; some weeks you just sit back in awe and enjoy the great music … and so it was this week when Dean Wilhelm, Keale, Kawika Kahiapo and Barrett Awai, making up the group Kaukahi, came to share their awesome harmonies and acoustic strength.

As Kawika put it, WOW spelled backward is WOW; Keale adds to that, “WOW spelled upside down is MOM!” looking toward Mehana Blaich-Vaughan carrying her two keiki.  When Kilipaki Vaughan and his family make the long trek from Kilauea you know that it’s going to be a WOW night.

photo by Tashi

photo by Tashi

“Awesome Harmonies & Acoustic Strength”

When Kawika sent me “Awesome Harmonies & Acoustic Strength” as their week’s theme, I thought to myself, “Okay, whatevah!”, but when these four Hawaiian gentlemen stepped out on that stage, positioned their instruments and let their voices blend in the Kaukahi harmony, the words took on new meaning.  Together, they bring magic to the songs and their full rich voices fill every nook and cranny in the ballroom.  

If the harmonies were not enough, they brought a playful banter especially between Keale and Kawika that kept it all lively, and they really paid attention to my request to make it an interactive program for the audience.

Kaukahi set the mood with ‘O ‘Oe ‘Io‘, a four-voice harmony so rich and full, it swept one away in a wave of heaven-touched sound.  In his awesome falsetto, Barrett led off Nani Kaua’i speaking of Kaua’i’s wettest spot in the world and other Kaua’i’s unique places. As the other voices blended in, Mehana Blaich-Vaughan stepped on stage and blessed us with her always exquisite hula. WOW!

With Dean and Kawika on guitar, Keale on ‘ukulele, and Barrett dwarfed by my brother Claude Kouchi’s huge upright bass sitting on his lap, the instrumentation leaves little to be desired, especially when Kawika throws in the pa’ani with his awesome slack key fingering.

Moving westward to Kekaha where the menehune and the birds shout out, Keala sang Kawainui and medleyed into the universal Somewhere Over the Rainbow in a voice that oozes out of the pot of gold. Dean Wilhelm shared E Mau, written in 1941 in the jazz genre of the time by Alvin Isaacs, father of Barney Isaacs, even before the infamous December 7.  E Mau means to preserve …the nation, the language and all that is good so the Life of the Land will be perpetuated in righteousness.

Kawika said it’s always a treat to leave the urban island of O’ahu and spend time on other islands. Kawika introduced a song that honors our kupunas, In the Real Old Style, written by Keola Beamer in the early 1970’s.

No sooner did they strum the last chords to the song, the hotel staff unexpectedly pulled a surprise. Nelson Batalion stepped up on stage with a giant chocolate cupcake topped with white icing and a single candle. Janice Ishihara came close on his heels carrying a plate with three more huge chocolate cupcakes. On signal, Keale yelled out “It’s Kawika’s birthday today!” and led the whole audience in Happy Birthday in the key of G as Kawika was instructed to blow out the candle and take a bite of the cake which had warm chocolate exploding out of the center.  His eyes popped open when he tasted that.

In typical Keale fashion, Keale shouted out, “How come Bruddah get four?” Janice quickly stuck her tray of three cupcakes into Keale’s face and he asked, “Am I suppose to take a bite out of four cupcakes?” Keale, Dean and Barrett also got their initial bites of cupcakes with warm chocolate oozing out of the center. Everyone’s eyes popped open. However the show had to go on, so the cakes were temporarily retired to the sound table and the music continued.

Ulili E by Harry Naope, George Keahi and Johnny Noble is a great audience participation song as Keale encouraged the audience to clap along and shout out every time he pierced the air with his whistle. He got them so conditioned that before the end of the show, whenever he let out a piercing stray whistle, the audience came back instantaneously with their loud shout. Talk about “conditioning”! Pavlov would have been proud.

Barrett, who often hits the high notes with his clear falsetto, showed his lower range as he led The Queen’s Jubilee penned in 1870’s by Queen Lili’uokalani upon her return to Hawai’i after celebrating Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee in England. It was a song of love and aloha for the Hawaiian people. Kawika’s amazing pa’ani was incorporated into many of the songs; Kawika is one of Hawai’i’s slack key notables, receiving Milton Lau’s “Slack Key Artist of the Year” award in 2007.

Songs with messages are powerfully delivered by Kaukahi. A song about Kaho’olawe became the rallying cry that helped to usher in the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970’s; it calls for the military to stop the bombing of the island and restore the island to its natural state. Hawai’i ’78, a powerful song sung by Keale is always a show stopper and a crowd favorite. During the break the WOW factor was evident as everyone rushed to do their usual intermission business, saying “Wow” to each other and hurried back to their seats to get as much music as they could.

The intermission is always a lively interruption as each week six names are drawn from the sign-in sheets and the lucky six get their pick of CD’s from our CD giveaway bag. This week an additional two gifts — beautifully handcrafted clutch purses — were donated by Gordon. Gordon assured me that this would continue each week. Additionally, a ten-question EKK trivia quiz was taken by old-timers who should be able to answer simple questions about EKK. Melvin Kauahi, an EKK regular, while not perfect in his answers, got the highest score and won George Kahumoku Jr’s wonderful book titled “A Hawaiian Life.”  The season-long lucky number give-away for a gorgeous Kamoa ukulele donated by Larry’s Music also gives away a weekly drawing prize of the coveted Na Mele songbook signed by each week’s artists. As if the music was not enough, so many opportunities to score something wonderful at EKK. Unfortunately this week, as folks rushed to the CD table to pick up Kaukahi’s CD, they were completely sold out of “Life In These Islands.”

One of Kaukahi’s exceptional 4-voice harmony is He Wai Wai Nui, a zesty song about the kalo plant by Kawaikapu’okalani Hewett and Kawika, which speaks of the importance of our kupuna in guiding our lives. ‘Ukulele pa’ani by Keale and guitar pa’ani by Kawika adds that welcome instrumental interlude. Shifting to a different mood, Keale’s distinctive voice takes us to the “forbidden island” of Niihau as he sang the hauntingly melancholy Ua Nani Niihau which he dedicated to his extended family.

Again the mood shifts as Barrett calls up everyone with romantic significant others and the group sang a lively jazzed up version of Hawaiian Moon. If the floor at the front of the room was any smaller, the “youthful” dancers that were swinging around would have ended up in the laps of the front row seaters.  Such a feisty bunch of significant others as they happily jump-started Valentine’s day. Barrett adds, “When midnight strikes, i better be home with my wife!” Like a roller coaster ride moving high and low, high and low, the audience could catch their breath and settle their hearts with a medley including Molokai Sweet Home, which speaks of missing the quiet lifestyle of the Friendly Isle. 

Barrett shared his story of a time in his life when he hit an all-time low, realizing that what appeared perfect on the outside was really an empty void that he was trying to fill with all the wrong choices. Falling flat on his face, he came to know true loneliness and with this harsh realization, he found his faith in something larger than himself; the song that came out of that experience is truly one of Kaukahi’s special songs —There is a Way.

Kaukahi closed their show with their signature song as only they can harmonize. Kaukahi walked away with three awards at the 2007 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, including the “Song of the Year” for Kawika’s Life In These Islands, “Group of the Year”, and the CD graphics award to Kawika’s son, Dalen Kahiapo and Todd Schlosser of Worldsound.

Many shouts for hana hou could not be honored as the four artists had to catch the last flight out. One of the difficulties scheduling the group in the first place was that each person had his own busy schedule. Finally, Kawika, the gentleman that he is, agreed to come to EKK on his birthday with his wife re-scheduling his birthday dinner to another night; however, he was trying to get home before midnight so he could spend at least ten minutes of his birthday with his wife and also usher in Valentine’s Day with her. Such is the life of a musician.

As always the evening ended with everyone singing Hawai’i Aloha. Kawika made it easy by calling out the words so that everyone could sing along. Last week’s lesson by Keith Haugen paid off in that more folks knew the lyrics better. Admittedly, Hawai’i Aloha sounds better at EKK than almost anywhere else.

Who’s Coming Up Next at EKK?

Monday, February 20, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
E Kanikapila Kakou “Legacy of Hawaiian Music 29th Season
Featuring “Vatanui” — LT Smooth, Bruce Collins, Pati Taulaulelei and their hula dancer
“Our journey of hope, faith, love in Hawaiian, Latin, folk, jazz, classical, gospel”

If you have never experienced LT Smooth, it’s about time….he can play every instrument, has an awesome voice, and his stories will touch your heart… bring Kleenex.

 If you have a disability and need assistance call Carol Yotsuda at (808) 245-2733 for Monday events.
 Contact:  Garden Island Arts Council, <giac@hawaiilink.net>

(s) Carol Kouchi Yotsuda, www.gardenislandarts.org — “Celebrating 35 years of bringing ARTS to the people and people to the ARTS”

E Kanikapila Kakou 2012 Hawaiian Music Program is funded in part by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, the County of Kaua’i Office of Economic Development, and the Garden Island Arts Council supporters with support from Kaua’i Beach Resort.

Garden Island Arts Council programs are supported in part by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts through appropriations from the Hawai’i State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

1 03, 2012

E KANIKAPILA KAKOU – K&C Sporadic Newsletter – Feb 2012

2019-09-02T18:36:53-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

Our Feb 6 performance as part of the 29th annual E Kanikapila Kakou concert series on Kaua`i was our fourth or fifth time in that Garden Island Arts Council annual event. It was the best ever. I recall that the first couple of times we were honored to be in that program were many years ago in a school cafeteria. We also performed an EKK concert at other venues and last year and last week, we enjoyed the Jasmine Ballroom stage in the Kaua`i Beach Resort … performing to a full house, hundreds of Hawaiian music and hula fans. For an hour before the concert, Frank conducted a pakini workshop again; Carmen taught a hula workshop for about 25 ladies, and I had about 50-60 `ukulele players in my workshop, learning to sing Hawaiian songs (phrasing, pronunciation, meanings, translations, researching, etc.). In the two-hour concert, we shared some old traditional songs, some of our own compositions and translations, and nine of the 25 ladies who had just learned to dance “Puamana” joined Carmen in that hula.

There was a double booking and we gave up our 2/21 concert in Kane`ohe to our good friend, Connie Kissinger, who is home from Chicago. We’ve rebooked and will do our next Kane`ohe concert in that Ruth Bacon Auditorium on March 27.  It’s FREE and you are all invited.

Frank, Ron, Carmen,Keith at Waimanalo.

KFC (Keith, Frank,Carmen U`ilani)










KFC will perform a concert in Hilo on Friday, July 20, and stay there for the weekend to enjoy our perennial `ohana Kauaua family reunion on Saturday and Sunday, July 21 & 22. Stay tuned for particulars on that Big Island concert. Our last performance on Hawai`i was to an SRO audience in 2008 at the Volcano Arts Center. As you many know, the `Ohana Kauaua is probably the largest family in the Islands with about 5,000 family members. We hold the reunion every two years and rotate around the Islands — two years ago it was on O`ahu; two years before that it was on Maui; and so on. The Big Island is always special because that is where Carmen’s many times great-grandparents — Keli`ionahuawai Kauaua and Kaua`iokalani Kanae — were born The family descends from their five children; Carmen from the Apuakahei line. And some Big Island singers — The Lim Family, Led Ka`apana, Diana Aki with Cyril Pahinui, and Brittni Paiva with Melveen Leed — have recorded and helped to popularize some of Keith’s Hawaiian compositions.  This photo was from our recent concert as part of the 2012 E Kanikapila Kakou concert series on Kaua`i.  We conducted workshops (Carmen – hula; Frank – pakini; Keith – singing Hawaiian language songs) and then put on a two-hour concert to a full house in the Jasmine Ballroom of the Kaua`i Beach Resort.  It was a wonderful, heart-warming evening with a super audience.  We share some old, traditional songs; some original compositions; some translations; and some beautiful hula.  Nine of the 25 women who attended Carmen’s workshop came up to dance with us during the show.

Another date you should mark on your calendar is Saturday, June 16, when Keith and Frank will perform a concert in the Atherton Performing Arts Studio at Hawai`i Public Radio. More later. It will be a unique concert, like nothing you’ve ever enjoyed before.

Keith & Frank

TCHQ will also produce and perform in the 6th annual Peace on Earth concert on Wednesday, June 27, with a wonderful lineup of local talent.  More later.  Once again, it will be a biggie. Here’s the cover of last year’s concert, when multiple Grammy and Na Hoku winner Dennis Kamakahi was the main attraction.  In our opinion, Dennis is the best Hawaiian lyric composer of our day, in a league with Queen Lili`uokalani, Charles E. King and Johnny Almeida.  We can’t count the number of shows in the past 40 years that we have opened with Kamakahi songs…they work.  Here’s Dennis at last year’s Peace on Earth Concert.

Grammy and Na Hoku winner Dennis Kamakahi in the Historic Hawai`i Theatre

Carol Yotsuda, who has been presenting two months of Monday night E Kanikapila Kakou concerts on Kaua`i each Feb-Mar, is an awesome leader of the Island’s art and culture community. She’s a mover and a shaker, an outstanding artist, and so much more. Kaua`i and all Hawai`i is lucky to have her. We thank Carol again for including KFC in the E Kanikapila Kakou concert series.


Carol Yotsuda

1 03, 2012

2012 EKK Mondays invite you to “Legacy of Hawaiian Music”

2019-09-02T18:36:53-10:00EKK 2012|0 Comments

Prolific composer Dennis Kamakahi and the multi-talented Stephen Inglis kicked off the 29th season of EKK with “Waimaka Helelei” concert, celebrating songs of Kalaupapa on Molokai. A serious topic about a unique place in Hawai’i with its own history was skillfully and sensitively presented with archival images, heart-wrenching stories, new and old songs by two exceptional musicians. The children of Ke Kula Niihau o Kekaha, led by Love Kelly, opened the program with the beautiful songs of Niihau. It was a treat! 


EKK is on Facebook thanks to Tashi:


January 29 concert



January 30 EKK #1




SSSSSSSST — Spontaneous, Serendipitous, Stellar performances Sensuously full of Storytelling and Sizzling Singing Styles….


Sometimes, when you trust your intuition and good luck kicks in, you end up with a match made in heaven. Such was the case when we invited two artists who never performed together before – Brother Noland and Diana Aki.


Early on, I checked with Noland, “Do you think you can play with Diana Aki?”  “I can play with anybody!’ came his confident and reassuring reply.

Sure enough! If you want local style, kolohe, and talent oozing out of their pores, that is what you got on the opening night of EKK 2012.


Cracking up was half the fun and the music left everyone wanting more…more….more.  What a great opener for EKK 2012 and surely gives everyone a hint of what is to come in this year of “The Legacy of Hawaiian music.”


So there you have it:


Noland – fully animated, shocking white pony tail, huge expressive eyes, a seasoned performer who demonstrates a wide range of musical styles but definitely a recognizable way of “Nolanizing” songs with his finger-snapping Jawaiian beat and Sachmo growl.


Diana, sporting a new younger coif of wavy gray hair, appears reserved until you put her on stage; she comes alive and sparkles with stories of old and a voice that fills the rafters, not only with traditional Hawaiian mele in the style of her idol, Aunty Genoa Keawe, but contemporary songs by Stevie Wonder and others. The Songbird of Miloli’I delivers her songs with the sweet smoothness of warm maple syrup in melted butter.


Their rehearsal was just a short conversation in the lobby; Noland asked Diana, “What key?” and Diana said something like, “… and then modulate,” so the music and wala’au on stage was truly impromptu … the best kind. When they get together, the chemistry happens as each is trying to squeeze in related random thoughts or smart cracks as the other is telling a story; when Diana throws out a Hawaiian word that nobody understands, Noland is on the side doing a full-body charade to make sure the audience “gets it.” When Noland sings about the Chinese Mr. San Cho Lee, Diana quips, “Hey! My name is Aki, you know!”


About Noland:


Growing up with his hanae family on the green pastures of cowboy country Kamuela, Noland’s mom called him to take a test in 1964 which he passed. It changed his life style drastically as he had to cut his hair, wear shirt and shoes and get his schooling up on the mountains of Kalihi in a gated community called Kamehameha Schools.


Living on Pua Lane in Mayor Wrights “estates” led him to composing one of his well known songs – Pua Lane (Poor Lane) — to which he bid adieu in his song.  Even as a youngster he composed his own songs but would not admit it openly as writing poetry while playing football was not considered too cool. Gaining reputation as the “rockajamma” guy, he became more open about his poetry.


Although his songs have a blues, jazz or reggae beat, many of his songs are influenced by his early lifestyle with his Hawaiian tutu who taught him to swim or sink and fishermen who taught him to fish. Great Hawaiian Man was one of the soulful songs that came out of spending quality time with his younger brother kumu hula Tony Conjugacion.


Of course no Noland performance would be complete without the interactive singing of Coconut Girl, the song about the high fashion girl which Noland claims help him put his three kids through college.  Noland asked Diana if she knew Coconut Girl (she later admitted she was wracking her brains trying to figure out the song); Noland let her off the hook by saying, “Well, if you live in the ‘nation of Miloli’i’, you probably never heard of Coconut Girl.


A nomadic artist, he moves easily from one gig to another but one of the recent gigs that made a huge impact on him and others on the tour was to the visit to the tsunami-devastated region of Japan where they observed first-hand the short-term and long-term damage to those directly affected by the devastation. He later shared videos on his I-phone and stories of how the visit impacted everyone in the good-will tour.


Besides being the consummate performer who really works his audience, Noland devotes a great part of his life working with youths in his survival program and his once small but now enormous basketball program for kids in the city; it is now so large that the program had to move to the Stan Sheriff Stadium at the University of Hawai’i. He was even recognized for this work with youths with a ‘Brother Noland Day.”


About Diana:


When her birth parents could not raise the 14 siblings, they were hanae’ed to a Hilo couple – one parent was Hawaiian-Pake and the other was Norwegian-Hawaiian. At that time, they could attend school from only kindergarten to 4th grade.  She spent most of her time among kupunas because her two aunts were always singing and partying, and the resulting master-servant relationship was fine with her.  One day they finally accepted that Diana had learned the kupuna way of thinking. From them she learned a rascal song Down the Suse about an old violin-playing man from Miloli’i who came home and could not find his wife.  The old man shrugged and said that he would leave his wife before she left him and went on his merry way playing his violin.


In the remote fishing village of Miloli’i there was only one slack-key player left. Diana decided, “ I want to learn how to play slack key so I can accompany myself.”  Tutu told her, “No need to do that; that’s not for you. Pay attention to the meaning of the song you’re singing and everyone will surround you and they will bring their special way of playing to you.” Pointing to Noland accompanying her, she acknowledged tutu’s wisdom.


As remote as Miloli’i was and still is with no water and no electricity, one day the radio came to town and everyone quickly forgot about Hawaiian music as outside music was now accessible. Lately and Someone to Me were songs she embraced as much as Hawaiian songs. But it was in the scale hopping Hawaiian mele that one gets the full impact of her range, songs like Aloha Punalu’u, Kalena Kai, Nani Wale, Songbird of Miloli’I and Mana’o Pili.


In the 1970’s she was asked to tour with Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai’i. It was a great honor for her.  When on Kaua’i she stayed with the Wong family in Koloa; she found their hospitality so special that on the airplane flying back to Hilo, she composed a song, Mana’o Pili about the special experience on Kaua’i. This song won her several Na Hoku awards including “Female Vocalist of the Year”.  Being the first neighbor island person to receive this award, the whole village of Miloli’I made a big luau for her. She joked that now she was “somebody” in Miloli’i. Mana’o Pili will be performed by Leina’ala Pavao Jardin’s halau this year.


Boone Morrison of Volcano asked her to sing the song; Diana replied, “I can’t give you the song as I passed the song on to my aunties.”  Heads conferred privately and Diana was called into the room where the aunties told Boone, “If she sings the song, you can have it.”


After an all too brief stint island hopping with the Sons of Hawai’I, she came to a crossroads in her life.  Be a mother to her seven sons and two adopted daughters or continue to be the Songbird of Miloli’i.  The maternal instinct took priority and she put her musical career on hold. Finally, after raising her family, working as tour bus guide, and teaching children as a kupuna in Honaunau, she is finally returning to her love of music and picking up the pieces as a singer.  It looks like we will be seeing a lot of Diana Aki from now on.


Noland jump-started the second half with his “Nolanized” version of Keola Beamer’s Mr. San Cho Lee which pokes fun at characteristic ethnic quirkiness of local folks in Hawai’i. It was embellished with sound effects, musical accompaniments, and more body languages.  As Noland pointed out, it may seem like we are making fun of each other, but in essence it is the Aloha way that friends and neighbors of different ethnicities get along with each other.


Vern Kauanui, as always, could not be kept off the stage as he thrilled the audience with his graceful moves to several hula including a noho hula to Pupu Hinu Hinu, one of the two songs that Noland taught the audience.  We also got to learn ’Ua Mau a song that was sung by the children of Niihau at the opening night concert.  As part of every Monday, the artists teach a song or two to the audience both in ‘ukulele circle and with the entire group. One can appreciate the simple beauty of the Hawaiian language in song when 350 or more voices sing it together. What a rush!


Audience members shout out requests and the singers obliged with their spontaneous never-rehearsed-before harmony of Hi’ilawe on the beautiful Hawai’i island, home of both Noland and Diana.  What a choice song to end a wonderful program.


At the end, when some bodies started moving toward the door, Noland calls out, “You can’t leave now … we are all going to sing Hawai’i Aloha and you need to do that to get the full experience.”


So true!  When you watch everyone holding hands and raising their voices with smiles on their faces, tears streaming down their cheeks, you know you have a new EKK fan. It’s moments like this that live on in the memories of those who are for the first time witnessing the gift of making aloha so tangible … and they are forever held hostage to the beauty that is Hawai’i.


And for those who were just pretending they knew the words and melody, Keith Haugen will be teaching the proper way of singing Hawai’i Aloha during ‘ukulele hour on Monday, Feb 6.


A bit of EKK trivia along this line:  Jodi Ascuena who weekly records all the information from attendees pointed out to me, “There are so many folks who last year marked “New” on their attendance sheet who this year are marking themselves as “Regular.”  Yes!  Once you experience EKK, you are hooked….and why not….look who’s coming up next:


Monday, February 6, 6:00 – 9:00 pm

E Kanikapila Kakou “Legacy of Hawiian Music” 29th season

Featuring Keith Haugen, Frank Uehara and Carmen U’ali’I –

with KFC finger-lickin’ great music!

6:00 – 7:00 ‘ukulele hour: You get to learn to sing and play Hawaii’s two most sung “musical anthems” from Keith; you get to learn the hula “Puamana” from Carmen; you get to learn the mysteries of playing actual notes on the five-gallon bucket “pakini” from the inimitable Frank Uehara.  COME EARLY!


If you have a disability and need assistance call Carol Yotsuda at (808) 245-2733 for Monday events.


(s) Carol Kouchi Yotsuda, www.gardenislandarts.org — “Celebrating 35 years of bringing ARTS to the people and people to the ARTS”

Contact:  Garden Island Arts Council, giac@hawaiilink.net>


E Kanikapila Kakou 2012 Hawaiian Music Program is funded in part by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, the County of Kaua’i Office of Economic Development, and the Garden Island Arts Council supporters with support from Kaua’i Beach Resort.

Garden Island Arts Council programs are supported in part by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts through appropriations from the Hawai’i State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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