Monday, March 23, 2015

EKK Final Night Off the Charts

75 perfect Attendees

Each Monday night the participants are given a big welcome to acknowledge where they come from. The locals cheer loudly as their home district is called with the largest, noisiest groups from the sunny south shore and the Kapa’a district followed by a close second from the north shore. We still need to work on the Lihu’e area and the west side of Kaua’i to show up at EKK. Of course there was a huge group of EKK virgins…each week about 50 – 85 new people show up at EKK. The “snowbirds” were there in full force as always, but the biggest surprise was the perfect attendance people that reached the incredible number of 75 loyal participants. Few years ago, we had ten perfect attendees, but it grew in leaps and bounds over the last five years because many do not want to miss a single Monday night. Each was awarded a Lena Machado Songbook compliments of the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, a Na Lani Eha CD or an EKK tee shirt. Lucky folks!

Featuring our Community of Hula Dancers

Over a hundred hula dancers from around the island showed up to be part of our Community Hula Night.  We started the evening by inviting everyone to step up to the stage to dance Beautiful Kaua’i followed by the three hula circles with their fab hula teachers. Aunty Bev Kauanui and Lady Ipo joined Haunani Kaui, Anuhea Herrod and Rose Kurita as the musicians.

A rare treat was having young Devon Kamealoha Forrest all the way from Hanalei teaching a hula favorite Nani Wai’ale’ale by Dan Polipala, Sr. in his large circle of nearly 40 dancers. It’s so great to have Kamealoha take time off from his studies to share his wonderful spirit and expertise at EKK. “If I can memorize 500-word chants, I can remember everyone in my circle so don’t be shy and come up to dance!” he called out to his dancers.

Lady Ipo Kahaunaele-Ferreira, a singer-musician-emcee-hula dancer all rolled into one, taught her circle of dancers the favorite hula Ka Ua Loku composed by Alfred Alohikea; they sang the first line followed by their beautiful hula. The stunning Sherri “Puni” Patrick from the westside, hula instructor for the Daughters of Hawai’i and the Kaua’i Museum, taught In a Little Hula Heaven composed by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger in 1936 and recorded by Bing Crosby in the Paramount film Waikiki Wedding. So much history! She was joined by her fellow haumana of the late kumu hula Doric Kaleonui Yaris; such wonderfully expressive dancers! Melvin Kauahi and Maha Leoiki from the Kalaheo ‘Ukulele group joined the musicians for this number.

Kumu Wailana Dasalia, Piikea Matias and Tia Keawe of Tamatea Nui O Kauai presented a mini ho’ike of their young dancers who had been outstanding at the latest Kaua’i Mokihana Festival hula competition. Dressed in charming costumes, dancers of different ages shared a  variety of styles of hula; the audience appreciated their many dances using the kala’au sticks, ‘ili’ili river rocks, pu’ili bamboo sticks and gourds. “Thank you to all the sweet girls from the halau and their kumu for a dazzling display of hula.”

Hula favorites such as Noho Paipai gave the male dancers a chance to visit grandma in her rocking chair. Bruddah Iz’s Henehene Kou ‘Aka and the ever popular Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai brought up hula dancers to show off their hula choreography. We definitely need to do a hula hana hou next year because it’s obvious that our hula dancers really love sharing their gift of hula.

“Malie Scholarship Hula Challenge” One Big Blast

I get so many parting comments at the end of each night, “I thought last week was the best but each week gets better and better!” Actually, each week is different from every other and each week is brilliant so it feels like it gets better and better. With the 2015 theme of “Music Into the Community,” many artists made a real effort to reach out with their music and they succeeded. The final night really brought the community together to support a great cause and being part of the action rather than being just a passive observer.

Early the morning after, the Facebook Queen Puni Patrick posts: “Blessed beyond what was asked for….Uncle Nathan Kalama and Lady Ipo Kahaunaele-Ferreira’s challenge raised over $5,200 for The M?lie Foundation tonight at EKK! Students will get the financial help they need and Uncle Nathan’s face gets to see the light of day again! LOL”

With Uncle Nathan’s long white mustache and beard which he had been nurturing for many years as the “bait”, Lady Ipo and Uncle Nathan had an on-stage faceoff to see if they could raise $3,000 for the Malie Scholarship Fund during their 45 minutes stage-time. “Basket Left” was for Lady Ipo and “Basket Right” was for Uncle Nathan, but put it all together at the end of the evening and they scored a major coup for the children to attend the Punana Leo Hawaiian Language School, a project of the Malie Foundation for many years. Raising that much money in 45 minutes was a record accomplishment for the Dynamic Duo, and Garden Island Arts Council/E Kanikapila Kakou was thrilled to be the vehicle to make that happen.

Every time the accountants counted $1,o00 in the baskets, “Onio” sounded the pu signaling that the goal was reached and Makali’i Thronas could use his razor to shave off yet another part of Uncle’s facial hair – first went the left mustache at the sound of the first $1,000 pu, second was the right half of his mustache after the second $1,000 pu, third was chopping off the length of his long beard at the sound of the third $1,000 pu, and finally the fourth $1,000 pu shaved off the rest of his prize beard.  For each hairy sacrifice that Nathan suffered, Lady Ipo and Maka Herrod had to eat breakfast at Wailua Family Restaurant, lunch at De Fries lunch wagon, and dinner at Bull Shed; BUT they had to dine ALONE at each meal.

A young man giving “stepping” massages out in the foyer added his $100 donation basket to the pool, Aunty Beverly Muraoka and her ‘ohana contributed $800 to the baskets, and several other online donations brought the grand total up to $5,200. Uiha!

So who were the victims? The two challengers presented their surprise guests to help raise the money for the scholarships. Folks were racing up fast and furious to drop their donations into the two baskets as the colorful Maka Herrod danced the hula. Uncle Nathan’s kupuna dancers dressed in elegant sheath gowns came out to acknowledge one of their own, 96-year-old Alice Fix who was seated in the front row, celebrating her momentous ninety-sixth birthday at EKK with her three girlfriends. She was presented with a huge haupia birthday cake from GIAC with the words “Happy 96th! Alice Fix!”  She was really happy! The kupuna halau danced a hula for their “retired” girlfriend. After only two numbers, the first pu was sounded.

Lady Ipo called up Doric Yaris’s haumana – Puni, Loren, Nohili, and Natasha — who danced to Ha’a Hula by Loyal Garner; many dancers went up to join them. The second pu sounded so quickly signaling $2,000 in the baskets. She then called on the gorgeous Polei Palmeira to dance Papalina Lahilahi, another hula irresistible to many dancers.

Lady Ipo, a fantastic Hawaiian music singer as well as a wonderful jazz singer, took the opportunity to serenade her handsome but shy husband with It’s Just the Nearness of You! Rose Kurita, who accompanied Ipo on the piano was the absolute bomb. The unpredictable Maka jumped on stage to dance the last refrains of the song with Ipo’s husband who was moved to pull out his wallet and dump his bills into Ipo’s basket.

Probably the biggest surprise of the evening because it was totally unexpected to everyone was introduced by Maka Herrod as he taught the audience the hui to Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett’s Aerobicize Hula – ‘Ekahi, ‘Elua, ‘Ekolu, ‘Eha, Lima I Lalo, Holo Wawae! “All the way from Las Vegas is our surprise guest!” Maka shouts and out from behind the curtain springs the “pleasantly plump” aerobicize queen. Tossing the curtain as Maka sang the first verse was none other than “your normally shy, conservative wau” dressed in fitted exercise tights, a short hula skirt put together with colorful cable ties, orchid leis and a chic sweat band. Trying fruitlessly to do the exercises while waving a fancy wand, strumming a teeny ‘ukulele, chatting on the IPhone, and dragging two heavy metal dumbells, I frolicked through the no-rehearsal spa exercise hula; everyone was laughing their hearts out. In hindsight, I think it was not really an act but a real-life documentary of how I am always trying to squeeze everything into a too-short window of time.

Dr. Larry Magnussen called me “an orthopedic miracle”….considering I did it with my two knee surgeries. Jodi Ascuena writes:  “I too cannot imagine what made you do that! You must have become instantaneously possessed by the spirit of the great comic hula dancer, Hilo Hattie! Kinda like spontaneous combustion in a ti-leaf skirt. Put that fire OUT, baybay! Jodi”

Pu #3 sounded out loud and clear. Yay!  $3,000! And Lady Ipo chopped off the long beard. On a roll, Lady Ipo could not resist making up an impromptu Hawaiian rap about Nathan’s beard ordeal…. “Only Nathan Can…” Nathan called on the marvelous Aunty Beverly Healani Muraoka with E Ku’u Healani that he composed for the Kaua’i Living Treasure. Nathan’s kupuna halau joined Aunty Bev for the hula. She then presented $800 donation from her ‘ohana to the cause, and Pu #4 rang out loud and clear. Hana Hou! Hana Hou!  The musicians sang Lei Nani danced by Aunty Beverly, Lady Ipo, Vern Kauanui and many other dancers. So much fun to see the many styles of hula at once.

Lady Ipo introduced their second guest from Las Vegas who entered from the back of the ballroom and gyrated his way to the stage, dressed in a long bright green bling-bling gown tossing his massive ehu-colored frizzy mane from side to side (just like one Ms Ross does it on her TV ads for her upcoming appearance at Neal Blaisdell Arena).  Diana Ross has nothing over Maka Herrod as he brought down the house with his razz-a-ma-tazz performance on stage followed by ‘Uwehe, ’Ami and Slide. Kamealoha and Puni were joined by other dancers for the final hula to Pua ‘Ahihi, with Uncle Nathan playing the exciting Hawaiian-style piano accompaniment. It was a night for celebrating the hula!

Hawai’i Aloha, the song with which we always end the EKK evening, brought everyone to their feet with smiles on their faces and tears rolling down their cheeks. The ballroom swelled with so many voices singing their favorite song to end the final evening of the 32nd year of E Kanikapila Kakou 2015.

Kudos to the EKK volunteers – Highlights of Aloha

All the work of putting together EKK is a 24-7 job for the boss but it cannot be done without the dedicated kokua and aloha spirit of the forty-plus volunteers who come each Monday night to make EKK an enjoyable and unforgettable event. In past years, they were gifted with a gathering at some nice place such as KCC Culinary, Casablanca, or Kaua’i Beach Resort Naupaka breakfast buffet, but since the numbers have swelled to 40, that has become difficult. This year they were the guests at a Breakfast Soiree at the ArtPod Studio/Home of their Fearless Leader who made the whole breakfast buffet herself.

The EKK volunteers feel like they belong to an enviable “exclusive club.” Bonds of friendships have formed between volunteers as they chuckle and deal with big and little issues that crop up each night. Until becoming a volunteer and seeing how much had to be done by everyone to make each Monday happen, Carole Kahn never thought about volunteers before or how much she missed EKK when she was away.

We also have some non-volunteers who look after the volunteers and acknowledge their hard work. Dave, every few Mondays, brings huge plates of chocolate chip cookies for the volunteers, the sound/lights team, and the KBR food concession workers. Polei Palmeira, who just started coming to EKK this season, bears armloads of puakenikeni and blue jade leis for the artists.  My weekly highlight is when my brother Masami and sister-in-law Jill walk in with a doggy bag dinner for me because they know I had been racing around all day with nothing to eat just to get to the hotel before the crowds descend.

At the breakfast soiree, each volunteer shared his or her “highlight” of the season. One patron wrote in: You knocked it out of the park again for 2015 with your “comedy performance” the last night an absolute smash hit. A friend said to me that alone was worth the price of admission !! What a good sport you are.

Marty says, “Carol’s astonishing capacity for comedy blows your mind!”  One volunteer dubbed the Aerobicize Hula as “Unique Tinkerbell Geisha Leprechan Hula” — an unexpected surprise and highlight for all. The volunteers recalled many other special moments of aloha.

“Life is chaos until we come to EKK and then everything is all right,” and “I’m not here for the music; I’m here for the aloha!” are shared sentiments. When hotel guests stop by to see what is going on, Ed Blanchet shares what EKK is about; the guests are so surprised that it’s not just another money-making event but a true gift for the community to enjoy for just a minimal donation; along with free leis from Aunty Fran for the visitors (which for Fran has become an obsession). Another highlight is that magic moment after sound check when Peter, the door guard, opens the “flood gates” and the long line waiting patiently in the foyer rush in to find their seats. The excitement is electric. Each week one gentleman was buying a lot of tickets at the ‘ukulele table and it wasn’t until the ninth week when his granddaughter Alison was called up to win the electric ‘ukulele.  Grandpa had been each week buying all those tickets and writing her name on them; what a wonderful show of aloha!

Programmatically, the artists’ passion and love of music that pulled you in were the highlights that the volunteers remembered best. Seeing Taimane Gardner, the ‘ukulele virtuouso on stage 28 sessions ago was the “hook,” and the Cunninghams have never missed a single EKK Monday since. It was wonderful to be able to witness the passing on of the love of language and musical collaboration between teacher/mentor Puakea Nogelmeier with protégés Lihau and Kellen Paik as Kupaoa with their entire ‘ohana from Kilauea showing up. Seeing David Kamakahi at EKK over the years first as a young novice musician, many times with his father Dennis, and most recently as an amazing accomplished ‘ukulele virtuoso coming into his own and sharing his version of Ledward’s Jus’ Press was special.

The performance by the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders was powerful on many levels and a huge highlight for many. Kumu Hula Frank Akima’s Mele Koki (Coqui Frog) hula was a definite show stopper. Young Sean Robbin’s plaintive haunting voice brought on a moment of peaceful transformation. Having a Hawaiian music treasure like Noelani Mahoe at EKK was a gift. Mark Yamanaka’s gracious and very professional manner of acknowledging the hard work of the sound system “roadies” was truly appreciated by the behind-the-scenes gang. Watching our own Ed Blanchet playing his steel guitar on stage with the ‘ukulele groups was great. His favorite moment was to be able to watch all those Aloha Music Camp top-notch artists spontaneously improvising on the stage. EKK is not limited to the Jasmine Ballroom as volunteers are recognized by other EKK participants in stores and other community venues. Moving from KCC to the St. Michael’s church hall to JC Penney’s to Island School and finally to Kaua’i Beach Resort, EKK has never lost the Aloha Spirit which you can cut with a knife. EKK is not perfect, but we do try our very best to make it a great experience for everyone who shows up.

Many volunteers agreed that Eric Lazar and the inspiration of Eric epitomizes the whole EKK concept of aloha as he raced around in his wheel chair with his big smile, giving and receiving warm hugs with his new-found family. When he was playing music with the ‘ukulele groups, his wheelchair went off the ramp and he fell face first on the floor. Everyone froze and his mother said, “Oh! He does that all the time!” Eric added, “That happens all the time and will happen many more times. No big deal.” On the last night he asked one volunteer, “Who do I have to ask to become an EKK volunteer?” There is no one who exudes aloha like Eric does. He also asked his brother from another mother, Dave Cunningham, “Now what are we going to do on Monday nights?” Not to worry, Eric; they hosted a west side kanikapila at their home on the eleventh Monday night . . . just for Eric.  Private kanikapila sessions have been springing up all over the island; I would say that we have succeeded in this year’s theme of “Music Into the Community!”

 If you have a disability and need assistance please email Carol Yotsuda at <> for Monday events.

(s) Carol Kouchi Yotsuda, — “Celebrating 38 years of bringing ARTS to the people and people to the ARTS”

E Kanikapila Kakou 2015 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 the 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.