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Double Whammy for Ledheads and Hula Dancers

Ledward Back at EKK after 14 Years . . . Way Too long!

Ledward delivers an awesome experience for his audience — two hours packed with over twenty-two songs, twice as many as is normally sung by other artists, all the while standing in his sassy signature red boots, playing sometimes on his two guitars and sometimes on his ‘ukulele. He was accompanied on the bass by young Jesse Gregorio who kept up with whatever Led was moved to play. They spoke volumes to each other with just the nod of the head, a smile or a look.

By way of introduction, he said that I forgot to mention that in his hometown Kalapana on the south side of Hawai’i island, everyone is related. One day when he came home from school with his girlfriend. His father said, “She can’t be your girlfriend; she’s your cousin!” “So I moved to Honolulu.” With no electricity, everyone worked hard all week to live off the land, but come Friday, Saturday and Sunday, everyone played music. With six brothers and five sisters, it was a challenge for this family of 13 to live in a one bedroom, one kitchen, one porch house. The boys had to sleep outside in the yard. The little transistor radio they had caught static all day, so only at night could they hear Kumu radio. One day, his brother told Ledward to climb up the coconut tree with a little copper wire and then they were able to catch Kumu during the day. The one family ‘ukulele had to be shared by all the siblings, but Led said he got it most of the time. By the end of the evening, we clearly got it. Led loves to sing and play music.

His magical fingers flying across his guitar or ‘ukulele, his soaring falsetto as clear as a bell, his sly giggles when he knew he thrilled the audience . . . all of this delivered with that special Ledward magic. He set the tone for the evening by opening with a beautiful hula melody embellished with complicated fingering, Ka Wai Lehua ‘A’ala Ka Honua.

He follows no playlist and keeps his stage chatter to a minimum but moves rhythmically from one song to another with great ease as the moment inspires him. He likes to tease and play with the audience, often thrilling them with what seemed like the catchy ending of a song only to dive back into the song and bringing it into a second brilliant ending, and responding to the audience applause by swinging back into a third movement with a third exceptional ending. The appreciative audience acknowledges Led’s gifting them with more of what they like . . . he kept serving it up like a second and third helping of a delicious dessert that you can’t get enough of.

He dedicated a request song to “Tweety” Cook of Massachusetts who is one of 250 Ledheads in a small town in Massachusets, population 250, whose favorite song was an instrumental in the true Ledward style —Radio Hula. This gem is one of his old recordings with his early groupHui ‘Ohana formed back in the 1970’s with his twin brother Nedward and his cousin Dennis Pavao. Their songs with awesome falsettos, which he attributes to his Mama Tina, had a major impact on the world of Hawaiian music and artists then and ever since.

Ledward is known worldwide for his slack key music, but when you see him playing an ‘ukulele, it’s mesmerizing. When he switched to the ‘ukulele, he said he received this instrument when he went to the Big Island. A gentleman named Chuck Moore told him that he would make him an ‘ukulele, no strings attached. (Huge laugh) He then proceeded to play and sing Eddie Kamae’s E Ku’u Morning Dew. He makes the ‘ukulele sing. It looks like he must have another set of invisible fingers making sounds that you can hear but not see. Every ending is a special ending because he can really PLAY on that little instrument.

Whenever he played his signature songs in the way that only Led can, shouts of appreciation rang out from the audience. Some of these songs included a chicken skin falsetto version of Lei Nani and his favorite‘Opihi Moemoe, which he learned from Leonard Kwan. He loves to embellish it with several endings.

The rapid-action fingering in Whee Ha Swing, an ‘ukulele instrumental made popular by Sonny Chillingworth, is just amazing to watch, and Ledward knew it as he really showed off on this number. His ‘ukulele licks are truly incredible. Killing Me Softly is another ‘ukulele instrumental with amazing lightning-speed fingering, the kind of Ledward song that many are inspired to emulate because it has the feeling of water tumbling over river rocks and cascading down waterfalls.

One of Ledward’s unique and delightful specialties is titled Chicken in the Straw. Audiences everywhere thrill to this song that takes a familiar tune and spits it out as unexpected ‘ukulele number with an irresistible boogie beat. You could see the bodies bouncing around in the ballroom.

When asked to play the Kamoa ‘ukulele so the audience can see how good the instrument is that is being given away, he played an unexpectedLately and threw in a trick tickle that he played at the top of the frets. Let’s see if the winner of the ‘ukulele, David Stillwell of Koloa, can manage that ending.

He also played all-time favorites, some of which he recorded and some that are not on any of his recordings. Dennis Kamakahi’s well knownKoke’e can be found on six of his CDs. Hi’ilawe, about the gorgeous waterfalls in Waipio Valley on Hawai’i island, is probably one of the most recorded songs with over 150 versions by many artists. He called up his hula dancer Shaelyn Freitas to do the honors for that song and Hula O Makee.

On an old talk story recording, Kindy Sproat tells his story of a brown-skinned Hawaiian with solid white hair in his audience who smiled and wept when he sang Hula O Makee. He told Kindy that the song was written by his sailor moku Uncle working on the “Malulani”, one of the boats that carried freight to the other islands. One day the “Makee” set sail from Honolulu to Kaua’i but never did reach Kaua’i.

Other favorites he shared included Pua Tuberose, E Ku’u Sweet Lei Poina’oleWai UluHanalei Moon and Na Ka PueoSong of the Islands, recorded by many artists, captures the sensual melodic beat so typical of the early music of Hawai’i Calls. It’s the haunting sound that visitors take back to their homes, help them recall the good times in the islands, and bring them back once again to relive their island experiences.

He played a few request songs including Slack Key Lullabye for “Tweety” Cook as a request on his bucket list. Battling stage four cancer, “Tweety” was fortunate to meet Led and have two of his requests fulfilled on this trip to Kaua’i. Another audience request was for one of his signature songs in his incomparable falsetto, I Kona, very popular with many other artists who love to hit the rafters. A Ledward concert without I Kona is just not complete and Shaelyn’s hula made it even more memorable.

Ledward’s repertoire is extensive and varied as he included songs likeLove is Blue and Killing Me Softly which he called Killing Me Slowly . . . he definitely was killing us all slowly as he kept going and going and going. As he reached the end of the concert, shouts of hana hou encouraged him to give just one more song. He asked everyone to stand and join him in Hawai’i Aloha. Everyone joined hands singing happily at the top of their voices, only to sit back down and clap some more… no one seemed ready to exit.

He generously topped off a great evening with a beautiful falsetto. Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua, not on any of his recordings but one of the most popular songs recorded by many other artists, was the perfect ending to a memorable evening with Led. By the end of the concerts there were many more “Ledheads” in the audience.

Note: Most of the songs Led sang were recorded on Force of Nature, Jus Press Volume 2Led Live – SoloBlack SandWaltz of the Wind, From Kalapana to WaikikiJus’ Cruzin’Lima Wela, and Kiho’alu Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar. Other CDs with Ledward’s songs are Hui ‘Ohana – Ke KoluThe Best of Hui ‘Ohana, and DVDs titled Ledward Kaapana & Bob Brozman and The Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar of Ledward Kaapana.

Malie Scores Big with Community Hula Night

It’s truly one of the most joyful EKK events, filled with aloha, laughter, friendship, spontaneity and happy confusion. As Lady Ipo said, “tonight is a chance to show our aloha, share our aloha, and be aloha” and it was. The minute you stepped into the ballroom you could sense the vibe . . . the air was electric and vibrating with happiness in anticipation of an evening of hula as over 125 dancers swayed to three different corners of the ballroom to learn a new hula from the three designated hula teachers – Maria Silva, Anna Velasco, and Maka Herrod; a fourth group made up of ‘ukulele players sat on the stage with the talented Lady Ipo Kahauna’ele-Ferreira, where they learned the songs that the hula circles were going to dance.

Each circle had about 25 – 35 students made up of attendees at the Ho’ola Lahui hula exercise classes under the direction of Maria and Anna, resident hula dancers who show up every week at EKK, first time dancers visiting from elsewhere and lucky enough to be at EKK tonight, and even EKK volunteers who help to run the program. Under the direction of each kumu, by the end of the first hour, each group was moving in synchronized unison. It was beautiful to watch this happening.

After the workshop portion of the evening, the formal part of the program unfolded beautifully with the symbolic Hawaiian protocol presented to insure an evening rich with cultural practices. Lady Ipo opened with a pule, and the many voices merged in beautiful harmony singing the Doxology. Uncle Nathan Kalama chanted and translated into English the meaning of his sensual words. “Tonight is the night to fill up with Aloha!” From the back of the room rang out the response of Aunty Beverly Muraoka with her chant. Nathan Kalama, founder of the Mokihana Festival and the Malie Foundation, followed with words of welcome. He recognized the 35th birthday of EKK, everyone sang Hau’oli La Hanau in the Key of F, and Maka presented me with a gorgeous lei.

Special recognition leis were presented to “anyone who is here from the first year of EKK” and that turned out to be Shirley Lee Smith of California; another recipient was anyone celebrating their birthday. There were four people in the audience, but the most “kupuna-ish” turned out to be 78-year-old Momi Thacker who flies in every year for EKK.

Emcee Onio Punzal acknowledged the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, the Kaua’i County OED, the Kaua’i Beach Resort and the many generous EKK supporters for their part in making sure that EKK continues. He encouraged the audience to purchase the GIAC tees, the beautiful leis made by Firipi and Blaine, enjoy Bo Kamala’s step massage with donations going to support the Malie Foundation scholarship program, enjoy the selection of food and drinks offered by the hotel and, most of all, try for the Kamoa ‘ukulele giveaway.

The excellent Hawaiian band comprised of Lady Ipo, the singing dancing emcee, head emcee Maka Herrod just off the plane from Tokyo with his new coif, John Kepa Mahi with that remarkable falsetto voice, Haunani Poopi Kaui with her trusty and versatile guitar, and Anuhea Herrod brandishing her upright bass. They were accompanied by the extemporaneous ‘ukulele band taught by Lady Ipo. There is nothing like great music to get the hula hips swinging and get everyone into the party mood.

The festive ho’ike portion of the evening followed with dancers from each of the three workshops taught by the three kumu going up to the stage to perform. First to share was the halau taught by Anna Velasco, cousin to Lady Ipo, who has been with Hui Ho’ola Maika’i for years. Her hula wasNawiliwili, composed by George Huddy and choreographed by George Holokai. The song was especially meaningful for her as her parents met in Nawiliwili at Club Jetty. Her dad came with the Coast Guard and never left. 25 dancers danced about Mount Ha’upu, the lighthouse and the many unique features of the beautiful harbor district of Lihu’e. 15 ‘ukulele players joined the Hawaiian band and provided wonderful accompaniment for the dancers.

Kumu Maka Herrod followed with his halau swaying to the sensuousHawaiian Hula Eyes sang by the legendary Cazimero Brothers and danced by Leina’ala Heine, one of the greatest hula dancers that graced the stage in Waikiki. 12 ‘ukulele players joined the Hawaiian band to make music for the over 35 dancers in this group.

Kumu Marla Silva, a director with Ho’ola Lahui Hula Fitness for years, brought her halau of 35 dancers up to dance to Kainani Kahauna’ele’s original composition Lei Ho’oheno. Lady Ipo translated the lyrics and said that when her daughter composed the song, she had no idea that the song would be performed everywhere – at parties, at weddings, by halau at the Merrie Monarch, by singers, etc. Lady Ipo sang the song for the halau. It was amazing to see octogenarian Peter Sterne gracefully holding his own when just last week he was recognized as the person with the most bionic body parts – six in all.

Maka shared with the audience the unique choice of kumu for this evening. Malie Foundation partners with other groups, among them, Ho’ola Lahui Hawai’i with health and wellness sessions all over Kaua’i. Included as part of the fitness programs are hula lessons for the clients. Many of their healthy students showed up tonight to take part in the Community Hula Night. John Mahi sang Lei Nani in his awesome falsetto as Maka called for a kumu challenge by the three hula instructors.

Before the intermission, we ask the artist to play the Kamoa ‘ukulele to show the audience the wonderful sounds of the instrument. No one expected the spontaneous and hilarious fashion show put on by Maka Herrod. It takes so little to start him off; he is like a “Roman Candle” . . . just light a match and he’s off. All it took was the sound “shhhhh” followed by the “Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom” song, and Lady Ipo started to sing Rock Around the Clock Tonight and the inimitable Maka Herrod strutted, danced, twirled, and marched around the stage sporting the little Kamoa ‘ukulele, strumming like Elvis, strumming like a person who was “taught by Ohta-san Sr, Ohta-san Jr., and Ohta-san-Still-to-Come…” (these were the exact words that came out of Lady Ipo’s mouth). Everyone was rolling in their seats at this unexpected show.

After the intermission, the ‘ukulele was won by Jan Helder of Kansas City, Missouri. Here’s hoping that the “juju” placed on the ‘ukulele is a sign of things to come for Jan and his future ‘ukulele performances.

The final portion of the evening was the spontaneous party style ho’olaule’a as the wonderful Hawaiian band played the best hula favorites and whoever was moved to get up and show their hula stylings could do so. My Baby has Rosy Cheeks, a sassy hula favorite, had brave dancers stepping up to the stage. When the popular Nani Kaua’i was started by Lady Ipo and taken over by Aunty Bev Muraoka, over 35 dancers popped up all around the room to join the seven kumu hula on the stage. Bev continued with another naughty hula number as she started singing Edith Kanaka’ole’s Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai. Once again, dancers were swaying like seaweeds all around the room. Dancers were everywhere, sometimes on stage with each dancer doing their own choreography and sometimes in unison and sometimes dancers circled the ballroom like a lei of flowers.

Aunty Bev turned over the mic to Lady ipo but she continued off the stage with her own hula side show to the music of Henehene Kou ‘Aka. Apparently, she was teaching a gentleman how to Henehene or whatever.

Uncle Nathan went center stage and taught the whole audience his alphabet song so everyone in the hall was dancing a noho hula in their seats.

Another unexpected surprise was when Lady Ipo called her kumu hula buddy on stage because they share the same birthday and year of birth. None other than Willy Pulawa, Nathan Kalama’s very first kumu hula who now lives far away but seems to find his way back to EKK at just the right time. John Mahi sang Kalena Kai as Willy, Phyllis, Lady Ipo and Fumi Cabebe danced on stage. Unable to resist the party atmosphere, several others jumped on stage with them and performed a happy dance-a-thon while they had the chance to star.

John Mahi bursts out singing a kachi kachi number and suddenly the whole audience was shaking and moving all over with the irresistible Spanish rhythms. Another spontaneous combustion as the music moved Maka Herrod and Po’ai Galindo to do the most unique “borinki ballroom hula” as they twirled and ame and kahea their way into each others arms. The party had taken on a life of its own.

Bringing the party back to some semblance of decorum, Lady Ipo switched back to some lovely hula numbers, singing Waikiki, Lovely Hula Girl, andKealoha. Kehaulani Kekua, Beverly Muraoka, Polei Palmeira, Wailana Dasalia, Beverly Kauanui, Phyllis, and any number of other lovely dancers went up to the stage to dance the final hula numbers.

When it was time to sing Hawai’i Aloha, it appeared that everyone has stocked up on a lot of Aloha. They sang with happy voices and danced out of the ballroom to the hoi music of Magic Is the Moonlight. It was indeed a special night on the heel of the Red Moon/Full Moon/ Eclipse of the Moon. No wonder everyone was acting moon-struck tonight.

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E Kanikapila Kakou 2018 Hawaiian Music Program is funded in part by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, supported by the County of Kaua’i Office of Economic Development, the Kaua’i Beach Resort, and the GIAC/EKK supporters. 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.