Mahalo to Anne E. O’Malley for the great photos and putting up everything for our Facebook Friends
Monday night’s EKK program was dedicated to Tutu Connie Velarde who discovered EKK about six years ago. Since then it has been a highlight in her life. She brought her hanae grandson, Kainalu Palama to EKK. Toting the ‘ukulele that Grandma bought him, he attended EKK each week, sitting in the ‘ukulele circle and absorbing all the music, stories, hula, and culture that the hundreds of musicians shared on the EKK stage. Tutu Connie continued to attend EKK, gradually adding to her entourage of attendees because she felt that EKK was just the very best thing going. A young curly-haired 13-year-old boy named Axel Menezes began to show up at EKK. On Connie’s persuasion, we asked Axel to get up on stage and play a few songs. Not only did he play the ‘ukulele, he demonstrated a talent that begged to be nurtured. In the years that followed, he entered ‘ukulele contests and often came away with the first prize which was often an ‘ukulele. When opportunities arose for workshops, GIAC coordinators made sure that Axel and Kainalu were scholarshipped into the workshops so they could be exposed to artists such as Dennis Kamakahi, Richard Hoopi’i, and George Kahumoku Jr.
Being the generous benefactor that he is, George saw the introduction as an opportunity to encourage the young boys to move up to the next level. He offered the two boys $1,000 scholarships to his week-long Kahumoku ‘Ohana ‘Ukulele & Slack Key Workshop in Maui, a program that brings together musicians of all levels to learn together from the best instructional talents in Hawaii. With the help of GIAC members, the Malie Foundation and individual contributors, we were able to send Kainalu, Axel, and chaperone Tutu Connie to attend the workshop. Being scholarship attendees, the boys and Connie had to put in their share of kokua during the workshop, but they came away with an extraordinary experience of musical immersion. Kainalu went on to join Leina’ala Pavao Jardin’s hula halau, and Axel continued on his quest to become a better ‘ukulele player. A couple of years ago, George contacted me to see if Axel would be able to attend a pilot music immersion course at Maui Community College which he was coordinating. Taking on Axel as yet another one of his numerous hanae sons to live and work on his farm and attend the MCC program, Uncle George was making sure that Axel had the opportunity to further his musical studies. Six years since Tutu Connie first showed up at EKK, young Axel, now 19 years old, appears on stage with his mentor and teacher, Uncle George Kahumoku, Jr.
Note: See email message from Uncle George at end of wrap:
Monday, February 24, 2014
“A Seasoned Performer and His Protege”
Whenever I mention George Kahumoku to Dennis Kamakahi, Dennis says, “I like to go on stage after George because he’s so good at getting the audience into the right mood.” That is so true; George has a way of engaging the audience. As he sings the opening hymn, he calls out the lyrics line by line in his storyteller’s voice, so everyone can join in the singing.
Uncle George has performed many times at EKK, but this week, his performance was definitely geared to featuring Axel’s ‘ukulele artistry. He confessed that he and Axel did not have any rehearsal time . . . just get up and jam. Whenever appropriate he called on Axel for a pa’ani or musical interlude between the verses. Kawikawas a fishing song based on a chant written for King David Kalakaua.
As many times as George has performed at EKK, he varies his choice of songs and the related stories, so one gets a different show each time. He also throws in many tidbits of information for interest, humor, or just a way to relate to the songs he was singing. For example, before he shared a chant he learned from Aunty Edith Kanaka’ole, one of his first teachers, he threw in a comment about the Edith Kanaka’ole Tennis Stadium which ended up being two inches too short for regulation tennis matches due to the failure of the architects and builders to account for the shrinkage of the building. Also, he added, “I never seen Aunty Edith play tennis!” However, it’s big enough for the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, and Aunty Edith definitely did dance the hula.
Apparently he had spent a lot of time learning from Aunty Edith. At one gathering, she whipped out two songs in about ten minutes. He told 14 year old Ernie Cruz Jr., “If Aunty can compose two songs in ten minutes, we should be able to come up with our own songs.” So they got a speckled composition book with 200 pages and began to compose songs. After ten days, they had filled the book with their own compositions. “Here is Song #187 — Kamakani – Blow My Wind.” The audience sang along call-and-recall style; it was easy for everyone because the second verse was the same of the first and the third verse was the same as the second.
George prompted Axel to share a song that he had composed; he obliged with a song he wrote for his girlfriend. “It’s been a year so I wrote her a song … because I’m capable of doing it.” Parts of the song were in falsetto which he delivered quite beautifully. When George questioned him, he said that thus far he has written 15 to 20 songs. “Let me know when you reach song #187,” kidded George.
The soundtrack of the movie “The Descendents” features many of Hawai’i’s fine musicians. George’s version of Hi’ilawe, a song made famous by Gabby Pahinui, gave Nancy Kahumoku a chance to dance the hula. George’s intro of his wife was as off beat and funny as George is. He said that most local guys would say, “Eh! Stay away from my sister!” but he said that Nancy’s brother, the illustrious George Winston, told him, “Hey George, I got this sister; you want to check her out?” Once a swing dancer, she is now a hula dancer “so she can go on the road with me,” said George. Together they make their home in Kahakuloa on the top side of Maui where they farm and make music with their extended ‘ohana.
Uncle George has done it all, first on the rocky soil of Kona and later on the rock-free soil of Maui — he has farmed taro, papaya, coffee, mac nut, ti leaves, pigs, cattle, goats and just about any crop that puts food on the table; he has taken into his home and parented over a dozen youngsters in addition to raising his own children. Besides performing Hawaiian music all over the mainland and recording many albums, he has for many years coordinated a Hawaiian music program at the Kapalua Resort featuring many of Hawai’i’s top musicians, he has coordinated and carried out the Kahumoku ‘Ohana ‘Ukulele and Slack Key Workshop on Maui and done this all while working on his day job as art teacher at the famous Lahainaluna High School. The story of how he came to be an art teacher was shared.
At age 18 he was driving home alone along the very spooky old Pali Road on a dark rainy night when he saw an old man on the roadside. He stopped to help the stranded gentleman fix his flat tire and while doing this he relayed his entire family genealogy, thanks to his great-grandmother, all the way back to Adam and Eve (pun intended). The next morning the Principal at Kamehameha Schools, the formidable Gladys Brandt, called him into her office. “She’s Hawaiian; I could not lie to her so before she asked, I started to confess to her all the bad things that I had done, such as sneaking in over the fence with the help of the security guard.” Ms. Brandt told him to shut up and listen. It turned out that the old gentleman he had helped on the old Pali Road was Richard Lyman, the head trustee of the Kamehameha Schools. He asked the Principal to offer George a full four-year scholarship to a college of his choice. He was accepted at Rhode Island School of Design, Kansas State, San Francisco Art Institute, and LA Art Institute. He chose CCAC in Oakland because he could get round-trip airfare back to Hawaii for $69 in those days plus there was a lot of “oooooooommmmmmm” activity in that area. So he ended up with his Bachelor of Fine Arts and has been teaching art sculpture at Lahainaluna for his entire teaching career. Since retiring, he piloted a special music course at Maui Community College which Axel was fortunate enough to attend.
He shared a song about the island of Molokai written by his daughter Sara Hall-Trapp. At that time George was running an alternative school in Honaunau where he mentored over 100 problem youths using fishing, hunting, planting, farming, surfing, canoeing, hula, halau building, and stonewall building as part of the curriculum. The great thing about that school was that nobody cut out of class. His 33-year-old daughter today lives in Japan with her husband from New Orleans who is in charge of Amazon.com for the whole Pacific Rim area. “I really wanted her to marry a pig farmer, but you know the young kids these days…..” The upbeat song was written in English and gave Axel a chance to shine with his pa’ani.
Giving hula dancers a chance to show their stuff on stage is a big part of EKK. For this he chose to sing a hula favorite that he learned from Aunty Edith Kanaka’ole — the seaweed song or Kaulu wehi o Kekai. Sure enough, with little prompting, six hula dancers emerged out of the audience and each one shone with six entirely different choreography. It’s always interesting to see how the lyrics are interpreted by the dancers, and for sure everyone could guess the kaona or hidden meanings behind the lyrics as the motions were very explicit.
To show the audience how good the Kamoa ‘ukulele was that was being given away before the end of the evening, Axel ripped through the lively song called Body Surfer. Later in the evening, Axel was asked to pull out the winning ticket and who should win it but Donna of Hanapepe. George encouraged Donna to get ‘ukulele lessons from Axel because he lived just about five minute away from her town. How great when everything just flows together so effortlessly.
After intermission, George gave away four CD/DVD’s; participants who filled in EKK attendance sheets had a chance to win eight CD’s from top Hawaiian artists. Several folks in the front row were lucky to have their names pulled, so George jokes, “Check under your shoes and see what you stepped on before you came in.” (I had forgotten about that sign of good luck). Another funny quip from George was when he held up his camera to take a video of the huge audience, “Smile, everybody! If you are here with someone you’re not supposed to be with…DUCK!”
When George sang the O’opu song, he compares the instincts of the catfish with suction cups on its belly to get back up the river to spawn with the natural instincts of humans to do the same action over and over…hana hou….hana hou…hana hou. All of this he does in his story teller voice — relaying the story, singing a verse, continue the story, sing another verse…he really is a master of this technique.
The second half of the program was one continuous medley of songs — Makalapua, a Hawaiian classic by Queen Liliu’okalani; Wai’ulu by Kaua’i composer George Kaleiohi, Kalapana by Ledward Kaapana, one of Hawai’i’s greatest slack key artists. The fast-paced Guava Jam, filled a request for an ‘ukulele solo by Axel.
The ‘ukulele circle learned a slack ‘ukulele version ofKu’u Hoa. Out of the sixty or more students in the circle, only five graduated themselves to play on the stage. Of course, our resident hula dancer, Vern Kauanui, was more than happy to fill up the rest of the stage with his graceful dancing.
George composed a song for his home at the top end of Maui — Ku’u ‘Aina Aloha ‘O Kahakuloa (My Beloved Land of Kahauloa) with Hawaiian translation by Kehaulani Shintani. Legend has it that the rock formation above his home, shaped like the rock of Gibralta, is the afterbirth when Hina, Goddess of the Moon, gave birth to demigod Maui.
The EKK evening always ends on a high with the singing of the uplifting song Hawai’i Aloha. George gave a bit of history about the song written by the Reverend Lorenzo Lyons who was trying hard to figure out a way to get the Hawaiians out of the hills to come out and attend church. He translated the lyrics as we sang and encouraged everyone to learn the lyrics as it is a song of the people.
Normally Hawai’i Aloha wraps up the evening, but George requested that everyone who learned theHanalei Moon hula earlier in the evening come up for a hana hou. 25 ladies got up and danced the hula led by Madeleine Guyett, who was last week’s lucky winner of the Kamoa ‘ukulele. It really is very lovely to see so many ladies moving gracefully and happily to the beautiful songs of our island.
A warm synchronistic evening, masterfully presented by one of Hawai’i’s outstanding composer-musician-storyteller and showing off the talents of a budding ‘ukulele star; that is truly a great example of “Continuing the Legacy.” Tutu Connie Velarde was smiling and flashing the shaka sign from her heavenly perch, glad to see that her favorite activity was being enjoyed by so many.
Over the past 30 years we have seen every manner of passing the musical torch from generation to generation — from parent to child, friend to friend, from tutu to grandkids, from family to family, from idol to fan, from mentor to apprentice — the desire to share and the desire to learn lays the groundwork for the incubation of talent to sprout into artistry that deserves attention. Thanks to the unselfish mentors like Uncle George.
Email from Uncle George:
Aloha to our many Friends on Kauai 3-2-14
Blessings sent from cold & rainy Kahakuloa where we live!
Nancy & I had a wonderful weekend on Kauai last Week thanks to Carol Yotsuda & our many friends there!. Sorry if we did not get to see everyone or spend more time. Found out that Carol was suppose to go to Lahainaluna HS in her younger days ! Who knows? We might have met & married each other?( smiles )
We also had a great time with Axel & Vera, playing music in Waimea for their annual Celebration. Thanks to Carol’s great planning ,we made time for Tutu Connie’s Celebration of life on Sunday, sharing Songs, stories, fellowship. & food by Salt ponds near Hanapepe!
Carol Yotsuda & EKK was the bomb on Monday nite! We shared Slackkey ukulele & guitar & hula songs, more Stories & more music with Axel & hula by our Tahitian friend. We were blessed to visit Carol’s Art compound in Niumalu, & several farms & friends in the Kilauea area & Share food from Dani’s & the BBQ place in Lihue & JJs shave ice had Azuki beans with vanilla ice creme just like my hanabata Days in Pauoa valley on Oahu growing up! Mahalo to Masami & Jill for the Kauai Pa’akai. We shared our Kauai Bounty & planted Kauai Wauke in our gardens & have been blessed yesterday with twin sheep birthings. It was pounding rain all night & throughout the day, but I was determined to finish fencing in the 3 acres above our place ( my neighbors lot ) for our many goats & sheep & as usual got up at 3am to do emails & paper work & dug holes for corner posts & pounded T posts Till it was too dark to see in the rains of Kahakuloa Maui. Was too hot for my regular raincoat, so I made one homemade one out of one extrA large trash bag! Much lighter!
Please help support one of my many projects below if you are able to. Aloha to all!
Mahalo Nui Loa from Nancy & George
Who’s Coming Up Next at EKK?
Monday, February 24, 2014, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
E Kanikapila Kakou “Continuing the Legacy”
Maunalua – Bobby Moderow, Richard Gideon, Kahi Kaonohi
6:00 – 7:00: Ukulele Circle
7:00 – 9:00: Performance
If you have a disability and need assistance please email Carol Yotsuda at <email@example.com> for Monday events.
(s) Carol Kouchi Yotsuda, www.gardenislandarts.org — “Celebrating 37 years of bringing ARTS to the people and people to the ARTS”
E Kanikapila Kakou 2014 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.