“Exceptional Music, Mah-valous Stories, and so much Aloha”

February 10, 2014

EKK 2014

Mahalo to Anne E. O’Malley for the great photos and putting up everything for our Facebook Friends

“Exceptional Music, Mah-valous Stories, and so much Aloha”

What a night it was!

Emotions were running high, excitement was in the air, the Jasmine Ballroom was buzzing with an overflow crowd, and there was an intangible feeling of Aloha in the air. No one complained while we scurried around for seats; folks were patient when things had to be remedied. It must have been the presence of the150, give or take a few, Aloha Music Campers and staff who were bussed in from Marriott Courtyard, to experience the wonderful program by the artist instructors of the Aloha Music Camp. Kaliko Beamer Trapp, in his inimitable charismatic style, taught the ukulele circle how to play “Kawaeiki” while the musicians did their sound check on stage as an unexpected bonus music for the early birds. My Dream Team of volunteers graciously welcomed and helped the new comers to find their way into the fray; no one complained the entire evening about the little annoying things that sometimes cropped up. It was almost as if “complaining” would be an embarrassment.

So….from the get-go until the last person left the hall, it was an evening of so much aloha, wonderful camaraderie, great music, and stories to cherish.

Monday, February 3, 2014

“Community Aloha Night with the much extended Beamer ‘Ohana”

There is something uniquely special about the Aloha Music Camp held twice a year by the Mohala Hou Foundation. It’s the intangible that is difficult to explain but very palatable and can be felt by anyone with any degree of sensitivity to what is happening all around them. It might be the graciousness of Keola and Moanalani Beamer who exude the same brand of aloha for which Aunty Nona Beamer was much loved. It might be the uplifting charisma and down-to-earthness of hanae brother Kaliko Beamer Trapp who can be seen bouncing all over the place with his faithful alakai Kona Bob Stoeffer, inventor of a stick bass that resembles a legless praying mantis. It might be the incomparable camaraderie and supreme talent of their teaching staff who go overboard to see that each Camper leaves the Camp enriched with new skills, accomplishments and experiences. It might be the overall joyousness of their Happy Campers; how can one be anything but happy when sequestered on the gorgeous Garden Island of Kaua’i and immersed in Hawaiian culture coming at you from all angles?

I have been to their summer camp twice and I would go back at the drop of an ‘ukulele tuner; it is that much fun. You leave enriched with the Hawaiian perspective on the world in music, hula, Hawaiian language, poetry, oli, and crafts. This year, they are holding it at Marriott Courtyard next to the Coconut Marketplace with a huge turnout of participants. How fortunate are we at EKK to be able to experience some of this Hawaiian cultural immersion program with that distinctive Beamer trademark. If you have never been in attendance at AMC, add it to your bucket list and send me an email to thank me for turning you on to this.

Calling such a huge crowd to attention was not easy but for the powerful ‘oli by Liko Puha; his chanting brought about the much need hush so the evening performance could begin. Keola and Moanalani Beamer graciously introduced the Aloha Music Campers and gave a brief introduction about the Aloha Music Camp. Keola shared a humorous in-a-nutshell version of how Kaliko Trapp from the Isle of Wight in England came to be their hanae brother Kaliko Beamer Trapp. In her wisdom, Aunty Nona was convinced the family would all embrace Kaliko once they met him. Keola’s parting shot was, “Now I think it’s Wight but back then I thought it was Wong.”

Kaliko, first and foremost, thanked the kupuna of Kaua’i for
so graciously allowing their group to descend upon Kaua’i and Kapa’a. He introduced the consummate musicians on stage — Alan Akaka, Herb Ohta Jr, Kevin Brown, John & Hope Keawe, Uluwehi Guerrero, Liko Puha, Kona Bob Stoeffer — plus luthier Dennis Lake of Ka’u who has been teaching ‘ukulele-making since AMC first began.

All the artists took the stage together rather than one by one. That was a brilliant decision because the power of all of them collectively adding their instrumentation, vocals and pa’ani to enhance each artist’s performance made for a powerful performance. Kanikapila- style, each artist had his moment to shine as steel guitarist Alan Akaka kept the program moving along swiftly, calling on each artist to share.

Kevin Brown, who comes from a long line of Maui musicians, set the tone with a slack key standard Maunaloa. Alan’s romantic steel and the rest of the guitars and ukulele strumming along put everyone into relax mode. Close your eyes and you are lying in a hammock, swinging gently in the breeze and sipping on an icy tropical drink topped off with an umbrella. Kevin, who is not a newcomer to EKK, shared a very short version of a song he was requested to play by one of the inmates at Maui Correctional Center. The song entitled Jail Break, played so competently on his guitar in the key of G, was the unmistakable sound of a hack saw grating on metal bars. Huge applause.

Later in the program Kevin shared his unorthodox introduction to slack key. Not liking numbers he cut his math class from Freshman year and hid under the tree. Fortunately, his Hawaiiana teacher Henry Myers played the guitar in a nearby classroom. So intrigued by the sound of the guitar, he asked Mr. Myers to teach him. For four years, he secretly practiced on his Dad’s guitar, tucked away under his bed. Rushing home from school, he had a two-hour window of time to practice each day’s lesson before his Dad came home from work. When Dad asked him what he wanted for graduation, he asked for a guitar. “Why? You donno how to play guitar,” said his Dad. He surprised his Dad by playing “Ulupalakua” in slack key. With tears in his eyes, he told Kevin, “Boy, if I buy you this guitar, you promise me never to stop playing.” His Dad gifted him his first guitar from the Sears Roebuck catalog.

Herb Ohta Jr, son of the famous ‘ukulele artist Ohta-san, started playing the ‘ukulele at age 3. His Dad had him practice by lying on the floor so he could not look at his fingers and could feel and hear what he was doing. All that early training paid off as today he is one of the most accomplished ‘ukulele players and ‘ukulele instructors in Hawai’i. E Ku’u Morning Dew rippled off his ‘ukulele effortlessly. Embellished by the steel sounds and accompanied by two guitars, three ‘ukulele and a bass, the richness of the music made you feel like you were sky-diving or soaring over the island in a helicopter. Later, Herb was asked to play a song on the ‘ukulele that was donated by Kamoa ‘Ukulele to be won by one lucky person. When he played the lively “Glass Ball Hula” on the beautiful red ‘ukulele, everyone definitely wanted to win that instrument. Unfortunately, Herb did not come with the ‘ukulele. One of the Aloha Music Campers, Doctor Kam, was the lucky winner of the ‘ukulele. Hope he’s in Herb’s workshop.

Na Hoku Hanohano and Grammy awardee John Keawe who hails from North Kohala, “the land where kings are born”, shared his story about how he came into music, or perhaps, almost missed coming into music. Missing his first day in 7th grade, his music teacher handed him sheet music and asked John to play the clarinet. Without much interest or success with either, John got a B- for music. The teacher told him. “I don’t think music is your forte.” In spite of the early lack of encouragement, his interest in rock-and-roll and a guitar from Sears Roebuck set him off on his musical journey. Deadpan in expression but bubbling with quiet humor, he announced his song Punahele with a loud, “This is for you, Miss Iwasaki!” It’s a good thing he gave up on the clarinet because his slack key guitar playing is pretty phenomenal. Later, his wife Hope, a kumu hula, and their mo’opuna danced the hula to Hana by the Sea. What lucky granddaughters as they get to experience AMC every year with John and Hope.

Alan picked up on John’s discouraging introduction to music and shared his similar experience in 5th grade where, unable to read music and unhappy with the violin, Alan was told by his teacher, “You know what? I don’t think you will ever make it in music.” John pipes in, “Was her name Miss Iwasaki?” The playful banter between the artists had everyone in tears. But when it came to music, Alan’s version of Nawiliwili was spot on; you could feel the excitement of this bustling little port village nestled in the shadow of Mount Haupu where so much is going on all the time — ships, sailboats, barges, tugboats, sampans, tour buses, coast guard, fishermen, surfers, bikers, tourists, and me chasing wild chickens out of my garden. There is something very magical about the sound of the steel guitar, and Alan is a master on the steel. He credited his mentors for all their help and introduced one of them who was in the audience — the illustrious and legendary Hawaiian entertainer Ed Kenney. He thanked Ed for showing him how to put a show together.

Alan introduce Liko Puha as “a big man with a big heart and a hearty laugh.” Liko replied, “It’s called a giggle, man!” Indeed, with his perpetual smile and happy demeanor, he looks like a
Hawaiian version of the Hotei Laughing Buddha. His virtuoso Mom’s style was “Watch and follow!” but the young Liko asked too many questions so she slammed her ‘ukulele case shut. He had to go to his friend’s house to learn the ‘ukulele. Born in Kalihi, he was the eldest in the family so he had to move to California to work, but “It’s never too late to ‘olelo Hawai’i,” said Liko as he shared his late-in-life introduction to the Hawaiian language. Mentored by language specialists and musicians like Kaliko, Keola Donaghy, Kenneth Makuakane, he is finding his niche in chanting the oli. In his low, soft but powerful voice he sang “Kaulana ‘o Kawaihae” inviting the audience to join his song in call and recall style; he made you want to sing along. The sweeping sounds of the steel guitar made you feel like you were on a giant catamaran sailing around in Kawaihae Bay.

In the spirit of Kanikapila, Kaliko invited the ‘ukulele circle to the stage to share the song they learned in the first hour workshop. He thanked Aunty Nona Beamer for putting him on the right path and making him do all this for he had truly “come home” when he joined the Beamer clan. “Keawaiki”, the small bay, is a song penned by Helen Desha Beamer on the occasion of her visit to Francis I’i Brown. She wrote it on her way to Keawaiki and gave it as a gift to her host; many a song has been composed in this manner. Kaliko, who has taught at the EKK Koke’e Music Camp several times, knows just about every Hawaiian song and rattles off in Hawaiian like it’s his first tongue.

After the intermission, Alan introduced Uluwehi, who laughingly said in perfect pidgin, “I was waiting for my ‘chanch’!” Uluwehi Guerrero, noted kumu hula and singer with a voice like a bird from heaven, thrilled the audience with Pauao Liko Lehua. Hailemaile Village in upcountry Maui was home to Uluwehi. As a troubled seventh grader, he had to spend a lot of time in detention writing 300 times, “I will not tilt my chair.” His back door introduction to music and his love for the ‘ukulele was credited to Mr.Yabui, his math teacher, who played the piano and ‘ukulele. He spent a lot of time listening to the ‘ukulele while doing detention. The silver lining in this story is that, years later, when he was helping a local school to raise money to go to Disneyland, he thanked Mr. Yabui as his mentor. The event was publicized in the newspapers. He later received a call from the family of the late Mr. Yabui who had kept all his music, thousands of songs printed in purple ditto ink, which Uluwehi laughingly referred to as the “first drug of the school where students was getting high sniffing on their printed papers.” He expressed his gratefulness for all the mentors that helped a bratty kid in detention to what he is doing today. Yes! Uluwehi’s one of the most sought after kumu hula who spends a lot of time in Japan. I know. I have been asking him to EKK for over 11 years. Finally! He came with AMC.

Whenever he went to Honolulu, he would go to hear Aunty Genoa Keawe sing. He shared another funny story that made you feel like you were right there listening to the dialogue between Aunty and Uluwehi. During her performance, Aunty waved at Uluwehi and said, “Uluwehi, sing one song for us.” After his song, she looked at him lovingly and said,”Uluwehi, that is a beautiful song! Can I have the words!” He answered, “Yeah! You taught me this song. I would be glad to share the words with you.” Two weeks later at the Monkey Pod Tree event in Maui, he gave her the words; she sang the song and Uluwehi danced the hula. That was the last time they performed together as she passed away shortly after. At EKK, one of his dancers from Hokkaido, Kealani Iwase, graced the stage with a hula to Ku’u Milimili, the song that was taught to him by Aunty Genoa Keawe. What a beautiful treat!

EKK audience is undoubtedly one of the best audiences to perform for. Alan noted how warm and friendly the audience was, how great the sound team was in making them sound good, and how much it affects the way the artists perform. Alan asked each artist if they ever played to a “dead audience … as if performing for dead people or zombies.” The answers were as unexpected and different as each artist. Kevin said that once he and his brother were playing at a hotel, but they looked around and found they were playing to only tables and chairs. Herb Ohta mused, “Hmmmmmm?” He once had a gig at a department store for the “Aloha Yokohama Festival.” Just when he did his strum, “I heard someone snoring” right on cue. “If I can make a Japanese businessman relax, sleep, snore, I feel really good about that” as high-stress Japanese businessmen reputedly have high suicide rates. Uluwehi shared that as kids in Hailemaile, they took long walks upcountry, stopped to play, and found themselves performing right in a graveyard. Alan asked, “Did they clap?” Uluwehi replied, “Thunderous applause!”

And it was thunderous applause all night long as the EKK audience loved every minute of the generous and genuine sharing of their talents, their stories, and their Aloha. Happily Alan ventured, “Please invite us back again!” You can bet on that.

Who’s Coming Up Next at EKK?

Monday, February 10, 2014, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
E Kanikapila Kakou “Continuing the Legacy”
Kalama’ola — Kumu Hula Maka Herrod & Kumu Hula Puna Dawson
6:00 – 7:00: Ukulele Circle & Hula Circle
7:00 – 9:00: Interactive Performance

If you have a disability and need assistance please email Carol Yotsuda at <giac05@icloud.com> for Monday events.

(s) Carol Kouchi Yotsuda, www.gardenislandarts.org — “Celebrating 36 years of bringing ARTS to the people and people to the ARTS”

E Kanikapila Kakou 2013 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.

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