“These guys are hot!”
It was homecoming night in the Jasmine Ballroom at the Kaua’i Beach Resort as “snowbirds” and residents enthusiastically greeted each other after about nine month’s absence. Many new faces directed by family and friends to be at EKK — it’s a “must” when you travel to Kaua’i — looked on with anticipation while old friends greeted each other warmly. Aunty Fran Nestel was on hand with dozens of leis made with loving hands to welcome visitors with a sweet scented token of Hawaiian friendship. Yes! It was the inaugural night of EKK 2014 and the place was buzzing.
Aunty Angeline Locey, always front and center at EKK, kept leaning over toward me every few songs; with twinkling eyes and glowing smile, she kept whispering, “These guys are hot!” “Where did you find them?” At the end of the magical evening before heading home to Anahola, she whispers, “What a hot, hot way to begin Kanikapila!”
With Hawaiian music coming in so many different styles and packaging, it’s not always easy to find a group that delivers music that captures that very special sound that takes us back to the early days. With the masterful touch of artists caressing their sophisticated instruments, their music is current and at the same time, timeless.
Monday, January 20, 2014
“The Essence of Kanikapila” captured by Kimo Hussey and the Kaua’i Kama’ainas
Artists like to start their programs singing a song from the host island and what better way to open the show than with Gabby Manintin singing Nani Kauai in his flawless falsetto. Voice of an angel so easily flowing from, of all things, the lips of an engineer. “How can?” Gabby’s Hawaiian falsetto or leo ki’e ki’e, is so much a part of the Kama’aina’s sound that Gabby was featured in several of the best-known melodies such as Akaka Falls from Hawai’i Island, Kalama’ulu from Molokai and several others. Genoa Keawe would have been pleased to hear Gabby singing her signature song. Not to be locked into one style only, his final solo rendition was The Hawaiian Cowboy and he did the paniolos proud with his yodeling.
I was amazed to learn after the program that Kimo Hussey and the Kama’ainas were winging it without any rehearsal except for a couple of songs during sound check. Nodding to each other, the program effortlessly evolved with a beautiful blend of the best of old Hawaiian melodies.
For many years, the Kama’aina’s with their leaders, 93-year-old Amby Smith and David Sproat (who unfortunately had to be on the mainland tonight) entertained every Thursday evening in the restaurant at Waimea Plantation Cottages. Performing tonight were Edward Punua on steel guitar, Gabby Manintin with his guitar and soaring falsetto and Jack Wilhelm on his ‘ukulele which has been transformed into a bass. Joining his good friends and toting his favorite ‘ukulele, jazz ‘ukulele soloist Kimo Hussey hails from the island of O’ahu. It took a lot of effort to finally get him to our island as Kimo is sought after in many countries. He has a gift for reaching out and touching his audience emotionally.
Kimo conducted the ‘ukulele circle during the first hour and loved the dedication and interest of everyone in the group because they really wanted to learn to play. He offered to return to Kaua’i to give an ‘ukulele workshop, so look for the sign-up sheet next week.
Artists are often multi-talented in many arenas. Ed Punua, the newest and youngest member of the Kama’aina group is a talented visual artist who spent many years in my high school art classes exploring every fun art project i sent his way; he excelled in everything. Of course, as a member of the Victor and Mary Ann Punua family where generations start performing on stage while still in training pants, Edward is no stranger to the stage.
His Mom, the famous late kumu hula Mary Ann Punua, made sure he got the best instruction when he expressed interest in learning to play the steel guitar. So while attending the University of Hawai’i, he took steel guitar lessons from Barney Isaacs and quickly moved up in the ranks of steel guitar players in Hawai’i. The magical sounds of this musical instrument was discovered in 1893 by an accidental drop of a comb onto the strings. Haunting and exotic, the sound of the steel became the rage and is reminiscent of early romantic Hawai’i. Steel experienced a slump for awhile but with so many dedicated proponents of this instrument, the steel guitar has made a major comeback in Hawai’i. In addition, it has found its way into country music and is played in many foreign countries. Edward shared Sand, a steel guitar standard by Andy Aiona and Billy Abrams and How D’ya Do? as well as added the smooth sweeping sounds to all the songs sung by the group.
Continuing with music of the host island, Kimo gave an upbeat jazz ‘ukulele version of Ka’ualoko. The group followed with a lively rendition of Hanohano Hanalei. Another beautiful song, A’oia, sung and played with an up-tempo beat had folks on the fringes dancing and bopping. Kimo, whose last name is anything but Hawaiian, traced the migration of the Hussey name from England, a land of many “Husseys” to Nantucket, from which one Hussey, a missionary, sailed to Waipio where he was asked to build a church. That Hussey loved Kohala a lot, and everyone in Kohala loved him so much, they encouraged him to stay by offering him the “pick of the litter.” She eventually became Kimo’s great-great-grandmother. Hence, the emergence of the Hawaiian Husseys. He sang Maikai Kamakani O Kohala to honor the place in Hawaii where Husseys took root.
Hawai’i Island is a place with beautiful songs speaking of distinctively different little towns. Our presenters took us on a musical tour of that island. Close to Kohala is Kamuela or Waimea with its distinctive green rolling hillsides. Nani Waimea speaks of this unique and charming little town. Tucked away on the north shore is a jewel of a place called Waipio, where the legendary waterfall harbored lovers in their secret hideaway. Of course they called on Gabby to sing Hi’ilawe. Moving down the coast toward Hilo town we stopped to take in the breathtaking majesty of Akaka Falls, another unforgettable falsetto song.
Just as the ‘ukulele is so much a part of Hawai’i, pidgin English is also very much Hawai’i, so Jack sang the Pidgin English Hula. Born and raised in Maui, Jack Wilhelm shared a medley of songs about the Valley isle with a jazz beat that had everyone tapping and swaying. Haiku, Paia, Pu’unene, Waikamu, and a number of little plantation towns found their way into the songs of the island. Waikiki by Andy Cummings, a song that takes us back to the days of “Hawaii Calls”, was a song that Jack wanted to share. He also gave pointers to Hawaiian music lovers to check out “Huapala” website to find any song lyrics and melody. Another great site is “Onsong” for anyone trying to transpose to another key and expand one’s grasp of playing music.
One of the highlights of the evening was the ‘ukulele giveaway. A beautiful ‘ukulele donated by Kamoa ‘Ukulele of Kapa’a was to be won by one lucky donor to the ‘ukulele kitty. Before the name was drawn, Kimo was asked to play on the Gift ‘Ukulele…and did he ever play! It sounded awesome with his magical fingers just strumming, strumming, strumming. Boy! He is good! Drum roll……a name is picked out from the jar by audience member Sandra Rice….and the lucky winner of the Gift ‘ukulele is…..Mike Horning of Kalaheo!!! Lucky guy! Huge mahalo to the generous folks at Kamoa ‘ukulele who will be donating nine more instruments…one for each week. Another good reason to show up at EKK!
As folks hugged each other good bye for another week and started exiting the ballroom with that “warm and fuzzy” look on their faces, the group continued to play and sang a beautiful himeni, I Call Him Lord, wishing everyone safe driving home. The akamai ones came back in to their seats because this party was not quitting. Jack asked Gabby to play a slack key number requested by my older brother Claude Kouchi of Westminster who finally made his way to EKK; so Gabby slacked his keys and played The Poi Song made famous by Uncle Led Kaapana. Shouts of hana hou!
To be continued next week…..with yet another fabulous group!
Who’s Coming Up Next at EKK?
Monday, January 27, 2014, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
E Kanikapila Kakou “Continuing the Legacy”
Cyril Pahinui (slack key guitar) with Jeff Au Hoy (steel guitar) & Peter Moon, Jr. (‘ukulele)
6:00 – 7:00: Peter will lead ‘ukulele circle; Jeff will share techniques on steel guitar; Cyril will have a slack key circle for guitar players.
If you have a disability and need assistance please email Carol Yotsuda at <email@example.com
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(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.