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Who’s Coming Next Week? Monday, January 27
Community Hula Night Embraces, Inspires, Celebrates – What a Way to Start the EKK 2020 Season!
2020 started on January 1, but for me the new year started with the first night of EKK, celebrating the Community Hula night. In the weeks leading up to the first Monday, many emails, text messages, notes in the mail from our many EKK supporters asking for the EKK line-up of artists, asking to sign up as EKK patrons … all of these communications coming in from many started to build the buzz that accompanies the first night of the much-anticipated EKK season. My “101 Things To Do” check list seemed insurmountable, but all the encouragement from our participants kept me on track.
Malie Foundation does not disappoint; they take on the production and presentation of Community Hula Night with the usual creative thinking and excellent execution. They contacted their Facebook followers with a colorful poster sharing that four kumu hula – Uncle Nathan Kalama, Aunty Bev Muraoka, Vanessa Punua and Aunty Puna Kalama Dawson – would be teaching hula to four eager groups of dancers. During the first hour, all hula dancers present were given the opportunity to learn a hula from one of the kumu, regardless of their regular halau affiliation. Everyone diligently learned and rehearsed in the very short workshop they had.
While participants in the four hula circles concentrated on learning an entire hula in 45 minutes, all the loyal EKK supporters, snowbirds, new faces from Kaua’i, the continent and other countries were running about greeting old friends and making new friends with leis, hugs, kisses . . . the usual aloha-fest of friends so happy to see each other.
Feedback from my volunteers reinforced the wisdom of starting with the Community Hula Night as I got comments such as, “We should start with Community Hula Night every year; it’s like a huge party with everyone so happy to be there!” “Wow! Opening night was so wonderful I could not go to sleep after I got home; it was such a ‘high’ with so much going on and so many surprises!”
Onio Punzal called everyone to come together by sounding the pu. Carol welcomed all the guests from near and far and acknowledged the loyal EKK supporters. Maka Herrod, charismatic director of the Malie Foundation began the program with Hawai’i Ponoi and the Doxology. He introduced the amazing “Kaua’i Pop-up Band” comprised of Eddie Punua on steel guitar, Anuhea Herrod on upright bass, Haunani Kaui on guitar, Kunane Aipolani on Hawaiian piano and Chanel Flores and Maka on ‘ukulele. Puna Dawson, Jeremy and Aimee Brown joined the band for the first portion. What fabulous vocals and accompaniment!
Kumu Hula Puna Kalama Dawson invited her dancers to the stage; although only 25 – 30 dancers were brave enough to come up to dance to Sweet Ka Makani, many more participants earlier took the opportunity to learn from her expertise. Puna is highly respected for organizing major cultural hula events with halau followers in Hawai’i, Japan, Europe and wherever she has hula followers. Puna is a force of nature.
The audience called for a hana hou performance from Puna’s group. She called 95-year-old Betty Wiechhart, the oldest member of her halau, to come to the stage. She was joined by eight of Puna’s haumana. What followed was an unexpected and very moving performance of the somber pule ‘O ‘Oe ‘Io. Maka sent this number out to the families of the two police officers who were killed in the line of duty at the horrendous fire in Hawai’i Kai the day before. Sadly, one of the two officers, Kaulike Kalama, was Puna Kalama Dawson’s nephew.
Vanessa Punua, taught an upbeat hula titled Hula Breeze, a popular hapa-haole hula reminiscent of cellophane skirts and the sweet sound of the steel guitar. As a haumana of her mother-in-law, the late Ku’ulei Punua, Vanessa loved the stories told to her about the days when Ku’ulei danced in Waikiki as one of the Kent Gerard “Hula Nani Girls” to the music of Alfred Apaka and other Hawaiian Music greats of that era. While there were many dancers in Vanessa’s hula workshop, only 13 of them were brave enough to come up to the stage for the mini-hoike. The performance was really special as Eddie Punua, our resident steel guitar expert and husband of Vanessa, set the tone of the hapa-haole hula with the sweet strains of his steel guitar. The big surprise was his vocal rendition of the hula mele in a voice reminiscent of the vocalists in the days of Hawai’i Calls. As their hana hou number, Eddie sang the popular Nawiliwili to the sound of his steel guitar and backed up by the other eight members of the band. Vanessa and her haumana gave a zesty performance of that popular song.
Kumu hula Bev Muraoka called up her group of 22 dancers to share her song titled Lili’u E honoring the last Queen Liliu’okalani. It was a challenging number as her kumu alakai, Laola Rapozo, chanted the kahiko version while keeping the beat on the ipu heke as the dancers performed kahiko hula of each verse; alternately, Beverly led the group in the ‘auana version of the song. Very skillfully the dancers switched back and forth from the chanting to the singing. Such a rare treat to see a number performed in this manner. Huge applause and calls for hana hou. Six of Aunty Bev’s haumana and several other dancers in the audience followed with the mele hula to the beautiful Po La’i La’i.
Uncle Nathan’s hula group was comprised of only intermediate to advanced dancers; they performed seven selected verses from Nathan’s original chant of 14 verses written in honor of the late Dana Olores who passed away a year ago. When Dana, Nathan’s first hula student, bought a new truck, they decided to put the truck to a test by driving from Hanalei, around the island, all the way to Koke’e. Each verse of I Ka Malie lauded the special feature of each of 14 stops around the island. At a rest stop in Wailua, Nathan pointed out a cloud formation in the sky which Dana said looked like a former Miss Kaua’i, Kapiolani Toledo. Thus her name became associated with this chant.
Nathan shared a funny story about this chant. He was later invited by the owner of the Toledo Dairy to perform this number for a baby lu’au in Oahu. The lu’au was a “first” for Nathan as the food served on chinaware with fork and knife was comprised of a small square of lomi salmon, one tomato and a slice of onion. Something new every day!
For his hana hou number, Nathan called his “Golden Girls” haumana from halau N? K?puna O Kalamaolaimaluhialani, comprised of Polei Palmeira, Manulele Dudoit, Arlene Kon, Nani Rogers, Barbara Say, Haulani Fernandez and Bev Muraoka. They performed Nani Ka’ala to the beat of the ipu heke and Nathan’s chant which took us from Mount Ka’ala to Nu’uanu, over the pali to Kailua, Kaneohe, He’eia, Waihole to Waikane and finally the ha’ina verse. It was about a very busy woman who had a lot of “activity” at every stop and every “activity” was chock-full of kaona (hidden meanings) which were very evident in each dancer’s hula moves.
During the intermission, CD’s from many favorite artists were given away to lucky attendees who filled out their registration survey, and the lucky winner of the Kamoa ‘ukulele drawing was Jerry Jackson of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. He was one happy man!
The second half of the evening was a wonderful and playful hula free-for-all where any and all dancers could step up to the stage to dance to the many hula favorite songs requested by the audience. The audience really know their hula favorites as song after song were irresistable to the many dancers in the audience who came up from the audience to share their own hula stylings to the chosen songs.
First on the play list was Kipu Kai about the elusive beach front home of the late Charlie Rice and his hanai sons, Bill Kaiwa and Kama Yim. Vanessa Punua and her haumana were quick to step on the stage for this beautiful song sung by Eddie. Chanel Flores followed with Hula O Makee, about the tragic loss of Captain Makee’s boat which sank just outside of the shores of Kapa’a, was performed by four hula dancers with four very different choreography to that hula favorite.
Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai, called the seaweed song, is really one of the most popular hula numbers as eight dancers including many of our favorite resident hula dancers – Blaine Sasaki, Holly Namaka Lindsay, Elena Gillespie, Mahina Baliaris — and several other new faces went up to the stage for this very happy song. A big surprise was young Kamaha’o Haumea-Thronas who not only kept up with the veteran dancers but really was a stylistic stand-out on the stage.
Vocalist Chanel Flores sang the always popular Hanalei Moon. Sixteen hula dancers were up to the stage, and not surprisingly, we were treated to sixteen different choreography of this hula. The sweet sound of the steel guitar enhanced the romantic strains of this beautiful song. From the smiles on the faces of all the dancers you could tell they all felt beautiful.
Steel guitarist Eddie Punua sang a fast-paced hapa-haole favorite called Sophisticated Hula; seven sophisticated ladies showed off their hula moves to Eddie’s beautiful singing.
‘Ulupalakua, a swift song about the rolling ranch lands on the slopes of Haleakala brought up young Kamaha’o Haumea-Thronas and Hi’ilei Berg, tiny tots with fascinating hula moves. If their hula was not show-stopping awesome, the audience was blown away when young Kamaha’o stepped up to Maka’s microphone and started to belt out Papalina Lahilahi in his amazing falsetto. The surprised audience went wild with shouts of hana hou, so Kamaha’o obliged with his unbelievable rendition of ‘Alika. You could hear the audience gasp when he started to sing. Where does that sound comes out from; he is a tiny slip of a boy with a sophisticated stage presence and a voice that goes on and on and on.
Of course, no performance is complete without the Maka magic, so Aunty Bev took care of that by calling on Maka to do the Rocking Chair Hula or Noho Paipai. Aunty Bev followed with Show Me How to do the Hula.
Aloha Mokihana, a Kaua’i favorite sung by Eddie Punua invited eight dancers to the stage; Beautiful Kaua’i, another Kaua’i favorite sung by Chanel Flores, brought 13 dancers to the stage. Chanel followed this with For the Lahui danced by Maka Herrod. All too soon, the time ran out and everyone reluctantly called it an evening. An unforgettable evening.
Maka and Chanel closed with a powerful song of solidarity followed by Hawai’i Aloha so everyone could stand together and sing their favorite finale song to close a wonderfully mad and exciting evening of hula sharing. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
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Funding for E Kanikapila Kakou 2020 Hawaiian Music Program is made possible by Hawai’i Tourism through the Community Enrichment Program, with support from the County of Kaua’i Office of Economic Development, the Garden Island Arts Council supporters and 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.