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Who’s Coming Next Week? Monday, February 10
A Match Made in Musical Heaven
The morning after the night before, my faithful volunteer Jodi Ascuena, shows up to work just bristling with excitement. She emailed me the night before: “What a spectacular night. I am SO excited, I will NEVVAH sleep tonight, no sirree, not me!” I’m sure that others shared the same elation after Jerry and Kamuela took us on their magical musical journey. I got home with my usual Monday night exhaustion and passed out to deep sleep immediately, but surprise! surprise! When I woke up next morning, what did I find in my computer email? It was a passage definitely written by me but when? I think I wrote it in my sleep and emailed it to myself; here it is:
Two consummate musicians and a standing-room-only crowd of adoring fans and new faces eager to become fans is the recipe for an evening of shared experiences that will go down in the books for all present.
Starting with Jerry’s distinctive voice that we have all come to love through years of “groupie” attendance at his many gigs and playing our worn-out tapes and CD’s since the early days when Jerry sported long hair and sang with his partner Robert Beaumont and others collectively known as Olomana. Add to that the musical genius of Kamuela Kimokeo on his “aladdin-mat” guitar which can sweep you away with breathtaking riffs that can go on and on forever!
What a combination and what a performance as they opened with a multi- pronged medley that took the audience on a journey of songs that layered lyrics and melodies that we all shared through many years and many locations throughout Hawai’i. Starting with “Hawai’i Aloha” and many of our favorite songs which read like a musical anthology of life in the Hawaiian islands through the past five decades. It was a journey that tied us together— young and old, kama’aina and visitors in a musical romp through time and space, experiences and encounters, happy times and sad that make up our collective memories.
-Sent from my iphone
Sometimes I surprise myself. I must have been dreaming about the performance.
Jerry is known to plan his play list to fit the theme of wherever he is playing and the song selection for EKK was perfect as the duo harmonized brilliantly and spontaneously through familiar titles like Island in the Sun, Hawai’i Aloha, Maikai No Kaua’i, Puamana, Maori Brown Eyes, Holoholo Ka’a, Pupu A’o ‘Ewa, skillfully woven together hakumele-style into Songs of Old Hawai’i. The songs remind us of the places where we live.
Two extraordinary voices – Jerry’s in a lower register and Kamuela’s multi-octave voice gliding up and down with such ease — soaring and filling the entire room from wall to wall with the sounds that have brought us such joy for so many years. Audience applause was tangible evidence that everyone appreciated the music.
Both musicians hail from Kahalu’u, the real country scene five miles past Kane’ohe. In the 1950’s many families moved to windward O’ahu, far away from the frantic crowded Honolulu scene. Waiahole Elementary School, which is 160 years old now and still standing, was where youngsters attended public school. If the school lunch was junk, they just went to the river to swim. One road in, one road out … this idyllic life-style was good for a kid growing up in the early 1970’s. Many residents so fondly remember similar experiences.
Having grown up in the then unappreciated luxury of laid-back rural life, is it any wonder that when Jerry ventured out to spread his wings in San Francisco with its uphill streets, flats with many stairs and broken heaters, he experienced that yearning for his home . . . a home that then felt like a dream. He sat down and wrote a song for his sister who chose to live close to home. It’s a song about the way people and places change. The resulting Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u made a big impact on Hawaiian music as it bridged the gap between contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music and had far reaching effects among musicians when it first came out. It is still making an impact as a song that defines that indescribable yearning and remembrance that “keiki o ka ‘aina” have for their small-kid time home which they carry in their hearts no matter how far they travel out into the world. Project KULEANA assembled a fantastic slate of musicians to create a musical montage of artists sharing their love of this place called home.
Kamuela Kimokeo, the musical director of Windward Community College, has been to EKK before with the musical group Hi’ikua and even during the early days at Island School cafeteria. An excellent teacher as those in the ‘ukulele circle will agree, he designs the music programs at the college where he greatly impacts the matriculation of many aspiring young musicians who are beginning to take the stage with their teachers. His in-house program for the students and the community is similar to EKK where he exposes the learners to many of Hawai’i’s musical resources, including Jerry Santos.
Growing up with the backdrop of Ko’olaupoko, Kamuela loves living in Kane’ohe. With the happiest grin on his face and his amazing fingering on his guitar, he sang Kane’ohe like it was a love song . . . a love song for a place called home. Abby Kong and Johnny Noble commemorated the installation of electricity at Kane’ohe tied in with a delightful love affair in windward O’ahu.
Kamuela says college students enjoy songs of love. Sweet Someone by Baron Keyes and Isham Jones’ It had to be You, an old favorite performed by many and made famous by Frank Sinatra, were two love songs that they integrated into one. Pretty awesome.
Jerry’s home turf musically has for the past 28 years been Hilton Hawaiian Village. The great part of keeping the same venue is that whenever folks are in Honolulu, they know which night to go where to catch Jerry’s Music. Jerry shared that often Aunty Genoa Keawe would stop by at his Hawaiian Village venue on her way home from her own gig, and when invited to sing a song, often ended up playing a whole set. I’ve been there and luckily experienced Aunty Genoa singing with Jerry on more than one occasion. Together Jerry and Kamuela are now regulars at Aulani Disney Resorts on the other side of the Island.
Songwriter, composer, pianist and singer Bob Nelson, who stood taller than anyone else, was also a frequent visitor to Jerry’s regular gigs. With that they sang his most popular song Hanalei Moon, a hula favorite that brought many dancers up to the stage – Vern Kauanui, Elena Gillespie, Mahina Baliaris, Fern Merle-Jones, Firipi Salas, Momi Thacker, Ihi’ihi Kaneali’i, Madeleine Guyett, Holly Namaka Lindsay and Kamaha’o Haumea-Thronas. Even volunteers Mizu Sumida, Jodi and Victor Ascuena were doing their own version of Hanalei Moon at the volunteer tables. Kamuea could make the sounds of the steel guitar on his regular guitar.
During sound check I asked Jerry if he can do a short video interview. “No need be long . . . just short kine is fine.” His tongue-in-cheek response was, “Are you asking a Portugee to talk only short kine?”
Jerry is a master of mo’olelo; his stories are colorful, fascinating and endless. He shared one story about his Kaua’i encounter with the supernatural. A product of the plantation and the youngest of nine children to a mother born in Mana and a dad from Hawai’i Island who later lived many years on Kaua’i, Jerry learned throughout the years that he has more Kaua’i ‘ohana under the ground that above the ground. He learned that many of them who lived in the 1930’s and 1940’s, including his own grandparents, now reside in the Hanapepe Filipino cemetery located on the bluff above the ocean in Port Allen. So, on his visit to Kaua’i, he decided to do some clean up at the cemetery during the cool hours of the setting sun. As he was getting ready to leave, he noticed little lights popping up in the cemetery. “Okay, I not bothering anybody! I going home now! Thank You!” he nervously called out. More and more lights, some in red and green, started popping up all over the graveyard. He discovered that residents were placing little solar lights near the tombstones that gathered sun energy all day and started popping up as the sun went down.
“Thank you, Cindy Combs!” called out Jerry as he and Kamuela launched into I Love Kaua’i, truly a perfect sentiment for residents of this incredible island called home. Just as he and Kamuela had to learn how to appreciate their home in the Kane’ohe area by going away, many Kauaians have learned the gift of home that is called Kaua’i. Lizzy Alohikea’s Nani Kaua’i gave Kamuela a chance to show off his vocal range while Jerry translated lyrics of the songs. Po’ai Galindo and Sabra Kauka did not miss the opportunity to dance to this favorite hula song.
They topped off the first half with three more beautiful love songs in English – In Your Hawaiian Way, Ma’ane’i Mai ‘Oe, and E Ku’ulei E Ku’uipo.
After intermission, audience members who took the time to fill out the attendance sheet had a chance to win CD’s from Mark Yamanaka, Ozzie Kotani, Makaha Sons, Jeff Peterson, George Kahumoku, and Kupaoa. All great albums from our favorite musicians. The Kamoa ‘ukulele was won by one elated Sandy Menasche who lives part-time in Princeville and part time in Washington state. She was simply beside herself with joy; so wonderful to witness such appreciation. Thank you, Kamoa!
Jerry and Kamuela started the second half with another medley of favorites perfect for their voices and for showing off their amazing guitar accompaniment – Seabird, Home, and Kanaka Waiwai – songs sung by many that have become an important part of Hawaiian standards.
E Ku’u Sweet Lei Poina’ole composed by Emma De Fries was one of the songs that they taught to the ‘ukulele circle; they invited the students to get out their instruments and play along as they harmonized. Jerry’s close friend and mentor, Emma captured in the lyrics of her song the importance of making and giving leis as it carries significant meaning for the giver and receiver of the lei. Kumu hula Susan Floyd and Fern Merle-Jones were joined by members of “Halau Hula Na Lei Kupua O Kauai” from Princeville in a beautiful group hula; you could see the influence of their Hula Loea Frank Kawaikapu’okalani Hewett in their hula choreography. Lady Ipo and Vern Kauanui also shared the hula.
Audience participation is always a treat at EKK; when Jerry spotted his long-time friend, the fabulous Lady Ipo dancing the hula, he quickly ventured, “You like sing one song for us?” Lady Ipo joined them on the stage and jumped right into the action with The Breeze and I in her relaxed bluesy style. “Don’t tell anyone Lady Ipo was here; she supposed to be singing somewhere else!” said Jerry.
Another audience participation treat was in store for all as Kamuela and Jerry started talking about having seen a young Kaua’i singer on Facebook performing on the stage with other heavy hitters such as “Na Palapalai.” Jerry asked, “You like come up and sing with us?” inviting young Kamaha’o Haumea-Thronas who has become an EKK regular. His Mom shared that he has marked his Mondays on his calendar with EKK because he loves learning new songs in the ‘ukulele circle. And we have been fortunate to be able to see him sing and dance the hula much to the surprise of many in the audience. In introducing Kamaha’o, Kamuela’s quirky humor spills out, “I love it and hate it when we perform with these amazing young generation singers because we suddenly become invisible … we disappear like David Copperfield. In a few seconds, Jerry and I will fade away into the background and disappear ….” Kamaha’o must have quite a repertoire of falsetto songs as tonight he sang Wai’alae and Waikoloa. As usual, the stunned crowd was screaming hana hou! hana hou!
When they decided to sing Leahi, Kamuela offered, “Let me tell you a story.” He, too, is an amazing storyteller, sharing the hidden meaning in what looks like innocent Hawaiian lyrics, but with his colorful tongue-in-cheek interpretation of each line, Leahi took on a whole different meaning. It also helped us to understand the catchy rhythm of the song and why they sing it with that guttural Gabby Pahinui growl. The composer, Mary Pula’a Robbins, uses the lyrics in her song to let her husband, the caretaker of the Diamond Head Lighthouse, know that she knew of his “extracurricular activities” in the lighthouse. “You should have been more careful about the ‘buoy with the bell’; you swam too close to the wrong buoy and now you and I are headed for the reef … don’t let the door hit you on your way out! Goodbye for us, My Love!” Touche! She wielded her sword and cut to the chase.
In the same mood, the duo got into the catchy rhythm of Tewe Tewe; Ihi’Ihi Kaneali’i came up to dance her sit-down hula and it doesn’t take a long explanation to show that this was a fun but naughty song. A couple of times her hula action even stopped Kamuela’s guitar-strumming dead in its track as he dropped his jaws and watched Ihi’ihi’s hula story-telling.
The whole evening was a gift of appreciation about what we enjoy in this place called home. For their final number, they shared a song of love and appreciation which was taught to the ‘ukulele circle — Ka Na’i Aupuni. Hawai’i Aloha once again brought the evening to a close with all joining hands and singing together.
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Info at www.gardenislandarts.org — “Celebrating 43 years of bringing ARTS to the people and people to the ARTS”
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.