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Ukulele Inspiration and Hula Madness Was Da Bomb

If you want to experience the essence of EKK, you need to be part of the Community Hula Night! It’s organized chaos! It’s a carnival of dancers, music, hula, leis, honi honi, wala’au, all going on at the same time. It’s amazing to see the evening play out so beautifully after the four kumu hula — Nathan Kalama, Lei Kirkpatrick, Hinano Lazaro and Kamealoha Forrest — and their elective haumana spent 45 precious minutes learning a hula. Each kumu finding an open floor space to gather there “brood” and try to teach their dance was a feat in itself.

On one side of the stage was Lei Kirkpatrick with her adorable little alakaishowing how to roar and “scratch their claws like mountain lions” and on the other side of the stage was Hinano Lazaro and his alakai teaching a huge group of dancers. There was Uncle Nathan at center stage, sandwiched between the two other groups beating his ipu heke for his dancers, chanting and shouting, “Turn off that music!” which was blaring on either side of the stage. Kamealoha Forrest was nicely tucked in at the back of the ballroom so he breezed along with his haumana.

The pu was sounded, Maka Herrod of the Malie Foundation began the program with everyone singing the Doxology in Hawaiian. Carol welcomed all the guests from near and far, and acknowledged the supporters of the program. The special guests for the evening was a nine-member ‘ukulele troupe who traveled all the way from Japan to share their music with the EKK audience. Headed by Mr. Toshihiku Harasawa who surprisingly had a 40-year friendship with our own Lady Ipo Kahauna’ele from her days of playing music in Japan, ‘Ukulele Paradise was invited to share their own brand of hula music and original songs.

All dressed up in their stylish kimono, seven musicians took the stage – group leader Toshi Harasawa on guitar, award-winning artist Hironobu Saito on guitar and ‘ukulele, Hawai’i-born Grace Mika as vocalist,

Kaoru Takahashi on bass, Daeseki on ‘ukulele and bass, coordinator Naoko Takashima and lead vocalist Nazuki Takahashi on ‘ukulele and vocals – opened up their segment with Ua Nani Na Pua O Hawai’i Nei followed by two hula favorites Aloha Kaua’i and Hula O Makee. The music was so rich and full that 14 dancers jumped up on stage and around the room to dance the hula. Lady Ipo, Po’ai Galindo, Madeleine Guyett, Vern Kauanui, Mahina Baliaris, Kathy Kovala and eight more beautiful dancers thrilled the audience.

Two other musicians, Yasu Nakai and Katsuhiro Sakuyama on their first visit to our island from Onahama city in Iwaki (Kaua’i’s sister city), joined the troupe for a song titled Onahama about the large 15-foot diameter yellow buoy that embarked on its miraculous Pacific Rim ocean journey after the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima prefecture in which 20,000 people disappeared from the devastating disaster.

Naoko Takashima called on Art Umezu to give the background on his song about this giant yellow buoy which floated from Onahama Harbor through the Pacific Ocean, was seen in Northern California, and later found its way to Nohili on the southwest side of Kaua’i and finally to Port Allen harbor where it now rests. Art pointed out that in 1991 music producer Harasawa was instrumental in making the Sister City with Iwaki happen. Mayor Shimizu who came to Kaua’i asked Art to attend a big anniversary event in Iwaki in 2014, so he composed the song Onahama about the yellow buoy and was thrilled to learn that the group was performing the song tonight. Each year 1.8 million people go to Iwaki City for their hula show. Vocalist, Grace Mika sang the song accompanied by the band. Troy Hinano Lazaro, who travels to Japan often, came up to dance the hula . . . what an superb hula dancer!

Hironobu Saito performed Tasogare, an original instrumental number accompanied by Daeseki, Harasama and Takahashi. He bought his first ‘ukulele in a music store in Hanapepe, but tonight he was playing an ‘ukulele made by KoAloha. He was born in Miyazaki prefecture in Japan and matriculated at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was the first Japanese artists to have a CD debut with the Spanish label Fresh Sound Records. He has released 7 leading albums and two singles on Yamaha & King Records. In 2011, he received the “Best New Artist” award at the 23rd Music Pen Club Awards, Japan’s equivalent to the Grammy’s. He has played extensively in many Music Festivals worldwide and has visited Kaua’i many times.

Vocalist Mika Grace was born in Hawai’i but grew up in Japan. Her first stage performance was “Annie” and she continues to appear in other musicals, Hawaiian music and jazz concerts. She and Nazuki Takahashi sang Pua ‘Olenacomposed by Jimmy Kaholokula; the beautiful Kainani Viado went up to dance. Mika Grace led the troupe singing Hanalei Moon. Like lilies popping up in an open field, over thirty dancers popped up all the over ballroom, filling the stage and all the aisles and open spaces with many different versions of one of Kaua’i’s favorite hula. Mokihana Lullaby sung by Nazuki Takahashi in her exquisite voice, brought more dancers to the stage. Uncle Dennis Kamakahi’s O Koke’e with a jazzy beat was their final hula number. They sang it with so much joy; the audience appreciated their unique musical arrangements big time.

‘Ukulele Paradise School was established in 1999; today more than 1,000 students not only learn to play the ‘ukulele but also cultivate cultural exchange with Hawai’i by learning about the history of Japanese-Hawaiian people and the culture of Hawai’i. They have been participating in the Bon Dance celebrations at the Waimea Shingon Temple and the Hilo Hongwanji Mission. Information on their school can be found on their website, It was pretty awesome to see Kimono-clad musicians so joyfully singing Hawaiian music. It was thrilling for the troupe members to see so many dancing to their music.

Before the intermission Daeseki showed off the Kamoa ‘ukulele that would be given away after the intermission; he sang Stand by Me. The ‘ukulele was won by John Bana from Brooklyn, New York.

Following the intermission, Malie Foundation took on the reins of EKK Community Hula Night, giving hula dancers on Kaua’i the opportunity to learn a hula from a kumu of their choice, regardless of their regular halau affiliation. And what fabulous choices they had, several of them wishing they could clone themselves to take advantage of the opportunity to dance with Uncle Nathan, Lei Kirkpatrick, Hinano Lazaro or Kamealoha Forrest. How they managed to fit all the hula dancers into four circles to learn the different hula was a lesson in “managed chaos” as Lady Ipo so aptly put it. The first hour was an absolutely wonderful mad house of joyful activity as beaming hula dancers learned and practiced and rehearsed diligently in their “pop-up” halau. Fantastic!

The Kaua’i Band, composed of Darryl Gonzales on guitar, Lady Ipo and Maka Herrod on ‘ukulele and Anuhea Herrod on upright bass, played all the songs and filled the scene-change time with music.

First up in the hula segment was Uncle Nathan’s group who performed Nani Ka’ala to the beat of the ipuheke 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 Haina verse.

While waiting for Nathan’s halau N? K?puna O Kalamaolaimaluhialani to come up for the hana hou, Maka called for audience participation with one of the top ten songs in his repertoire. Always funny, Maka told the audience, “if you don’t get it after the first verse, I will text you!” The audience joined in four verses of Magic Is the Moonlight which was very easy to learn because each verse was four lines of the title . . . can’t go wrong.

Nathan said his halau name translates to “The Golden ‘Gas & Go’ Girls”. In 2006 dancers from many countries joined Kumu Hula Puna Kalama Dawson in Bodensee, Germany where Nathan composed the hula Aloha Bodensee. Aunty Vickie, Polei Palmeira, Arlene Kon, Nani Rogers, Manulele Dudoit and Aunty Beverly Muraoka showed off their kupuna “Gas and Go!” hula moves in the key of G. For the hana hou to their hana hou, they danced to Nathan’sPacific Heights Hula which was composed in the 1980’s at the home of Kamuela Ka’ahanui.

The second hula circle was led by Kumu Hula Lehi’ilani Kirkpatrick whoseHalau Ka Lei Kukui Hi’ilani is based in Princeville. Tonight her halau was comprised of young and old, male and female, beginner and advanced — a happy feisty group that learned well the hula Hinalei composed by her kumu Frank Kawaikapu’okalani Hewett about two rascal boys who caused big trouble for a couple because they loved to gossip about the wife. Darryl Gonsalves sang the song. Most distinctive about this hula is that it looked like mountain lions scratching with their claws. Gossip brings out the CAT in everyone, for sure! So much fun! Lei danced an exquisite hula to the songWaika sung by Lady Ipo.

Kamealoha Forrest whose Halau Hula ‘o Ke’alalaua’eomakana is based in Waipa in Halele’a taught a fast-paced five-verse version of Na Ui O Kaua’i which speaks of the unique beauty of the Hanalei/Haena area that he calls home. The twenty-verse version might have been too much to learn in 45 minutes. It was amazing to be able to have Kamealoha participate in Community Hula Night as he had to fly out on the next flight to Georgia. He did manage a hana hou to the song Aloha No which Lena Machado wrote for her sweetheart. Kamealoha has finally completed his Master’s Degree, but now this amazing young man is going back to school to study law. How great is that!

Maka Herrod threw in a plug for Kaua’i Mokihana Festival 2019 celebrating its 35th Year from September 22 – 28.

The final hula circle taught by the dynamic Troy Hinano Lazaro of Halau Ka Pa Hula o Hinano danced to Ilei Beniamina’s Ho’ola Lahui Hawai’i which focuses on the health care of Hawaiians. Today there are two Ho’ola Lahui health clinics dedicated to the care of the Hawaiian people. For his hana hounumber, Hinano chose to feature his two kane, Kekoa and Casey, dancing a hula kahiko inspired by the Goddess Pele. He wanted to focus on the island of Kaua’i this year, but when they traveled to Hawai’i Island to celebrate hula and witness Pele’s eruptions; they researched the history of Hawai’i and found that about 100 years ago, there was an incredible rainfall and flood on Kaua’i followed by the devastating eruptions in Puna. This same scenario was repeated in 2018 with the devastating enormous rainfall and floods on Kaua’i followed by the massive Kilauea eruptions on Hawai’i Island. The powerful hula kahiko was based on their experiences on Hawai’i Island.

Maka Herrod called on all the kumu hula and their alakai and anyone else who knew the hula to come up to the stage for the final number as a tribute to two Kumu Hula, Keala Kinimaka Senkus and Kaua’i’iki Olores, who recently passed away. What a sight to see all those amazing kumu hula andalakai dancing to the sassy Papa Lina Lahilahi. Without missing a beat, Maka moved right into 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 2019 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.

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