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Archive for May, 2010

Inwood Hill Park (New York City, NY)

A view from Inwood Hill Park near my apartment in NYC.

Remember hearing about the 3 Rs when you were in school: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic?

And then we learned about a newer version of 3 Rs that we needed to pay attention to: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Well, lately I’ve been learning about 3 MORE Rs that we need to pay attention to: Resting, Relaxing and Recharging.

It seems there are so many opportunities to do really cool stuff! I mean I could be studying music. I could be studying the Hawaiian language. I could be working on my ‘ukulele strumming drills. I could be learning a new song to share. I could be …

Additionally, there are so many things we NEED to be doing. I need to playing for hula classes. I need to attend meetings that I’ve scheduled. I need to run errands which take me all over the city. I need to ….

But what about taking a moment to BREATHE? What’s wrong with taking a moment to chill out?

Not only is it fun, it’s essential to our survival.

Think about the airline safety announcement that you hear before takeoff. Remember the part where they tell you that you should put your OWN oxygen mask on before attempting to help those around you? Sounds kind of selfish, right? But think about it: How can you help anyone if you are unconscious? You need to make sure you are ok–and THEN you can help those around you.

Pops is always reminding me that there are hours of the day that are supposed to be used for work. And there are also hours of the day that are dedicated to rest.

For someone who works the land like he does, he knows he NEEDS to pay attention to natural cycles. Not only the seasonal planting cycles, but also the cycle of work and rest. He won’t plant the same loʻi every year. He knows that he needs to let the Earth rest, too. A chance for it to recharge.

Are we any different?

This weekend I’ve been trying to remember to REST. Trying to remember to RELAX. And hopefully I’ll RECHARGE. I’ve gone for walks in the park. I’ve cooked dinner at home instead of eating on the run. I’ve been trying to be judicious with my time spent “online”–and trying to unplug more often. I’ve attempted to retire at a “decent hour” in the evening–avoiding the late night “creative bursts” which leave me blurry-eyed and listless in the morning.

It’s easy to forget about making time to relax. We all need it.

It’s not selfish. It’s actually selfless.

When we’re well rested and recharged, we can do our best work!

I’d love to hear how you REST, RELAX & RECHARGE.

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Aloha kākou! Here’s this week’s question:

What does the legendary ‘ukulele luthier, Kamaka Hawaii ( located at 550 South Street in Honolulu, Hawai’i) offer every Tuesday – Friday at 10:30 am?

  • Please post your answer as a reply to this message.
  • All correct answers will be eligible to win a special email message from me.
  • One winner will be randomly chosen at 11:59pm EST.

WillYOUbe this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Happy Aloha Friday!

**Crooner Update: And this week’s winner is… (Drum roll, please…) Linda Leveen! Congrats, Linda! You’re a TAHC ALOHA FRIDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE SUPERSTAR!

If you guys are ever on O’ahu and looking for something to do on weekday morning, you should TOTALLY check out the Kamaka factory tour! It’s really interesting to see how the legendary ‘ukuleles are made.

Mahalo for playing! Have a great weekend.

See you guys on Monday!

Jason

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Did I ever tell you guys…

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lizard from the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden (HI)

My lizard buddy from the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden (Hawai'i)

…that I really like lizards?!

I know! I’m as surprised as you!

Especially since we didn’t have a lot of exposure to these little guys when I was growing up in the ‘burbs. But I have to say… there’s something pretty cool (and slightly otherworldly) about walking along and having one of these little fellas pop out onto the road in front of you. Or drop from the tree above you. (And yes… it’s better if they don’t drop on your head!)

Of course, there’s a story about this little guy. Stay tuned…

(At least, I THINK it’s a guy! How can you tell??)


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Aloha kākou!

I always have my iPod with me. It’s my personal jukebox.

Living in New York City, I spend a lot of time traveling underground via subway–and those rides can be long and boring! But having a collection of great music with me at all times keeps me from losing my mind. I can escape to a tropical isle with the push of a button. Portable paradise!

Here are the TOP 3 SONGS from my iPod this week:

1. Waikīkī (Andy Cummings’ recording on the album The Wandering Troubadours)

Wanna hear someone REALLY croon? Like the kind that’ll make you SWOON? This is the song. It’s not often that we have songwriters who are also great singers. (Folks like Kealiʻi Reiche l don’t come along every day, you know!) But, as Pops is always saying to me: Nānā i ke kumu. Look to the source. And with Andy Cummings, you don’t need to look any further! Yes… there are a lot of other great recordings of it. But nobody does it like him! He wrote it–and he can deliver it best.

I’ve read is that he composed this tender ballad when he was touring the mainland in 1938 and felt homesick for his beloved Waikīkī. The song is filled with all of the nuances that define that era. Beautiful lyrics. A melody that tugs at the heartstrings. And vocal flourishes that are the mark of the a master crooner. It’s a song that never grows old.

2. Wai Ānuenu e (Bill Kaiwaʻs recording on the album This is Bill Kaiwa)

Ok… I’m not usually a fan of a waltz. That 3/4 time can feel so rigid to me! But there are some beautiful Hawaiian waltzes–and this one is one of my favorites. Bill Kaiwa, a staple of the radio show Hawaʻii Calls, delivers this with his signature sound. He’s gentle and sensitive while still sounding like a rugged Hawaiian cowboy.

If I close my eyes while I’m listening to it, I can picture myself sitting by the radio on Molokai, hearing it come across the airwaves while a cool breeze rustles the lau niu (the leaves of the coconut tree) outside the window. I keep Bill Kaiwa’s recordingsin constant rotation on my iPod. I study his style… a perfect mix of masculinity and sensitivity.

4. Seabird (Olomana’s recording on the album Like a Seabird in the Wind)

I think it must be the change in the weather here in NYC that makes me crave “beach music.” You know–the kind that makes you want to lay on a towel in the sand and bake in the sun? (Yes…even super-fair-skinned folks like me dream about sunbathing!) And this song is one of those that makes me feel like I’m laying on the sands up at the North Shore on Oʻahu. Watching the killer waves and surfers. Ah….

Jerry Santos wrote this great piece that has a true 1970s vibe–complete with ocean and sea gull sound effects! Come on! That’s too cool! It’ll take you back to simpler time. Itʻll help you to relax without any nasty side effects. Now where did I put my suntan oil?

What have YOU been listening to this week? Drop me a line and let me know!

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Kumu Hula June Tanoue and Jason dancing HŌPOE (Photo by Alex Yu)

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to hula. In public. Yikes!

Now for those of you who know me, you know that I’m always quick to say “I think my dancing days are behind me.” And a public performance of a hula isn’t an every day occurrence for me. But sometimes you’ve got to just SHOW UP AND SAY “YES! Right?

Kumu Hula June Tanoue wanted to me to join her at a hula demonstration that her her hālau was giving in Chicago But this number would be just the two of us. Dancing a piece called HŌPOE.

I learned the hula when she’d taught it to her hula school, Hālau i Ka Pono, in December.

The hula was to be performed when the hālau made its way to Hawaiʻi in the spring. This particular piece holds special meaning for Kumu June as it was both composed and choreographed by HER teacher, Kumu Hula Michael Pili Pang, for the dancers of his hālau, Hālau Hula Ka Noʻeau, in Waimea, Hawaiʻi. It is about Hiʻiaka (the sister of the fiery goddess, Pele) who’s searching for her beloved friend, Hōpoe. (Note: In the Pele stories, Hōpoe was destroyed by Pele’s wrath with a lava flow.)

The hula is called a hula noho or seated hula. The dance is performed while kneeling–sitting on the heels. Sounds like it would be easier than a hula that’s danced on the feet, right?

It isn’t.

There is an element of control that one must have when doing a hula noho. An element of restraint. I think it’s difficult to be so expressive using only the hands and face. I guess I prefer the more “kolohe-style” or “rascally” hulas that allow me to be silly. What can I say–I’m a clown!

I’d had the opportunity to perform the hula in April when her hālau was on Hawaiʻi Island. And whenever we danced it, we were given truly heart-felt applause by both Hawaiians and tourists alike. It’s a subtle and beautiful piece. It often moved people to tears.

So you’d think I’d be comfortable performing it by now, right?

Wrong!

When it came time for us to dance, my heartbeat quickened. My breath became more shallow. I could feel little beads of sweat form on my brow. I wanted to run. Or be anywhere other than right there… in that moment… about to dance… Then I remembered:

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.

It had nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with my sometimes-fragile-artist ego. I was the vehicle for the message. I was the messenger.

Yes… I had to know the choreography.

Yes… I had to know the chant.

Yes… I had to SHOW UP AND SAY “YES.”

But…

The most important thing was that we were sharing Kumu Michael’s song. We were sharing his dance. We were sharing his interpretation of this part of the Pele stories. We were breathing life into his words and movements. We weren’t June and Jason.

We were storytellers.

Did I “nail it” as a performance? Well, I gave it my best shot.

Was it perfect? Nope.

Was it from the heart? Yup.

And that’s what it was all about.

Sometimes SHOWING UP AND SAYING “YES” means forgetting about the “self” and honoring the message.

Gotta love it, right?

6 Comments

Aloha in the Air–at 35,000 Feet!

Monday, May 24, 2010

This past weekend, I was in Chicago–strumming and singing for my buddy, Kumu Hula June Tanoue and her hula school, Hālau i Ka Pono.

I’ll be blogging about that later this week once I get a few pictures ready! (Gotta have pictures, right?!)

Today, I was on a flight heading back to New York City.

Now I don’t know how many of you travel to and from Chicago. Or how many of you even travel THROUGH Chicago. But if you do, you know that the weather can be unpredictable. I’m usually delayed–both arriving and leaving the city.

And that’s TOTALLY ok with me!

I’ve grown to really enjoy the Chicago area airports! There is always some good food to be found at one of their eateries. I can usually find a place to sit down while I wait. I love to watch all of the people…

But I digress…

Of course, my departing flight was delayed today–although it was because of weather here in NYC and NOT CHICAGO’S FAULT!!

And… it was a smaller “commuter plane” which means SUPER cramped quarters–and that can be a problem when I travel with my tenor ‘ukulele!

Yes… I know it’s not a BIG instrument.

Yes… I know folks have a much harder time traveling with things like cellos, tubas–even guitars! (Can people travel with harps? Iʻll be THAT would be rough. Iʻll have to ask my pal, Sarah.)

But my ‘ukulele is–well–it’s my BABY!

And the thought of gate checking it makes me sick to my stomach. It’s a Kamaka tenor 6-string. And it’s signed by Aunty Genoa Keawe. I keep it in the most compact hard case I can find. But it can still pose a bit of a problem when trying to fit it into an overhead compartment on airplane as wide as a No. 2 pencil.

Thankfully, the flight attendant at the front of the plane was VERY ACCOMMODATING and allowed me to stash it with the coats in the tiny closet in the tiny first-class cabin. (Yup. My ‘ukulele flew first class and I flew in coach. Ain’t that always the way?!)

BUT WAIT! It get’s even better!

So after I took my seat back in steerage class, the most lovely sound came over the airplane’s PA system. Hidden in the back of the plane, a flight attendant that made the pre-flight speech. And it sounded like she was from Hawaii! Her vowels and the musicality of her speech were the things that gave her away. I was so happy to hear it! I must have looked like a crazy man because I was craning my neck around to try to see where the voice was coming from.

When she made her way through the plane, I looked up and said “Hui! Are you from Hawaii?”

She said she was and asked me how I knew.

I told her it was pretty clear from the way she spoke–and she got red in the face.

“Oh no! Was I speaking Pidgin?”

I laughed.

I told her that as much as I would have LOVED to hear the speech done in Pidgin, it was just her vowels that gave her away.

It was great to be able to talk-story with someone from the islands on a flight from Chicago To New York City!

What are the chances, right?

And once weʻd met, she seemed to love to play with our island connection. Every time she made an announcement on the PA system, she’d add either an “Aloha” or a “Mahalo” to her speech– and sometimes BOTH! It made the flight so much fun. And it was great to feel the sense of family that happens–often instantaneously–when folks from the islands meet. Even though I’m only Hawaiian in my heart, E ʻohana mākou. We are all family.

We exchanged information and I told her that I would connect her with the Hawaiian ʻohana in the Chicago area. I know she must be missing the Hawaiian vibe being so far away from home.

The BEST part of all?

I had some Portuguese sweet bread in my bag that Aunty Cissy baked for me while I was in Chicago. (Maybe the MOST FANTASTIC sweet bread I’ve ever tasted! I think I need to interview HER for the blog! Stay tuned…) And I know that the taste of that magical bread would instantly remind my new flight attendant friend of her home. It was so cool to be able to give it to her–her smile lit up the whole airplane.

It’s pretty cool to be flying through the skies–far from the islands, themselves–and still be able to share that Aloha spirit.

Right On!

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