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Archive for June, 2010

Ever have one of “those mornings?”

Well, today was one of those days. And there wasn’t even a good reason to feel that way. (Other than the fact that I’m just plain tired!)

The alarm went off. I hit “snooze.” The alarm went off again. I hit “snooze” again. A vicious cycle.

Finally, I got out of bed.

I had what I thought was a brilliant idea: Instead of brewing a pot of coffee like I usually do in the morning, I would GO AND GET A CUP OF COFFEE from a nearby deli.

That would wake me up, right?


I got my coffee and staggered back home. I sat on the couch and became comatose all over again.

And then I looked over and saw my ‘ukulele… my trusty friend… (who, in all honesty, didn’t look all that appealing to me at that moment. I really wanted to be looking at my pillow–or the backs of my eyelids!)

And I knew what I had to do: I picked it up and started strumming.

Just a simple chord progression. Strumming familiar tunes and humming along. My reluctant fingers felt like claws. My voice was rough and scratchy like I’d been gargling with broken glass. It wasn’t pretty.

But you know what happened?

The claws softened. My fingers began to “dance”–still somewhat clumsily–on the strings. My voice softened. The notes started to come out more smoothly.

And before I knew it, I was “up and at ‘em”–strumming and singing. I started with familiar tunes–standards in my repertoire. And then I started thumbing through my notebook, looking at the song titles I’d written down on a page marked “I NEED TO LEARN THESE SONGS!”

And I was digging through books.

And looking up vocabulary in the dictionary.

And figuring out chord progressions.

And before I knew it, an hour and a half had passed. And I was awake and alert.

And the music was flowing again.

Because it’s a practice. And a practice means you “keep at it”–even when you don’t wanna…

(And by the way, I ended up throwing away my coffee from the deli. It had gotten COLD while I was jamming!)

I’d love to read about how YOU “keep at it”–even when you don’t wanna. Drop me a line!

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Have you guys ever had an experience that TOTALLY rocks your world–I mean it REALLY blows your mind–and you think that you’ll remember it forever?

And then, as time passes, you wind up forgetting bits and pieces of it?

I had one of those events yesterday.

And I’m so afraid of forgetting something. So instead of giving myself time to digest it, I want write about it RIGHT NOW. Before the “forgetting” begins…

It really was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

I was watching Kumu Hula/legendary musician Robert Uluwehi Cazimero perform. Only I wasn’t sitting in a seat at a theater. Or even at a more intimate venue where you might be lucky enough to “catch him in the act” of serenading the crowds.

I was standing next to him–just a few feet away–in the wings of the stage. He was seated at a grand piano, playing and singing one of the most beautiful Hawaiian songs ever, PUA LĪLĪLEHUA.

No… It wasn’t at an event in Hawai’i. He was here in NYC performing at La MaMa’s Annex Theater in the East Village.

And NO… I didn’t sneak backstage!! I was also part of the event!

Yesterday, Hawaii and NYC joined hands in an event called THE POWER OF HULA and it featured Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine and Kumu Hula Jeffrey Takamine with members of the hālau Pua Aliʻi ʻIlima, Kumu Hula Robert Uluwehi Cazimero and Keo Woolford AND the NYC-based hula hui Nā Lehua Melemele under the direction of Lisette Kaualena Flanary. I had the honor (and great pleasure) of being one of the musicians for the event. It was an incredible evening of hula, Hawaiian music and–most importantly–sharing the spirit of Aloha.

Meeting Kumu Robert earlier in the day was wild. Speaking with him and working with him throughout the afternoon was unbelievable.

But to be standing so close to him as he performed one of Aunty Maiki’s signature songs–well–it was mindblowing!

I would love to be able to tell you what the stage looked like.

I would love to be able to tell you what the air felt like.

I would love to be able to tell you ALL SORTS of details.

But the truth is, at that moment, I experienced tunnel vision.

I was watching one my idols play and sing. I was watching his mouth move. I was watching his hands on the keys of the piano. I was watching him effortlessly create an arrangement of a beloved song.

Everything else disappeared.

He is the type of performer who literally IS music. It comes through him–out of every pore. There was no separation between the artist and the music. Incredible.

What an honor to witness that.

What an honor to be a part of such an event.

This “wild and crazy road” that I’m on is full of wonderful surprises and blessings. And I’m SO THANKFUL to have these opportunities.

This is definitely one of those moments to LOG THE JOY!

**I had the chance to sing with him at one point in the afternoon. But… I haven’t even begun to process that yet. Stay tuned–that’s another post…


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

The legendary singer/composer/all-around cool guy, Rev. Dennis Kamakahi, wrote a beautiful song called KŌKEʻE. It’s one of my FAVORITE songs in the world. Where is Kōkeʻe located? (What island?)

  • 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: KŌKEʻE is on the island of Kauaʻi. And this week’s winner is (Drum roll, please…) Sheri Rau! Congrats, Sheri!

I hope you guys have a great weekend. See you on Monday!

A hui hou…


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3 Important Things (A Brief Post)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hi guys!

This is a brief post. I know… I should be able to post more. I WANT to be able to post more. But I’m swamped tonight.

I’m absolutely NOT complaining.

It’s incredible to be the dude who strums the ʻukulele and studies Hawaiian culture–and is BUSY! Who’d have ever thought that could happen? Not me! Never in a million years! I couldn’t imagine that there could be so many projects for a person with my “area of concentration” to be needed!

The ONLY downside to all of this is that it’s all happening at once! Ok… maybe not ALL at once… But it’s a really busy week!

I’ve learned 3 important things from all of this:

1. Figure out what you love to do.

2. Then do it. Do it with all of the love and passion AND integrity that you’ve got.

3. People will be there to support you.

Pretty incredible.

Rock on, gang. Rock On!

**Crooner Note: And don’t forget to take a STRUM BREAK when you need one! <grin>


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. Home In The Islands (Brothers Cazimero’s recording on the album Best of the Brothers Cazimero)

You guys know I’m a fan of the Brothers Cazimero. Their sound has become synonymous with contemporary Hawaiian music.

This particular song is one that my friend, Andy, plays whenever he picks up his guitar. And it makes everyone smile. Every time. The melody is haunting. The strum is instantly recognizable. It’s a great piece–guaranteed to be a hit.

The message is simple: The singers are homesick for their tropical island home. And even though many of us who love this song are not originally FROM Hawaiʻi, we still miss our “home” in the islands… I know I do.

2. Haleʻiwa Hula (Amy Hānaialiʻi’s recording on the album Hawaiian Tradition)

This is one of the very first songs that I heard Amy sing. And it made me an instant fan of her voice! So lovely!

And this song is a special one for her… it was written by her grandmother, Jennie Nāpua Hānaialiʻi Woodd. Amy gives it such a great “old-style ” feel featuring the female “falsetto” known as haʻi.

It’s a wonderfully catchy piece about Haleʻiwa. These “place songs” are so important to students of Hawaiian music and culture because they describe a place as it was when the song was written. A glimpse into the past. A snapshot. An invaluable resource.

AND… today is Amy’s Birthday! HAUʻOLI LĀ HĀNAU E AMY!!

3. Haole Hula (The Kahauanu Lake Trioʻs recording on the album Hapa-Haole Hulas)

I believe it was Uncle K. that stressed the importance of Hapa-Haole tunes. Many of those songs were written by Hawaiian composers. Many of the songs acted as a “bridge” between the Hawaiian audiences and the mainland audiences. I like to think of these English language songs as ambassadors of Hawaiian music. They help to familiarize a person with Hawaiian song structure. And, often times, they include a few Hawaiian words to introduce the listener to the lovely sound of the Hawaiian language.

This song, composed by the incredible R. Alex Anderson, describes the islands and their beauty to someone who, perhaps, has never been there. It’s a song that’s FULL of joy. It’s a staple in any crooner’s repertoire. It’s a pleasure to sing–and to listen to.

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


I woke up today with a TO-DO list that was a mile long.

Ok… maybe not a MILE long, but there was a sizable list that was waiting for me beside my computer. My email inbox had A LOT of new unread messages that all required a response. I had a few new voicemail messages that needed immediate attention. It’s a busy week here in NYC. And it’s a busy time of year.

Lots of REALLY COOL new projects int he works. Lots of REALLY COOL potential projects in the wings.

And that’s not even counting the “normal, everyday life stuff” that NEEDS to be done, as well.

Let’s face it: Being busy can be tough!

But I can’t complain.

There was a time in my life when I was BORED. I mean REALLY BORED. And when I’m bored, I’m exhausted. It felt like I was waiting around for the next thing to come along… I looked for high and low for something that could make me feel like I was alive. Some kind of creative outlet that was healthy. Something that would replenishmy energy reserves instead instead of depleting them.

And then the ʻukulele and Hawaiian music came into my world and everything changed–for the better!

So instead of complaining about how I felt overwhelmed, I took a “Strum Break.”

You know how people take “coffee breaks?” Well, it’s pretty much the same thing…

I literally stopped what I was doing and picked up my ‘ukulele and strummed a song. Still feeling a bit overwhelmed, I decided to strum and sing another.

And you know what? It helped!

There’s something transformative in those four little strings.

I’m not an ʻukulele virtuoso. My “picking skills” leave a lot to be desired. I play simple songs. I strum simple chords. But I know there’s something in the sound that brings me back “home.” It makes me feel centered. I breathe more deeply.

And best of all, I smile.

Yup. Life’s pretty great at the moment. I’ve been LOGGING THE JOY a lot. But even the “good stuff” can be overwhelming. And when it all seems to be “too much,” I stop and strum. It’s a basic need in my world. Part of my daily routine–like brushing my teeth.

Strumming is good medicine.

It edifies my soul. I’m living proof of how it can turn a life upside down–and make it better! And it makes me laugh. (Ask your doctor about the healthy benefits of a good laugh and a smile!)

So I strum. (**NOTE: Sometimes I need to strum A LOT!)

Now, back to my TO-DO list...

Do you guys ever take a “strum break?” How do YOU deal with stress?