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Archive for November, 2010

Plugging In to the Source: My Hula Family

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

hula in a new york city dance studio

Hula is alive and well here in in NYC! (Nov. 2010)

We all need to “plug in” to the source from time to time, right?

In the craziness of NYC life, I depend on those touchstones to help give me a much-needed boost AND to keep me focused.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about ʻOHANA and I mentioned my hula family. (Click HERE to read that post.)

I’d be lost without ‘em. Plain and simple.

When I’m strumming and singing for the dancers, I’m in heaven. When I’m actually PART OF THE HULA LINE (yikes!) and moving with the dancers as one body, I’m in heaven.

Both activities ground me.

They feed my hungry heart by providing delicious music and beautiful movement. They soothe my frazzled nerves. And the other dancers/musicians are my family. We laugh a lot! I need my weekly dose of ‘em!

Are we the best musicians on the planet? Nope.

Are we the best dancers on the planet? Nope.

Are we a group of folks who love Hula and Hawaiian music–and truly love coming together once a week as a family? You bettah believe it!

Let’s face it–life is wild. We all need a way to plug in. To recharge. To refresh.

I’m so lucky to have this group as a Source.

How are YOU “plugging in” to stay sane this week??



Monday, November 29, 2010

I sat down to write a post about something completely different today.

But sometimes I have to honor that “burning” that I get in my gut.

No–it’s not an ulcer!

It’s that little feeling that says “write about ME today.”

It doesn’t happen very often. And as Pops would say, “You’ve got to trust your na’au (gut).”

I can’t stop thinking about FAMILY. ‘OHANA.

This past week, I spent some time with my family–the one that I was born into. We are such creatures of habit! We fell back into our old roles immediately. I’m the “teenager”–lurking on the fringe. Only this time I wasn’t the depressed teen who loved wearing a black trench coat. Instead, I was wearing Aloha shirts and strumming an ʻukulele. ( A different kind of fringe, indeed!) My sister will forever be the “kid sister” in my eyes–even though she’s now a mother of two and a strong woman. We love each other dearly–and still like to spar from time to time. My parents tried their best to coordinate everyone’s schedules and made sure we were all well-fed and managed to get to sleep at a decent hour. It was just like old times. Only there are additions to the families now… partners, significant others, children.

The herd gets bigger.

And instead of love being stretched thinner to accommodate the newbies, it multiplies with every new addition. How is that possible?


Over the course of the weekend, we all made phone calls to the “family” that have been added–though not through blood or marriage.

You know–those wonderful people that have come into our lives and are, in the truest sense of the word, family. For instance, I played multiple rounds of “phone tag” with Pops. He’s my teacher, but he’s also like another father. And Mom Solatorio is like another mom. How lucky can a guy be to have so many cool “parental units?!”

Ishowed my niece and nephew photos from my recent trip to Molokai–naming everyone that was captured on film.

“And this is my hānai sister, Kolo, ” I said pointing to a photo.

My niece’s eyes grew wider. “Wait… SHE’S your sister, too?” she asked.

“Yes… but it’s kind of hard to explain.” How does one begin to explain the concept of “hānai” to another person–especially to an eight year old? I’m still learning about it and trying to understand it, too!

“She’s LIKE my sister in every way–except we have different parents,” I said. Thankfully, that answer seemed to satisfy her. At least for the time being.


Earlier today I was talking to a friend I haven’t seen in years.

I met Michael when he interviewed me for his radio show. (A GREAT radio show, by the way. And you can stream it on the internet, too! Click HERE for more information.) We hit it off and became “buddies” immediately.

It’s been years since I’ve seen him (and maybe a year since we’ve even spoken!), but when he answered the phone today, it was like we picked up the conversation right where we’d left off. No strangeness. No feelings of “Hello, my name is…” We connected right away because we’re family.


Tonight I’ll be strumming and singing for some of my hula family here in NYC.

I have the privilege of playing for these folks every week. (And I’ve been dancing with them, too!) We come together as family. We laugh together. We cry together. We celebrate each other’s victories. Sometimes we bang heads. But we’re family. It’s ok.

I remember hearing the old expression “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.”

I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think we’re born into a family and then we keep adding. And adding. And adding.

This is NOT an exhaustive post about family.

Mary Kawena Pukui and E.S. Craighill Handy wrote an entire book called THE POLYNESIAN FAMILY SYSTEM IN KAU. That’s a whole book about the Polynesian family system in ONE DISTRICT on the island of Hawaiʻi. A whole book!

This post is just a teaser. It’s not even scratching the surface! I like to think of it as the slightest “tickling of the surface.” Ah, this is rich subject matter, indeed.

After a week of hanging out with my family, this is what’s dancing around in my head. I feel blessed to have such a wonderful and diverse crew as my ʻohana.

What are some of YOUR thoughts about family? I’d love to hear from you!



Friday, November 26, 2010

Aloha kākou!

Here’s this week’s question:

Thanksgiving makes me think of food. And one of my FAVORITE foods is a fresh mango! What’s the Hawaiian word for MANGO??

  • 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.

Will YOU be this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Happy Aloha Friday!


**Crooner Update: YOU ALL ARE GREAT! Not one wrong answer in the bunch! How do you do that?

Indeed, the correct answer is MANAKŌ. And mahalo to those of you who not only shared the answer, but also your thoughts, too! I love that!

This week’s winner, chosen randomly thanks to the technology at is… (Drum roll, please…) KATHY!

I’m so glad you guys took a moment from your busy ALOHA FRIDAY to take TAHC’s ALOHA FRIDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

A hui hou…



I’ve spent the day with my family in Pennsylvania.

Old habits do, in fact, die hard. I’ve eaten my weight in food. I’ve belly-laughed harder than I have in months. And I’ve even managed to spar with my kid sister a bit.

2o1o has been an amazing ride so far.

And taking a day to remember to be thankful is important. There are so many blessings. Too many to name.

But I thought I would share my TOP 5 Gratitudes with you guys:

1. First and foremost, my family–both the one I born into and the one that I’ve been blessed to “assemble” over the years. They keep me grounded. The remind me what’s important. They are my rock.

2. My friends who keep me laughing. My world would be so dark without ‘em.

3. My teachers who are the light on the path.

4. Hawaiian music–my reason to get out of bed every morning.

5. All of you guys out there who read this blog and are my companions on this wild ride. You all keep me writing. Mahalo for that. And mahalo for your comments. Sometimes this journey can be lonely–thanks for being my companions.

What are some of the things YOU are thankful for this year? I’d love to hear from you!


The Crooner’s Weekly “TOP 3″ (11.24.10)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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. Radio Hula (Uluwehi Guerrero’s recording on the album Ka Manawa Pono)

I was so excited to hear a vocal version of this song! I was familiar with slack key versions–it’s one that I’ve heard a million times. In fact, I wasn’t aware that the song had lyrics until years after my first listening.

So when I heard that the song had been recorded by none other than Kumu Uluwehi, I knew I was in for a treat. His gentle touch and effortless falsetto are always a delight to listen to.

The piece, attributed to Lizzie ‘Alohikea, is sweet and slow and Hawaiian all the way. And paired with Kumu Uluwehi’s voice, you can’t go wrong.

2. Blue Lei (Bill Akamuhou Dias’ recording on the album Hukilau Hulas)

It’s no secret that I LOVE the crooner songs! And this particular English-language piece is a stunning example of a true crooner classic!

The simple (and touching!) lyrics, the easy melody line that allows for an individual’s interpretation and the overall “vibe” of the piece make it a pleasure to sing. And it’s a delight for to sing it for our senior folks–it evokes a different era. And because it’s about a memory of when two lovers first met, it’s even more poignant.

Bill Akamuhou Dias’ tender delivery is classic. He gives it just the right amount of emotion without being overly sentimental. And this particular recording sounds like it could be playing over an old-fashioned radio. Perfect!

I love it. And it’s an honor to sing a piece like this. (Although it’s a little difficult to strum if you’re only familiar with basic chords on the ‘ukulele. Because it was written in the late 1920s, it’s got some interesting/challenging chords that are marks of the era. But well worth the effort to learn ‘em–you’ll love having this song as part of your repertoire! I promise!)

3. Pane Mai (The Brothers Cazimero’s recording on the album The Best of the Brothers Cazimero Vol 2)

I’ve been told this song was written in the 1980s, however it has an older feel to it. Like a great traditional Hawaiian mele–or even a hula.

I love how the Brothers Cazimero deliver it–straightforward. And I think that horn that keeps the walking bass line (maybe a tuba?) is perfect as physical representation of the steadfast and focused advancement of love. Right on!

The song has been covered by others. And I love the other recordings, too. But this week, my choice is the Brothers Cazimero’s version. Penned by Robert Cazimero, he gives a definitive version.

What are YOU listening to? Drop me a line and let me know!!


The Journey Back To Molokai (Part 2)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An amazing rainbow behind Matt Yamashita's house on Molokai.

To read the first part of this post, please click HERE.


Just when I’d gnawed my fingernails down to the flesh, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. They normally drive me up a wall, but this one sounded like honey:

Our flight to Molokai was now ready for boarding.

We lined up and, again, made our way across the tarmac and up the stairs to the little plane. We crammed ourselves in–filling the plane to capacity. There were other musicians on board. I recognized an ʻukulele case being put into an overhead compartment.

If we were delayed again, I was going to suggest breaking our instruments and have an old-fashioned kanikapila (jam session)!

But that wasn’t necessary.

The plane taxied down the runway and soon we were airborne, heading to Molokai! The flight was no “bumpier” than usual. Although we DID experience a long period of flying through dark clouds. (Yikes!) Usually, I love sitting near a window on this flight so that I can watch the ocean below us. I love the way the light dances on the water. But this time, the window seat meant viewing our “obstacles” the whole way. Auē!

Suddenly, the plane broke through the clouds and I could see the red dirt below us.

We were over Molokai and heading to the landing strip! (One of these days, I’ll remember to have my camera ready and take a picture of that view. It’s stunning. It kind of reminds me of the arial shots you might see in a documentary about the plains of Africa. I always imagine I can see herds of wild animals running on the red dirt.)

The pilots managed to make a flawless landing, despite the wet conditions. We deplaned onto a wet tarmac with cool mist all around. The airport on Molokai is in Hoʻolehua. I had never landed there in the rain before. It’s always been dry, so this was a welcome treat.

Pops was there, waiting with a smile and beautiful ti leaf lei that he’d made for me earlier that day.

“Welcome home,” he said.

We made our way back to the house in Kaunakakai. Once owned by Mom and Pops, it’s now the home of Kolokea and her family. We hung out and ate and laughed a lot. But I could barely keep my eyes open–I had been awake for almost 2o hours. And the moments of stress throughout the day had taken their toll on me, for sure.

Pops said that we needed to be up early the next morning. We were heading into Hālawa Valley first thing. A group of folks were coming into the valley for a hike. That means Pops does a traditional Hawaiian protocol, or welcoming ceremony. (More about that in an upcoming post!)

The roosters in Kaunakakai don’t seem to understand the rule of crowing only when it’s time to get up.

THEY CROW ALL NIGHT LONG! Maybe they’re confused? I know it made ME confused! Every time I heard one of ‘em, I thought it was dawn–and time to get up. Auē!

After a few hours of sleep, Pops and I headed out of Kaunakakai in the truck and made our way toward Hālawa.

But we needed to make a stop at my hānai brother’s home first. Matt Yamashita is a brilliant filmmaker who lives with his family on Molokai. He does incredible pieces about the island and her people. (I’ll be interviewing him sometime soon! Stay tuned! But for a taste of his work, please check out his website HERE.)

Matt’s home is located high up on a hill–with the ocean in front and beautiful open land in back. I love it when we visit him at his home. Of course, he’s a wonderfully hospitable host. But it’s also a chance to see some amazing natural views.

As the truck pulled up to the house, I looked out the window and saw an INCREDIBLE sight: a stunning rainbow.

Sure, a rainbow made a lot of sense from a scientific point of view. It had been raining for days. Sunlight managed to find its way through the clouds–that makes for a beautiful rainbow.

But I took that as a sign, a hōʻailona, that this trip was going to be blessed. Right on.