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Archive for November, 2010

The Journey Back To Molokai (Part 1)

Monday, November 22, 2010

A few weeks ago, I was biting my nails as I sat in the commuter terminal at the Honolulu International Airport, waiting to catch my flight to Molokai.

I was heading back to the ʻāina for a short but intensive period of study with my kumu, ʻAnakala Pilipo Solotario (aka Pops).

Why was I biting my nails? Well…

Traveling to Molokai from New York City isn’t very easy.

It takes several flights and almost an entire day to go from door to door.

In a perfect world, I would fly directly from Newark, New Jersey to Oʻahu and then to Molokai. Sounds sweet, right?

But the direct flight arrives at the Honolulu airport too late for me to catch the last inter-island flight into Molokai. That means I need to fly in multiple legs (portions).

Multiple legs = lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. I’m usually a nervous wreck.

For instance… I flew through Chicago this time.

Anyone who has ever been to/flown through Chicago knows that that city is famous for its weather-inspired flight delays! (Especially this time of year when a sudden unexpected snowstorm wouldn’t be all that unusual!)

And… I travel with my tenor ʻukulele.

Yes–I know that the ʻukulele is a relatively small and compact instrument. And yes–I know that people manage to travel with much larger instruments every day. But the tenor ʻukulele (in the hard case) is slightly larger than the “acceptable, regulation-sized” carry on luggage that fits into the overhead bin. I’m a basket case, hoping and praying that there will be room in the cabin so that I don’t have to gate-check my precious “baby.” (And I’m always willing to serenade the flight attendants to help the situation, too!)

But this time all things worked in my favor as I headed to O’ahu: an on-time departure from Newark, an easy connection in Chicago AND my ‘ukulele didn’t even raise an eyebrow on either flight.

Once I arrived at the Honolulu International Airport, I took my time getting my baggage and made my way to the commuter terminal to catch my flight to Molokai.

That’s when I noticed the imposing storm clouds.

Now rain in Hawaiʻi isn’t quite the same thing as rain here in New York City. Rain can be an everyday occurrence in the islands–especially in the winter/rainy season. I didn’t think it looked too serious because I could see blue skies in the distance. It looked like a passing shower.

After I checked in for the flight, I sent a facebook status update saying that I’d arrived in HNL–and thankfully my hānai sister, Kolokea, saw it. She works for the TSA at the Molokai airport and sent a message to me immediately–the skies were dark and ominous over Molokai and I needed to try and get there ASAP before the day’s flights were cancelled.

Have I mentioned the planes that fly between islands are not very big?

In fact, some might even call ‘em “tiny.” I was flying on Island Air which uses the Dash 8. Those planes seat about 35 people comfortably. I was hoping there would be room for me to tag along on the earlier flight and was waiting on standby.

Although the flight to Molokai from Oʻahu is only 19 minutes long, it’s not a smooth ride. Even when the weather is perfect. Crossing the channel is rough–it often feels like riding a roller coaster. With storm clouds, the flight was sure to be more of an… um…”event.” And poor visibility can easily mean a cancelled flight. The landing strip on Molokai would be easy to miss–even in good weather. (The pilots amaze me. For real!)

I was relieved when they called us to board–and even more relieved when I learned that there would be room for me on the earlier flight.

In my mind, I could smell Molokai’s sweet breezes as we left the terminal.

But that relief faded quickly as I climbed the plane’s steps and approached the door. The flight attendant told us that we all needed to deplane. The flight had been delayed. We needed to wait for a break in the weather.


So, there I was, biting my nails (or what was left of ‘em!) as I waited to see if I was going to make it out.

To be continued…

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Aloha kākou!

Here’s this week’s question:

What classic hula song, often attributed to Alice Johnson, describes a beloved’s “dainty cheeks?”

  • 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: I love seeing your responses every week! I’m so glad you guys participated in the ALOHA FRIDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE!

The song I was referring to was PĀPĀLINA (or PAPĀLINA) LAHILAHI. The title means “dainty/delicate cheeks.” The Alice Johnson reference came from two different sources–although I also saw PLENTY of sources online saying that the song is simply “traditional.” (aka composer unknown.) So I can understand how that could have been confusing.

This is one of the most fun/most frustrating things about Hawaiian music–it can so hard to find a definitive source! Hawaiians have always been masters of adoption/adaptation. Look at how Hawaiian people have made “foreign” things their own. The ‘ukulele is a prime example of that. Perhaps the song was composed by Alice Johnson. Perhaps she adapted it from another source. Perhaps others adapted her composition and added to it. Perhaps the song’s composer is lost in the pages of history. (Studying Hawaiian music is FUN! This is why studying a song can be months and months of study–all sorts of twists in the road that you’d never expected. I love it!)

One of my hopes/goals is that we can all learn together as we study things–and that this website can build a sense of community. Maybe we’ll hear from someone who has a “definitive” answer as to who really composed that song… (Or maybe we’ll hear multiple “definitive” answers. That would be cool, too!)

So, thanks to the technology from the folks at, this week’s winner is… (Drum roll, please…) ROXANN! Congrats, Roxann! You are this week’s Trivia Superstar!

I’m so glad you all went on this wild ride with me this week! And I hope you’ll play again next week, too!

Have a great weekend!

A hui hou…



TAHC’s BOOK CLUB (November Midway Check-In)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve fallen behind in the reading. (I was a little busier than I thought I’d be while on Molokai!) But I’m making serious strides every day and loving every minute of it.


Because HAWAII’S STORY BY HAWAII’S QUEEN (LILIʻUOKALANI) is an outstanding book to read!

Are you guys loving it?

I’m usually not a celebrity “gawker.”

I am not a fan of celebrity gossip magazines. I don’t really care for the celeb autobiographies that are out there today–mostly because I don’t trust that the celebrity took the time to actually sit down and write their own story. I’m not all that interested in the lives of “rich and famous.”

But I think this book is fascinating!

I know… I can’t be sure that Queen Liliʻuokalani actually sat down and wrote these words herself or if she had help–like a ghostwriter.

But… considering her history of being a great composer and writer, I can only assume that she did. (I will do some research into this, but it may be tough to find out one way or the other.)

Does it matter WHO really wrote it?

Not in my book. (Bad pun intended.) I think it’s cool to able to peek into the lives of a very private group of people–Hawaiian royalty. We know what the history books have told us–which, in my humble opinion, isn’t all that much. So to be able to read about Hawaii’s last queen and to have access to such intimate details is really compelling.

I love that she is really OPEN in all of this.

She tells the good. She tells the mundane. And she tells the parts that I’m sure made her wince a bit when she wrote about them. I respect that.

It takes courage to put oneself “out there” for folks to see. And like many royal folks around the world, she could have just kept her life secret. By sharing the details, she really comes across as “the people’s Queen.”

And I love that the book is also a travelogue from that period.

Queen Liliʻuokalani didn’t sequester herself–she travelled. So in reading her autobiography, I’m learning not only about the Hawaiian islands, but also about the world as she saw it.

I know that the story takes a rough turn. I know that it doesn’t have a happy ending.

But I also know that it’s a story that NEEDS to be read. A story that NEEDS to be heard.

I’m enjoying keeping this book as my companion this month and I hope that you are, too.

I’d love to hear what YOU think of the book so far. What parts do you love? What parts are making you stop and think?


The Crooner’s Weekly “TOP 3″ (11.17.10)

Wednesday, November 17, 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. Where They Stay (Darrell Labrado’s recording on the album Molokaʻi Now)

After spending almost 2 weeks on Molokai, you KNOW I’ve still got Molokai “on da brain!”

This song is the opening track on a really cool collection of original compositions from/about the Friendly Isle of Molokai. (Sadly, this album is no longer being produced.)

Darrell’s youthful voice rings out loud and clear as he sings of the wonders of that island. I bought the album when it was first released, long before my first trip to Molokai–and with this song as my introduction, it made me REALLY want to go.

Although, I have to admit it makes more sense to me now that I’ve spent some real quality time there, I know you’ll love it too–even if you haven’t visited Molokai’s shores yet. The lyrics mention the places, the legends and the people and–well–it brings images to my mind like a virtual photo album.

My heart aches when I hear it. I wanna go back…

(**Note: The song is also featured on Darrell Labrado’s solo release, Shaka the Moon. Unfortunately, this album is no longer being produced.)

2. O Ka Hui Kaʻawai: Fireman’s Hula (Willie K’s recording on the album Awihilima)

Who says hula has to be about things like flowers and trees and wind and ancient chiefs? What about a more contemporary subject?

I love this song, attributed to Matilda Kauwe, because it celebrates modern day heroes: the fire department. As an NYC resident, it makes perfect sense!

Willie K’s delivery is awesome–both gentle and masculine at the same time. (I love–and envy–his effortless falsetto!) I heard his recording of the song first and it’s inspired me to not only seek out other versions but also it makes me want to learn to sing and play it. It would be an honor to record it someday and join the artists in the audio archives who’ve sung the fire department’s praises.

3. Lei Oleander (Kimo Alama Keaulana and Lei Hulu’s recording on the album Hula Lives!)

Want to be transported back to Hawaii circa 1940? This recording will take you there!

This is the only recording of the song that I have in my collection. The album’s liner notes say that it was a favorite song for Hawaiians in the 1930s and that composer is unknown.

I love it. I love it’s simple structure. I love it’s seemingly simple lyrics. (I say “seemingly” because one can only guess what the composer’s thoughts were and if the words had any hidden meaning or kaona.) It’s a song that was absolutely written for a crooner!

When I listen to it, I’m in Hawaiʻi in my mind watching a lovely hula dancer tell the story. Ah…

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


Back to Business in the Big Apple

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Aloha, gang!

I’m back in the Big Apple after spending an amazing 10 days/11 nights on Molokai with Pops and the gang.

Our plane took off from the Honolulu airport on Sunday evening and arrived in Newark, New Jersey on Monday morning. I thought I was some kind of superhero who didn’t need to sleep. I kept myself busy all afternoon and danced at a hula class last night.

I was wrong. I’m not a superhero. I’m a mere mortal. And mortals need to sleep.


But the physical aches and pains (and even the cold that I picked up on the plane) can be easily overlooked when I think about the amazing time I had back in my “island home.”

This trip was more intense than any other time I’ve had on Molokai.

It was FILLED with intense experiences–so be expecting A LOT of stories in upcoming blog posts. I’ve got stories about ALL SORTS of stuff like goats and pigs and a baby deer and a rat and a centipede and a talk-story and a protocol and…

On the flight home, I had some time to read this month’s TAHC’s BOOK CLUB selection:HAWAII’S STORY by HAWAII’S QUEEN (LILIUOKALANI)

And I’m loving it. I’d read the book several years ago. Revisiting it is wonderful because I’ve been studying so much since then. I’m understanding a lot more this time. How are YOU all doing with the book? I know it’s already late for the “midway check-in” but I’ll do one next week. Stay tuned…

I hope those of you that read Stuart Holmes Coleman’s book, FIERCE HEART, will send along your questions to me here at the website.

Please get ‘em to my by this Friday if you want me to forward them along to him–I’ll be emailing him this weekend. I can’t wait to see what he has to say! (You can email me at: jason(at)accidentalhawaiiancrooner(dot)com)

I’d forgotten how NYC literally “buzzes” with electricity! Auē!

Coming back to the hustle and bustle of this concrete island is always a huge culture shock. I think I’m going to take it easy and avoid any huge crowds for a few days. At least until I start to get my “city legs” back. Riding the subway to and from the hula class last night was–well–I just kept asking myself, “Was the subway ALWAYS this crowded?” Ha! (And yes… I really DID ask myself that question–OUT LOUD–while I was sitting there. So I fit right in with all of the other wonderfully crazy folks on the train.)

I really missed blogging while I was away.

I’ve missed sharing with you guys every day. But I hope you know that I was thinking about our little “community” the whole time that I was there. Writing notes to myself so that I wouldn’t forget. Making sure I’d remember enough to so that I could share it with you all later.

I miss the islands so much! But it’s good to be home, too.

Looking forward to hearing from you…


Heading Back to Molokai!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

… but not for too long! Just until November 15th!

And then the blog will be back up and running with new and exciting posts–every day, Monday through Friday. (And you know that includes interviews, new stories and a fresh batch of TAHCʻs ALOHA FRIDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE questions!)

I’m heading back to Hālawa Valley for a few intensive days of study (and some intensive fun!) with Pops and the gang.

I promise to post as often as I can while I’m there, but I’m not anticipating having regular internet service.


I’ll see you guys SOON!

And KEEP STRUMMING ! It’s good for the soul!

(And check out the blog’s archives to make sure you haven’t missed anything. There’s a lot of good stuff here! Ha!)

A hui hou…


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