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Archive for May, 2011

Jason Poole Halawa Valley Molokai

Walking in the ʻauwai (Hālawa Valley, Molokai November 2010)

Hui!  Aloha mai!  I have some exciting news to share: This weekend I booked a trip to head back to Molokai in June!

I’m so excited–it makes my stomach jump around just thinking about it!

One of the best things about studying in Hawaii is–well–exactly that:  you study IN HAWAIʻI!

But my time in the islands is a little different than what most folks probably picture as time spent in Hawaiʻi.

For example: Recently I was approached by a woman who said to me, “It must be nice to study in Hawaii.”  But the way she said the word study had an almost “snarky” feel to it.  Sarcastic.  As though it was difficult to imagine anyone actually–gasp!–STUDYING in Hawaʻii.

I know she has been to the islands–but her time in Hawaiʻi was limited to the grounds of deluxe resort where she was staying.  I can understand that she might have a difficult time seeing beyond the filter of her experience.

That’s simply not MY experience.

I’m heading back to study.  To work.  To try to learn as much as I can while I’m there–and not just to learn it for memorization or presentations.  But to learn as much as I can in my body–in my gut. To assimilate those things into my life.  To help ensure that the stories, the songs and the traditions continue.

And I have the great honor of being a part of my hānai (adopted) family there.  Treated as a member of the ʻohana.

Being there allows me to plug in–DIRECTLY!–to the source.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The preparation to head back to Molokai begins NOW.  (More on that in upcoming posts.)

Let the fun begin!

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Aloha kākou!

Here is this week’s question:

Which of these four contemporary Hawaiian musicians composed the song BEAUTIFUL HULA DANCER for his wife?

A.  John Keawe

B.  Keola Beamer

C.  Rev. Dennis Kamakahi

D.  Jeff Peterson

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

Will YOU be this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Aloha Poʻalima! Happy Aloha Friday!

**Crooner Update:

Wow!  You all really know your Hawaiian music and Hawaiian musicians!  And some of you know ‘em personally!  How cool is that?!

The answer was A.  John Keawe.  He wrote the song, as many of you mentioned in your answer, for his lovely wife, Hope.  And Hope, herself, even chimed in this week!  Aloha mai e Hope!  Mahalo for being the inspiration for such a beautiful song!  And mahalo for sharing your Aloha spirit.

This week’s winner, chosen randomly from all of the correct answers, is… (Drum roll, please…) JEFF COOK! Congrats, Jeff!  You’re this week’s Trivia Superstar!

I hope you guys will check out John Keawe’s music.  He’s not only  a fantastic musician, but also a fantastic guy.    You can reach his website by clicking HERE.  And Hope Keawe has a page on his site, too!  You can see Hope’s page by clicking HERE.

A giant MAHALO to you all for playing along this week!  You’ll play along next week, too, right?

Have an awesome weekend, gang!

A hui hou…

Jason

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The Family Continues to Grow

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One of my favorite things about singing/sharing Hawaiian music and stories is having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.

And even though it happens more often than not, I’m always amazed at the sense of “family” that’s created during these times.

Last week, I took a bus to meet some of the Washington, D.C.-area Hawaiian language students.  (You can read more about the trip by clicking HERE.)

Instead of traveling by myself (which just seems so LONELY!) I met up with kumu ʻōlelo, Manuwai Peters at the bus loading area in Manhattan.  And… I met four of his family members who were in town for his graduation from Columbia University:  his two beautiful sisters, his lovely mother and his super-cool nephew.  We were all traveling together.

I had just finished introducing myself when I spilled my cup of coffee all over the sidewalk (and Manuwai’s shoes!)  There was a lot of laughter!  And instantly, there was a sense of “family.”

When we arrived at our hosts’ beautiful Virginia home, we all jumped in and helped to set up for the evening’s dinner/paʻina.  Again, it was like “instant family” as we moved together like a well-oiled machine.  Everyone found something to do–some way to assist.  (And one of the perks of being a musician is that folks will often say, “Why don’t you play something while we get this ready?”  I like to help in the kitchen as much as anyone else, but I LOVE having the chance to strum and sing! Bonus!)

We all sat together and enjoyed music and hula and each other’s company out on the deck as the afternoon turned to evening.  More folks arrived and joined the party.  The chill of the evening signaled it was time to make our way into the house for dinner.  It was served “family buffet style” with all of the dishes, prepared and arranged by loving hands, set out along the perimeter of a circular table.  We moved like a snake around the table’s edge, loading up plates.  (I think my eyes were hungrier than my belly!  Either that or I was just so engrossed in conversation that I didn’t realize how much food I piled on my plate!  Auē!)

We sat at three long tables–new and old friends all mixed together.  And we talked.  And we laughed.  And we shared.  Just like a family.

We cleared our plates and loaded up with desserts and cups of coffee while the language students shared their final class presentations.  Everyone was there to support and cheer them on as they presented.

As if on cue, Manuwai and I knew it was our turn to contribute.  He played his guitar and I strummed the ʻukulele.  We both sang for the hula dancers of the evening!  (Hula and music are pretty much essential ingredients at a Hawaiian family-style get together.  I think that’s my favorite part of all!)

And then we all took a part in cleaning up.  Some washed dishes.  Some wrapped up the leftovers (And oh, such wonderful leftovers!)  And some helped to fold and stack the chairs.  The home was filled with the sounds of housework and conversation–and punctuated with a lot of laughter.

Afterwards, it was time to get ready for bed.  We all went to our respective rooms to get ready and then a group formed downstairs in the basement.  Sitting on on the floor and lounging on air mattresses, we told stories and laughed until the wee hours of the morning.  Such fun!  Slumber party!  (Who says you have to grow up, right?)

The next morning, we trickled out of our rooms to the dining table which, once again, was covered in food!  Leftovers from the night before, fresh fruits, hot coffee and even a bit of coconut cake!  We listened to stories from Aunty Emily and Aunty Sylvia about their schoolgirl days.  It was awesome.

As breakfast drew to a close, we took turns heading to the bathrooms/showers/bedrooms to get ready to make our way back to NYC.  But there was always a group sitting and talking.  The conversation never ends!

At the train station, it was sad to leave our hosts and head back to the city.  That family bond had been formed.

Wanna know something cool?  Once that bond is created, it continues…   We may not be related by blood, but that simple “overnight trip” to meet the D.C. gang added a whole slew of new family members to my world.

We are family.  E ʻohana mākou.

Right on.

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ukulele Croonerʻs Weekly TOP 3 iPod Jason Poole Accidental Hawaiian Crooner

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 5 SONGS from my iPod this week:

1.  He Pua Hau o Maleka ( Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu’s recording on the album Call It What You Like)

I remember hearing Kumu Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu’s recording–and being blown away!  I’d never heard oli (Hawaiian chant) presented this way.  I was confused.  I was excited.  It made me want to move my body!

This particular track is a favorite.  His treatment/arrangement of a traditional chant honoring King David Kalākaua has almost a military cadence to it.  I have the track on my iPod–and I’m always so pleased when it surprises me while I’m running on the treadmill.  The pounding rhythm and strong vocals revitalize me–body and spirit–and encourage me to press on.

I absolutely understand that some folks feel that traditional things like oli should remain unchanged.  I’m really intrigued by this daring and adventurous kumu.   As he says in his album’s title, “Call it what you like.”

2.  Lei Kukui (Raiatea’s recording on the album Hawaiian Blossom)

My all-time favorite lei to wear is the kukui nut lei… It’s a symbol of the island of Molokai.  AND… it doesn’t have a fragrance that chokes!  Ha!  So when I heard that Raiatea had recorded a song about the kukui lei, I was excited to hear it.

According to the album’s liner notes, the song was written by none other than Louis Moon Kauakahi and it was written for Raiatea.  So it’s a contemporary piece–but it’s written in classic hula style.  I can see a dancer in my mind’s eye when I listen to it–illustrating the song’s lyrics with gentle movements.

Raiatea’s lovely voice has imprinted this song on my heart.

(Crooner note:  I travel with a kukui nut lei that Pops gave me.  It’s in my backpack at all times.  You never know when you’ll need a lei!)

3.  Kawaipunahele (Kealiʻi Reichel’s recording on the album Kawaipunahele)

You guys know how much I love the music of Kealiʻi Reichel.  And this track is a favorite!  It’s one of the first songs I heard when I started listening to Hawaiian music.  My friend, Kalei, introduced me to his albums.

This past weekend, I had the chance to meet up with kumu Kealiʻi here in NYC at a talk-story/performance he gave.  (You can read more about that by clicking HERE.)  During that time, he shared the story behind that song and how it came to him at a time when he needed it most.  I like to think of songs like that as “gifts.”  A gift for him.  AND… a gift for us as the listeners.

If I’m not mistaken, there were even dance mixes made of this track!  Ha!  How cool is that!  (Anyone know where we can get those?  Drop me an email!!)

4.  Molokaʻi Aloha (Sterling Kalua’s recording on the album Molokaʻi Now!)

A contemporary song writen by Sterling Kalua and Bobby Pileggi, this song describes that island of Molokai’s special kind of Aloha.

This album was a limited release, a collection of Molokai music recorded on Molokai–a rare thing, indeed.  And this song was clearly written by someone who has experienced the island and all that she offers.  It makes me homesick for my Molokai ʻohana.  But it makes me smile, too…

5.  Anahola (Byron Yasui’s recording on the album Anahola)

I love the ʻukulele.  It’s no secret.  I believe that those 4 simple strings have the ability to make a person feel better.  True story.  And I love hearing someone who can REALLY JAM on the ʻukulele!  One of the all-time greats is Mr. Byron Yasui.

A musician’s musician, he’ll blow you away with his amazing skills!  And yet you don’t need a PhD in music appreciation to fall in love with his ʻukulele stylings.  On this track, which gives the album its title, he demonstrates how masterfully (and tenderly) the ʻukulele can be played.

And… I have the great pleasure of calling him, this musical genius, my friend.  Not only is he a stellar player, he’s also a great guy.

Please check out this album.   I think it will become a favorite!! (I can’t help but smile when I listen to it.)

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

And, as always, a giant MAHALO to Puna and the gang at www.mele.com for being an awesome Hawaiian music resource. You all make the world a better place!

 

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Strummin’ in the City (#18)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

kamaka ukulele jason poole accidental hawaiian crooner

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele and 1,000 paper cranes. (Midtown, NYC 5.17.11)

A lot of folks find it hard to believe that I carry my ‘ukulele with me all the time.

But you never know when you might feel like strumming!

And as Pops is always quick to advise: E ho’omākaukau. Be prepared.

Ah… the life of an urban strummer!

(Do you like the ʻukulele in the photo? Check out www.kamakahawaii.com for some of the best ʻukuleles on the planet!)

 

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Meeting Kealiʻi Reichel in NYC!

Monday, May 16, 2011

keali'i reichel nyc jason poole accidental hawaiian crooner

Meeting Keali'i Reichel in NYC. (5.15.11)

Yesterday afternoon musical artist and kumu hula, Kealiʻi Reichel, came to NYC to give an intimate performance/talk-story at the National Museum of the American Indian.

It was such a great experience!  As the afternoon unfolded, I was wishing you all could be there, too! I don’t want to attempt to write a formal “review” of the event–that’s not my speed.  But I wanted to share some of what transpired with you guys…

Instead of a full production, complete with a band and a company of dancers, Kealiʻi and a single dancer took stage in the museum’s Diker Pavillion and presented almost 2 hours of music and stories.

As expected, it was a treat for the ears and eyes.

I love his powerful chanting and his gentle singing. And I loved watching the hulas that he’s created.

The unexpected surprise was how intimate the afternoon was.

First, I’ll freely admit that I’m terrible at estimating audience size.  The room was full–so I’m guessing there were more than 100 but less than 1,000 people there.  (How’s that for terrible estimation? Ha!)  The room’s acoustics allowed him to speak without a microphone at times.  It added to the “backyard” feel to the event.

And did I mention that he maintained a Q & A period throughout the presentation?  It was so cool to have the opportunity to ask questions!

I loved hearing the stories behind the songs.  I loved learning about his hālau and how he operates as a kumu hula.  And I LOVED listening to the questions from the audience which ranged from “What’s the name of the instrument you were just playing?” (referring to an ipu heke–the double headed gourd implement often used to accompany hula) to “When is your next album coming out?”

To hear him speak with such candor was awesome.  To hear him give an “unplugged” performance, was unbelievable.

There was such a sense of community in the room–everyone had come together to celebrate this amazing Hawaiian renaissance man.

Afterwards, folks lined up to get their CDs autographed.  I used it as an opportunity to speak some Hawaiian with him!  (I’m still a beginning language student and I trip over words and grammar.  I’m a little shy when it comes to speaking it with folks.  Yes… I understand that the only way to get better is to be courageous and speak when you’re gifted with an opportunity.  And thankfully, he understood–or at least he pretended to understand–what I was trying to say! Ha!)

And you know… that was the part of the day that really made my eyes tear up.  Listening to him speak–with the gentle rolling inflection that one hears when listening to our beloved kūpuna (elders) speak.  It’s how Pops speaks.  The sound resonates in my heart.  Surely, someone as young as Kealiʻi must have learned to speak Hawaiian from his elders.  That beautifully musicality runs through the language.  A song unto itself.

It was an honor to be able to thank him in person for sharing his poetry, his music, his hula and his Aloha spirit over the years.  What a cool guy! (Right on!)

AND…

It was great to finally meet Punahele Krauss!

Such fun to be able to give him a hug and thank him for helping mele.com, the Hawaiian music resource, to continue.  He’s awesome!  So much Aloha… ‘da best!

Will they be coming back to the NYC area soon?  Let’s hope!  Let’s hope…

(Wanna see where Kealiʻi and company are heading next?  Click HERE.)

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