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Archive for July, 2011

Aloha kākou!

Here’s this week’s question:

Master artist PUANANI VAN DORPE is best known for her work with…?

A.  hulu (feather)

B.  ipu (gourd)

C.  kapa (bark cloth)

D.  lau hala (leaves of the hala/Pandanus tree)

• 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:

You all rock!  I’m so impressed–so many correct answers this week! And I thought this week was kind of a tough one, too!

The correct answer is C. KAPA (BARK CLOTH).

I first read her story in a book called VOICES OF WISDOM: Hawaiian Elders Speak and her story really struck a chord with me.  I loved reading about how she became a kapa cloth maker.  And I loved that she felt as though she was being guided by the kūpuna who came before her.  Loved it.  (More about this fantastic book, soon!  Stay tuned!)

Here’s a link to a a great article about her from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1999.

And this week’s winner, chosen randomly from all of the correct answers is… (Drum roll, please….) KAREN GUERRA!  Congrats, Karen!  You are this week’s Trivia Superstar!

I’m so glad you all took a moment to “take the challenge” this week!  And I hope you’ll do it again next Friday, too!

Happy weekend, gang!

A hui hou…



Sharing Aloha with our Kūpuna

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last week I was asked to be a part of group that was heading to a retirement community to share some Hawaiian music, stories and hula.

And, of course, I jumped at the chance!

I love spending time with kūpuna/seniors!  In fact, if I “had my ʻdruthers” I’d spend the bulk of my time with elders and kids.  I learn more during those times than any other!

This particular community was divided into 3 different levels:

1.  Residents: Seniors (and sometimes couples!) that lived independently in fantastic apartments on the grounds.

2.  Assisted Living: Seniors that needed “a little more care” than the residents. Several health care specialists/caretakers were nearby to assist when necessary.

3.  Skilled Nursing: Seniors that needed nursing supervision.  A lot of these folks sat in wheelchairs and had a nurse beside them.

Sharing songs and stories from Hawaiʻi is such an awesome blessing.

I was able to tell them about what it’s like to be a “kid from the ‘burbs who finds himself in remote Hālawa Valley” learning a tradition that couldn’t be further away from how I was brought up.  They laughed hearing about how the “prissy city vegetarian” had to learn to gut a fish–and then eat it for dinner!

AND I was able to sing songs that were familiar to a lot of them.  As one of the residents said, “You’re singing songs from when I was at my prime!”  (Although, I have to admit, she looked like she was STILL in her prime!  Ha!)

And each of the 3 levels had a different reactions:

The “residents” loved hearing the songs and stories and were FULL of requests!  How great is that?!  What a treat to bring a smile to a face by singing a song they had asked for!

Those in “assisted living” loved telling me about their trips to the islands when they were younger. Stories from honeymoons.  Smiles of recognition–especially when I sang a hapa haole medley!  A mischievous look when I sang more kolohe (“rascal”) songs.

And those that were part of the “skilled nursing” floor rocked me to my core.  When I arrived in the room, I saw a semi-circle of wheelchairs.  Many of them had a vacant look in their eyes.  However… the minute the ʻukulele was strummed, it was like someone had “flipped a switch.”  Suddenly, vacant eyes flashed. Once-silent mouths suddenly began singing along with me.  There was laughter. There was gentle applause.  The songs and stories had helped to “wake them up.”  A blessing.

I had the chance to share “happy songs” and “happy stories” with them.  And in return, they shared “happy memories” and “happy stories” with me.

(**Crooner Note: Of course, Hawaiian music and stories aren’t always about “happy” subjects.  Part of my work/mission to help others understand that Hawaiʻi is not a postcard paradise, but a REAL place filled with REAL people. But for this event, I chose to highlight the stories and songs that would bring about a smile.)

After each “session” of stories and songs, I made my away around the room, introducing myself and thanking them for being a part of my audience.  I loved hearing their names–names not often heard today.  And I loved the feeling of their time-softened skin as we shook hands.  And their genuine smiles… wow.

One of my teacher’s core beliefs is that we need to respect our kūpuna, our elders.

We are here because of them. We stand on their shoulders.

And as a crooner who sings “songs of yesteryear” I remind myself of that every time I sing.  I am singing the music of someone who came before me. It’s humbling.  An awesome opportunity. An awesome responsibility.

Singing songs and sharing stories with our kūpuna, our elders, is always a gift.

Spending time with them is a rare and wonderful blessing, indeed.

Right on.


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. I Aliʻi Nō ʻOe (The Aloha Pumehana Serenader’s recording on the album Hula Gems)

It feels like a hundred years ago that I first stepped into a dance studio and took my first hula class. (OK, it wasn’t a hundred years ago… it just feels that way!  Ha!)  And this was one of the first “advanced” hulas that I learned.  (I think we called it “advanced” because it was a lot faster than the others I’d been learning.)

We used this recording–which I believe features the stunning voice (and amazing falsetto stylings) of kumu hula, Darrel Lupenui.  It always brings a smile to my face.  His voice is incredible!  His ʻukulele strumming is killer–perfect to use for a hula.  Strong and steady.  Kumu Darrel was one the first male falsetto singers I heard.  His voice taught me falsetto singing could be strong and masculine. Right on!

And it was one of the first hulas I danced in public.  Now if I could only remember the choreography…

2.  Pineapple Princess (Nā Leo Pilimehana’s recording on the album Anthology II 1984-2001)

Yes, I am familiar with the classic version of this song that was recorded by Annette Funicello.   But it was THIS recording by Hawaiʻi’s own Nā Leo Pilimehana that made me pick up the ʻukulele and strum along.

When my niece was still a toddler, I sang and strummed this song to her.  It always made her smile–and it doesnt get much better than that!

When I heard it this week as my songs shuffled on my iPod, it brought back so many happy memories.  (And you can almost SEE the smile on Na Leo’s faces as they recorded it… It’s the kind of smile that’s contagious.)

**Crooner Note:  It’s also featured on their album I Miss You, My Hawaiʻi.

3. Honolulu I’m Coming Back Again (The Sunday Manoa’s recording on the album Cracked Seed)

Last week, I was approached by a beautiful woman (one of the perks of being The Accidental Hawaiian Crooner!) who asked me if I knew this wonderful song.  She had spent many years splitting her time between the East Coast and Oʻahu.  She’d retired in Connecticut and was homesick for the islands.

I had to admit to her that I was only “familiar” with it–but I would check to see if I had the chords and lyrics for it.  When I found it, I was so happy to be able to sing it for her.  And even happier to have her sing along WITH me the second time through!   It was one of those special moments you never forget.  It’s now a staple in my Crooner Repertoire.  A song that needs to be sung again and again.

This classic song was written in 1919 and according to the book, HE MELE ALOHA, it has an interesting subtitle: Honolulu Expects You in 1922.

The Sunday Manoa’s recording is excellent–like all of their recordings!!!

4.  Kanaka Waiwai (The Sons of Hawaiʻi’s recording on the album Folk Music of Hawaiʻi)

I’ve been feeling “homesick” for Hālawa Valley this week.  Even though I was just there, I’m already counting the days until I can go back again.

This song is part of every day life when I’m staying with/studying with Mom and Pops on Molokai.  It is a song that we play every time we sit down to strum.  A song that acts as a way to close the day before we sleep.  A song that keeps us grounded.

I have many recordings of it in my collection, but this recording by the Sons of Hawaiʻi sounds most like the way Pops sings it.  When I close my eyes and listen to it, it makes me feel a little bit closer to the Valley.

5.  Lahaina Luna (Herb Ohta, Jr’s recording on the album ʻUkulele Dream)

Wanna hear some FANTASTIC ʻukulele music?  I mean REALLY AMAZING stuff?

Herb Ohta, Jr. is a master of this “simple” instrument.  He makes it sing!  And this recording rocks!  I love the classic song–and I love how he is able to really evoke the sense of place with his playing.  I can picture it so clearly in my mind as I listen to him!

I know fans of kī hōʻalu (slack key guitar) music will love this album, too.

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 for being an awesome Hawaiian music resource. You all make the world a better place!


Strummin’ in the City (#25)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele makes laundry day more fun. A laundry room concert! (NYC 7.26.11)

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 for some of the best ʻukuleles on the planet!)

**Crooner Note:  My laundry room’s acoustics are AWESOME!  It made me sound like a rock star!  BONUS!


A Win/Win Situation

Monday, July 25, 2011

I woke up this morning and I knew what I was going to write about.

There was no doubt about it.  I set off for work and felt good about returning to my apartment later in the evening and writing today’s blog post.

And then the day happened.

And it was awesome.

And it became the NEW topic for the day’s blog post. (Because sometimes a dose of awesomeness wins!)

My day “at the office” started at 8:30 AM when I boarded a yellow school bus full of kids and summer camp counselors and we all headed out to the campground.

Some of you may know that I’ve been working at a summer day camp this year–teaching ‘ukulele to kids.  And, of course, when I’m teaching ‘ukulele, I share stories about studying in Hawaiʻi.  I can’t help it!  I can’t JUST teach ‘ukulele.  It’s tied to so many experiences from my own studies.  One simply goes with the other.

In a few of my scheduled “classes” I’ve been faced the challenge of having more kids than ‘ukuleles to strum.  AND… attention spans–especially among second graders and third graders–tend to be short.  To protect the ‘ukuleles AND the teacher’s sanity, I’ve learned that one needs to be  QUICK with stories!

The best stories are the ones where I make HUGE mistakes.  Ones that involve getting bonked on the head by a falling coconut.  Or stories about young kids who are heroically brave–even after getting their faces scratched by giant kiawe thorns.

I am amazed by these kids.

I watch them pick up an ‘ukulele for the very first time in the first class and then–just three classes later–I watch them as they move from chord to chord in a simple progression.  How inspiring is that?!

I watch their faces wrinkle with delight as I tell them about my “less than graceful” adventures in Hawaii.  (They love the fact that I always seem to find myself in wild–and ridiculously comical!–situations!)

They are not the only ones learning.

Every time I have a session, I learn something new.  A new way to explain how to play a chord.  A new tale emerges from my “bag ‘o stories” to share.  A new way of looking at things–through the eyes of a child.

It’s a win/win situation.

Right on.

**Crooner Note:  To read more about my adventures this year with the summer camp, please click HERE and HERE.


Aloha kākou!

One of my favorite “characters” seen all over Hālawa Valley is the mongoose. (They’re called ʻiole manakuke or just manakuke in Hawaiian.) This morning, I was thinking about the antics of one that I watched for a few minutes as he/she made her way around the lo’i before disappearing into the tall grass.

So…  Here’s this week’s question:

What is the most commonly accepted way to indicate more than one (plural) mongoose?

A.  mongooses

B.  mongeese

C.  mongae

D.  mongoose

• 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:

I’m impressed!  So many right answers!  The correct answer is A.  MONGOOSES. It’s the most common way I’ve seen to refer to more than one mongoose.  I found myself tripping all over the place when I tried to describe an afternoon of mongoose watching in Hālawa Valley.  There were more than one–and I had no way to definitely refer the “them!”  Ha!  I looked online and saw “mongooses” as the most common plural form.  Interesting, right?

And this week’s winner, chosen randomly from all of the correct answers is… (Drum roll, please…) GEORGIA! Congrats, Ms. Georgia!  You are this week’s Trivia Superstar!

Mahalo to each and every one of you for taking a minute out of your busy Aloha Friday to play along in The Crooner’s ALOHA FRIDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE!  I hope you’ll play along next week, too!

Happy weekend, gang!

A hui hou…