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Archive for August, 2011

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.  Kaimana Hila (Auntie Geri’s recording on the album Nā Mele O Kuʻu ʻOhana)

A hula classic!  And sung by one of the kindest, sweetest women I know–Auntie Geri!

I met Auntie Geri when I lived in L.A.  And it was like INSTANT FAMILY.  Like I’d known her forever. It was such a treat to be able to sing with her and the magnificent band, Mehana, from time to time.  They are filled with A-L-O-H-A!!   (Much Aloha to all of the musicians who played on this album: Auntie Geri, Auntie Carole, Rick, Bucci and Kimo!)

I love this song. I love her version of it.  I love tight harmonies provided by Auntie Carole.  You can hear their smiles!

They perform this song in true hula style, with each of the four verses sung twice and no instrumental break.  A hula dancer’s dream.

2.  ʻĀina ʻO Miloliʻi (Kuana Torres Kahele’s recording on the album Kaunaloa)

This week, I’ve been absolutely OBSESSED with this song.  I mean OBESESSED!

I love the lyrics, celebrating the fishing village of Miloliʻi.  You know about Miloliʻi, right?  When people talk about it (or sing about it!) they usually refer to it as the LAST Hawaiian fishing village. Traditional style all the way.  Right on.

Want more tradition?  Kahele wrote this song about for his grandfather–I love a song written for a kupuna (elder) in the traditional style!  It sounds like it could have been written 100 years ago.

And his vocals are KILLER!  Such an amazing falsetto!  Wow!  I need to sit and study his technique for a long time… So smooth!

(You’ll recognize his voice right away.  He’s part of the amazing group Nā Palapalai!)

3.  Kukuna O Ka Lā (Kūpaoa’s recording on the album English Rose)

I love the sound of Kūpaoa.  Tight harmonies.  Contemporary and classic at the same time.

This song, attributed to Rosalie Flores & Johnny Noble,  has six verses–each with only two lines.  So in my mind, that makes for a great hula!  Short, descriptive lines that are rich with poetry, allow for a dancer’s storytelling ability to really shine.  I close my eyes and can picture it so clearly!

I have other versions of this song in my collection.  This week, it’s Kūpaoa’s recording that has won my heart.

4.  I’ll Remember You (Don Ho & The Aliʻis’ recording on the album Greatest Hits)

Don Ho, the legendary Hawaiian Crooner, does this song so well!

Written by the amazing Kui Lee, Uncle Don really brings that contemporary crooner style to life–complete with all of the swoops and slides and rhythmic phrasing that made him a legend.

The song is one that’s still played quite a bit–and for good reason.  It’s a classic.  Like one of my professors in college would have said, “It’s got legs!”

(And the audience’s applause at the end is fantastic!  I didn’t know it was a live recording until that moment!  Right on, Uncle Don!)

5.  ʻOhana Slack Key (Rev. Dennis Kamakahi’s recording on the album ʻOhana)

I love kī hōʻalu (slack key guitar) music!  It’s no secret.

And it’s also no secret that I love the music of Uncle Dennis Kamakahi.  I think he’s one of the best.  Period.

One of the things I love most about his style of slack key–and this recording, in particular–is the warmth he brings through his music.  The sound surrounds me like a warm blanket.

He’s a genius in so many ways…

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 (#30)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

kamaka ukulele, ukulele, isham park, jason poole

Kamaka standard (soprano) ʻukulele with special guests: sunbathers and geese! (Inwood Hill Park, NYC 8.30.11)

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!)


After Irene

Monday, August 29, 2011

It’s 1:30 PM and I am still wearing my pajamas.

Yes… it’s a Sunday.  But even on Sundays I’m usually “up and at ‘em”  and have at least shaved, showered and brushed my teeth by now!

But today I am sitting–like a zombie–in front of the television.

It’s not because I slept late.

In fact, I woke up early–ahead of my alarm.  I wanted to be sure I was watching the news by 8:00 AM.  That was when Hurricane Irene was scheduled to make landfall near our city.  That was when the tides were at their highest point, even higher than usual because of the new moon.  That was when we were going to find out if New York City was going to be spared the wrath of the storm or if the lower part of our concrete island would be submerged beneath the storm surge’s waters.

But 8:00 AM came and went.  NYC was spared the massive damages we’d feared.  We said prayers of thanks.  My partner and I raised our glasses of orange juice and toasted “CHEERS!”

I’ve already called my family in Pennsylvania to make sure they’d weathered the storm well.  (They are fine!)  I’ve already fixed myself an egg and cheese sandwich on wheat toast.  I’ve already brewed a pot of strong coffee.  The morning’s “duties” are fulfilled.

And so we are sitting.  Like zombies.  Even the cat.

The news drones on and on.  The same film clips.  The same sound bytes.  Over and over and over.

The phone rings.  It wakes us from our stupor.

Thanks to our cable company, the caller-ID is shown right on the television screen.  It reads PRIVATE CALLER. (We’re so lazy, we don’t even have to get up off of the couch to check the phone for caller-ID.  That’s the way it is somedays. Like sloths.)

Living in NYC, we know that PRIVATE CALLER is usually not-so-secret code for “telemarketer.”  I refuse to answer the phone if I don’t recognize the number.  And PRIVATE CALLER just seems so…so…confrontational.

“What kind of telemarketer is calling on a Sunday morning AFTER A HURRICANE?!”  I yell.  My voice wakes the cat, who glares at me before jumping off of the ottoman and heading into the kitchen for a quick nibble.

(I should point out that I am in an extremely grumpy mood.  The lack of sleep from being up most of the night is definitely taking its toll.)

“Um, it’s not morning anymore,” my partner reminds me.  ”It’s after 1:00 PM already.”

I look over at him and raise my eyebrow as if to say, “You’re still in your pajamas, too, you know!”

I refuse to answer the call.  And I’m shocked when the red light flashes a moment later–indicating a voicemail message has been left.

“What nerve!  They left a voicemail message!”  I jump up off of the couch and march over to the phone.   “I wonder what they’re selling that’s SO important that it couldn’t wait,” I grumble as I punch in the code to access the messages.

And then I stop.

The voice on the phone isn’t a telemarketer.  It’s Pops.

“Hey Son, it’s Pops on Molokai…”

His voice instantly wakes me up–and simultaneously calms me down.

“Just checking in to see how you guys are doing out there.  We love you and miss you and God bless.  A hui hou…”

It amazes me:  5,000 miles away, news of Hurricane Irene is reaching my hānai (adopted) family on Molokai.  And 5,000 miles away, someone is thinking about us and reaching out to make sure we are ok.

In my mind, I can hear him say “E ʻohana mākou.”  We are family.

And that’s a powerful bond.

“Aloha mai e Pops.  ʻO Iakona kēia,” I say when he answers the phone.  (Translation: “Hi, Pops.  It’s Jason.”)

“Oh!  Pehea ʻoe?  Nui ka ua ma Nuioka?” he asks. (Translation: “Oh!  How are you?  Big rains in New York?”)

As the hurricane approached the night before, we’d been directed by city officials to close our windows.  As Pops and I talk, I unlock and open the window by my desk.  And as if on cue, a gentle breeze blows through, filling the room with fresh air.

Right on.

Were YOU affected by Hurricane Irene?  I’d love to hear your stories!


Aloha kākou!

Living in NYC, I’ve been immersed in talk about hurricanes this week.  And then I realized I don’t know the Hawaiian word(s) for hurricane!  Do you?  Here’s this week’s question:

According to the Hawaiian Dictionary (edited by Mary Kawena Pukui &  Samuel H. Elbert), which of these choices is NOT a way of saying HURRICANE in the Hawaiian language?

A.  makani hele uluulu

B.  makani uluulu

C.  makani pāhili

D.  makani ʻoluʻolu

• 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:

Right on, gang!  So many correct answers this week!

The correct answer is D. makani ʻoluʻolu.  That’s Hawaiian for “gentle breezes.”  And we’re supposed to have a lot more than gentle breezes along the East Coast this weekend!  (All kidding aside, please be smart and safe, East Coast buddies!) All of the other choices are listed in the Hawaiian Dictionary as ways of saying “hurricane.”

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

Mahalo for playing along this week, gang!  I hope you’ll play along next week, too!

Hope you all have a safe weekend.

With Aloha,


jason poole, unitarian universalist church of studio city, showing up and saying "yes!"

Getting ready to "deliver the message" at the church. (Studio City, CA 7.21.11) (Photo by Wendy Hawker)

(**NOTE:  To read Part 1 of this story, please click HERE)

“Pūūūūūūūūūūūūū!”  The sound of my conch shell trumpet fills the air.

That ancient call always causes a chill of excitement to run up and down my spine.  Goosebumps cover my arms and the back of my neck.  A chicken-skin moment, for sure.

From the chancel, I look out at the faces of the people in the church pews.  Many of them look surprised.  Several of them stare back with wide eyes and open mouths.  And I’m thrilled to see a lot of smiles, too.

I begin an oli aloha–a “formal” Hawaiian chant/blessing that I learned a few years ago.

A welcoming chant.  I close it with “Aloha ē. Aloha ē. Aloha nō”  (“May love be with you.  Love, indeed!”)  It feels like I’ve broken the proverbial ice.  Phew!

At this church, the members participate in a beautiful ceremony.

One by one, members take stones from one bowl, symbolic of a joy or sorrow in their life, and then place them into another bowl filled with water. Joys and sorrows united in a common element.  I have been asked to sing a song during this time.  It’s not a performance.  I’m not playing for their entertainment.  Instead, I’m just providing the music, the ambient sounds while they think about milestones in their lives.

I pick up the ʻukulele and strum and sing while the members of the congregation pass in front of the chancel.  Some of them smile when they see me.  Others look away.  Perhaps they are deep in thought or prayer.  Or maybe it’s just odd to be that close to a musician.  I can’t say that I blame them.  While it’s not the same thing, I can’t help but think about how I don’t like being near the “critters” at theme parks.  (Note:  Yes… I appreciate those costumed characters.  But there is something strange about having them come close to me.  I value the “fourth wall.”)

Right before it is time for my sermon/message, the service includes a few moments of spoken and silent meditation.

My friend, Wendy, reads a poem by the Sufi poet, Rumi, called “The Diver’s Clothes Lying Empty.”  It is the poem that Lynda Barry recited many times during the writing workshop I participated in.  It served as a signal that the sacred time of writing was to begin.  The poem, itself, is sacred to me. It’s densely packed with imagery. It’s wonderfully comforting.  I bow my head and close my eyes for a few moments.  And I breathe deeply.

Then it’s time for me to take my place behind the lectern to deliver the message.

My bare toes curl into the carpet.  I’m nervous.  Afraid of the unknown.  I look out at the room full of people and say “Aloha.”  Almost miraculously, the nervousness disappears.

I tell them about my lifelong love affair with music.  I explain that I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  That I have no Hawaiian blood.  That growing up, Hawaiʻi seemed foreign and strange. That I actually had an “aversion” to all things Hawaiian.  And then we all share a good laugh because looking at me in in my Hawaiian protocol attire, things have clearly changed.

My message, Showing Up and Saying “YES!”, is about taking chances and saying “YES!” when opportunities present themselves.

It’s about listening with the heart instead of listening with the head.  I tell them about 3 different milestones in my life–3 times when I had to say “YES!” despite being told “No”:

1.  Being told that my eating disorders had damaged my vocal cords.  Being told that I should probably consider something other than pursuing a singing career.  I was being told “No.”  My heart said otherwise…

2.  Being told that while the doctors had successfully mended my broken hip, I would have problems with that leg.  And after a year of physical therapy, I was told that they didn’t know what else to try.  I needed to accept the possibility of chronic problems–which, in essence, said “No more dancing for you, kiddo.”  My heart said otherwise…

3.  Being told by my Hawaiian friends that I should consider going to Hawaiʻi to study.  I told them what I thought was the most logical response: “No way.”  But my heart said otherwise…

While I am speaking, I look around the room at the faces staring back at me.

And although I shouldn’t be surprised, it never ceases to amaze me.  Yes, I am telling my story–full of very unique and personal details.  And yet I see that it reaches out to others.  The more specific I am when telling my story, the more UNIVERSAL its message becomes.  I see that we ALL need to pay attention to those moments when we need to listen with our hearts.

Time flies so quickly during my talk.

Because I’m a chatterbox, I keep my eye on a clock above the choir loft in the back of the church. (A giant MAHALO! to the clever soul who placed it there!)  And at the end of the message, I have the opportunity to deliver the day’s benediction.  I say something like “I hope you all leave here today with an new awareness.  Knowing that there are so many moments for you to listen to your heart. Opportunities to “Show Up and Say “YES!”

I sing one last song as a postlude.  And I join my hands together as I say “Mahalo!” to the congregation.  Wendy suddenly appears at my side and grabs my hand.  We walk down the church’s center aisle together.  Inside I am beaming.

Standing in the narthex of the church, greeting people as they exit, one thought runs through my mind: It didn’t matter that I’m not an ordained minister.  Because today I just needed to Show Up and Say “YES!” to the opportunity to share my story.

Right on.

(A giant MAHALO to my good buddy, Wendy Hawker, and the folks at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Studio City for asking me to come and share my story.  Thank you for sharing the spirit of Aloha with me!)


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. Laupāhoehoe Hula (Keoki Kahumoku’s recording on the album Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar)

A hula classic!

And this song is a classic male hula, too. (Although I’ve certainly seen women dance to this song, as well.)  It was written by two of Hawaiʻi’s best-known (and most beloved) composers, Aunty Irmgard Farden and Mary Kawena Pukui.

I love how Keoki really uses masculine phrasing in this recording.  It adds something to it!

I love this song.  And I LOVE Keoki’s version.  Rock on!

(Wanna learn more about male hula?  Check out the brilliant film/documentary Nā Kamalei: The Men of Hula!)

2.  To You Sweetheart, Aloha (Alfred Aholo Apaka’s recording on the album Hawaii’s Golden Voice)

Written by Harry Owens in 1935, this hapa haole song is a crooner’s dream.  And nobody does it better than Alfred Aholo Apaka!

Two verses of sentimental (but not sappy) lyrics and a simple melody allow for all sorts of crooner-ific fun–with ample opportunities to add vocal and stylistic embelleshments.

This is a new favorite.  I’m working to add it to my repertoire.

3. ʻEkolu Mea Nui (Dennis Pavao’s recording on the album Wale Nō)

This is one of the songs that takes me instantly to Hālawa Valley on Molokai.  It’s one of Pops’ favorites.

He often says that the song has the key to leading a pono (righteous, balanced) life.  It tells of 3 important/great things: faith, hope and love. The song is attributed to Robert K. Nāwāhine and is based on a passage from the Bible. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

When evening falls in Hālawa Valley, we’ll often pick up the ʻukuleles and sing.  I love it when we sing this song and its echoes fill the valley.

Uncle Dennis Pavao sings this song so beautifully.  Wow.

4. Hōkūliʻi (Roland Cazimero et al’s recording on the album Hōkūle’a- The Musical Saga)

This is a song from the musical that takes us, musically, through the journey of Hōkūleʻa, the double-hulled voyaging canoe.  The album, as a whole, is one of my all-time favorites.  And I love this track.

This track is dreamy–I think it’s supposed to evoke the sense of sailing the open seas at night–following the stars.  And if that was the intention of the composers, they were so successful!

Are you familiar with this album?  PLEASE check it out!  It’s so good!  It was released during the time that Hawaiians were experiencing a real surge in Hawaiian pride, Hawaiian identity.  And the Hōkūleʻa, for many Hawaiians, was the embodiment of that pride.  This album is a great glimpse into that time.  Musically, it represents the period beautifully!

5.  Winds of Waikapu (Jeff Peterson’s recording on the album Maui On My Mind)

I love kī hōʻalu (slack key guitar) music!  It’s no secret.

And it’s also no secret that I love it when it’s played by Jeff Peterson.  This guy has such a “midas touch” when he plays–everything sounds so good!

I know it’s become sort of a cliche to say the guitar sounds like it’s “sparkling”–especially when describing slack key guitar.  However, it’s true!  His guitar really makes “sparkling” sounds on this track.  And it evokes a real sense of paniolo/cowboy/ranch life with it’s classic western motiffs.

I think Jeff is one of the best musicians playing today.  And this album is one that I listen to again and again.

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!