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Archive for November, 2011

Strummin’ in the City (#42)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ukulele, nyc, accidental hawaiian crooner, kamaka

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele with the Henry Hudson Bridge in the distance. (NYC, November 2011)

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!)


Sharing Germs and Learning Tunes

Monday, November 21, 2011

This weekend, I realized that the kids I’ve been working with at an elementary school here in NYC have shared so much with me.  Not only their hearts and their music–but also their GERMS!


On Friday night, about 24 hours after my session had ended with the kids the day before, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling well.  My body ached and I had small-kine chills.  But as soon as I realized it had probably come from hanging out with the kids the day before, I couldn’t help but laugh.  They really DO share everything.

I’m happy to repot that I’m “on the mend.”  The worst seems to be over and I look forward to feeling better–and fully recovered!–by Thanksgiving.

In other news:

Earlier today, I sat down to start working on a song that has won my heart this week, PUA ʻAʻALIʻI.

This Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winning song (composed by Lee Ann ʻĀnuenue Pūnua) totally blew me away the first time I heard it.  (Please click HERE to read an article about that awards ceremony.)  It was a few years ago, so the circumstances of where I heard it are lost somewhere in my memory banks.  I do remember loving it.  (**Note:  I have started to carry index cards with me because I am constantly making “mental notes” about music that I hear, but those “mental notes” don’t always stay with me for very long…)

On Friday night, I was listening to Kawika Alfiche’s CD, Kaleʻa, and the song came on.  Ah! I recognized it immediately!  I stopped what I was doing so that I could peek at the song’s title.  I might have even said aloud, “This is a song I should learn.”

And then at a party on Saturday night, I heard the song, AGAIN!

So I sat down and started looking at the song this morning.  And you know what?  I triple love it.

I love its simple structure–no need for a complicated melody, vocal acrobatics or a complicated structure when you’ve got a song that expresses so much beauty in four short verses.  Each verses has only two lines!  A real testament to Ānuenue Pūnua and her compositional skills.  I tip my hat to you, for sure!

The song is haunting.  It stays with me.  I find myself humming it while I work.  (In fact, I’ve been humming it the whole time I’ve been writing this blog post!)

And I look forward to “going deep” while I study it–chewing slowly and carefully and really allowing it to sink into my bones.

I love a song like that, don’t you?

Happy Monday, gang!  How was YOUR weekend?  Drop me a line and let me know…


Aloha kākou!

Here’s this week’s question:

In October of 2011, a new album was released by recording artist, RAIATEA HELM.  What is the name of that album?





• Please submit your answer by posting a reply to this entry on the blog.
• 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!


You guys know your stuff!!

The answer is A.  Sea of Love.

I haven’t heard it yet–well, I’ve listened to the samples on the album’s page at, but I haven’t heard the album all the way through, yet.  But I’ve been told it’s wonderful!  Please check out Raiatea’s website by clicking HERE.

And this week’s winner, chosen randomly from all of the correct answers, is… (Drum roll, please…) KATE FERRIS!  Congrats, Kate!  You’re this week’s Trivia Superstar!

A giant MAHALO to each of you who participated in in the challenge this week.  And I hope you’ll play next week, too!

Happy Weekend, gang.

A hui hou…


Midori & Friends, ipu heke, ukulele

An afternoon of sharing the ʻukulele and the ipu heke. (NYC 11.17.11)

Last Thursday, I wrote about a new 6-week residency that I have at an elementary school in NYC as part of their after-school program.

I’ve been brought in, one day a week, to share the joys of strumming the ʻukulele.  And if you’ve ever met me, you know that I can’t talk about the ʻukulele without sharing stories about Molokai and the other Hawaiian islands–and even a little school-kid-kine keiki hula for fun.  In my mind, they’re not exclusive.  Each supports the other.

Here’s the funny thing: they bring me to the school to educate as well as to enrich the school experience for these amazing kids.

And I can honestly say that I am being educated–and absolutely enriched–by my time working with them.

No joke.

Today I brought my ipu heke, a double headed gourd that is often used for percussion in hula and Hawaiian music.

We worked out simple traditional paʻi, hula beats and rhythms.  A beat such as (U-T-U-T-T) is something they are very familiar with.  During the school day, their teachers clap that rhythm as part of a call and response way to get the kids’ attention.  I was so excited to say “Hey!  You already know this beat!”  And they were excited to share some of the other rhythms they know.  (They are exposed to world music through workshops like the one I’m sharing, so they’d had some experience with drumming.)

Then we took those very same rhythms we’d been clapping and strummed them on the ʻukuleles.

Um…totally awesome!

Working on chord progressions with them can be-well–a challenge.

I might have up to 18 students at a time, ranging in age from kindergarten to second grade.  And I’m getting them after a full day of classes.  So attention spans tend to be shorter.  And I’m one teacher trying to share hand positions with18 kids all at once.  We do a lot of open chord strumming on the ʻukulele!

But I have to tell you…

It’s like magic when they’re all strumming together.

Some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.

And I love watching them dance.   And I LOVE hearing them sing.  (And it’s so much fun to hear them scream with delight when I sound the pū, my conch shell trumpet!  I think they’re hoping I’ll blow out some of the windows–Ha!)

It’s an awesome way to spend an afternoon.

Yes, I’m exhausted afterwards.  But it’s a good kind of exhaustion.  It comes from doing something fantastic.

Right on.


The Crooner’s Weekly “TOP 5″ (11.16.11)

Wednesday, November 16, 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. Kalalea (Ed Kenney’s recording on the album MY HAWAII)

Another legendary Hawaiian crooner, that I listen to all the time (and study his every vocal move!) is Ed Kenney.  A giant MAHALO to a very kind and generous Hawaiian woman at a picnic in NYC a few years ago.  She said I needed to track down some of his recordings and listen to them.  No need to tell me twice!  I tracked down a few of his albums and quickly understood why she’d recommended him to me.  His voice is smooth and graceful and oh, so elegant.  A treat for the ears!

This song celebrates the island of Kauaʻi–and the cliffs that overlook Anahola.

I first heard this song at a “backyard jam session” kanikapila.  It was delicious and oozed island flavor.  And then I heard Ed Kenney’s version which is totally different.  It has the same melody, but none of the roughness.  It’s smooth.  Polished.  Orchestrated.  It totally celebrates the era it was recorded in–the late 1950s.

Both versions are great.  This week, I swooned as he crooned.  Right on.

2. Lei Lokelani (The Kahauanu Lake Trio’s recording on the album At the Kaimana Beach Hotel)

I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of listening to the amazing recordings of the Kahauanu Lake Trio.  I mean, come on!  Does it really get much better than that?

This song, attributed to Charles E. King, describes a lei made of the lovely lokelani or Maui rose.  It’s not difficult to infer that perhaps the kaona–or “hidden meaning”–might be the comparison of the flower to a beloved.


Even though the song is about the Maui rose, this recording takes me to Waikīkī instantly, sitting oceanside and listening to Hawaiian music while watching the sunset.  Ah!

*Please click HERE to read a great article written about Uncle K. from 2003.

3. Honolulu Blue and Green (Melveen Leed’s recording on the album Melveen’s Hawaiian Country Hits)

Aunty Melveen’s voice rocks!  I love its texture–kind of rough and playful and smoky and sultry–all at the same time.  I’ve tried to describe it to friends and the closest comparison I can come up with is that it’s similar to the sound of Dusty Springfield.  But Aunty Melveen’s voice is totally unique.  Totally beautiful.  Totally hers.

This song, sung entirely in English (except for the Hawaiian place names) is a great tune that Aunty Melveen brings to life so beautifully.  I’ve heard stories about how she went to Nashville–and I imagine her singing this song while she was there and homesick for her beloved islands.  Wondering why she’d ever left and dreaming about her homecoming.

It’s got a great 1960s feel is both country and Hawaiian at the same time.  (I always say that Hawaiian music and country music are close cousins!)

*Please click HERE to visit Aunty Melveen’s website.

4. Keawaiki (Keola & Kapono Beamer’s recording on the album Hawaii’s Keola & Kapono Beamer)

From the opening notes of the guitar, you can tell this is a Beamer family recording–their distinctive style comes through loud and clear.

And what’s most exciting about this recording is that it takes an old classic song like Keawaiki and puts a somewhat contemporary spin on it–with modern (at least for the time!) instrumentation and phrasing.  The album was originally release in 1975,  during a time when Hawaiʻi was undergoing a huge renaissance and re-claiming a sense of cultural identity and pride.  How exciting to see a duo of young brothers recording a classic song and releasing it for broad/wide audience.

When I pulled this CD from my collection and looked at the cover, my heart “squeezed” a little bit.  When I look at the faces of Keola and Kapono, I can see the face of their mother, Aunty Nona Beamer.  I miss her.  But seeing her in her sons’ faces makes me smile, too.  Like she’s not really gone.  Her line continues… not only in her family, but in those that she taught and in those that she touched.

*Please click HERE to visit Keola’s website.

*Please click HERE to visit Kapono’s website.

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 I love the music of Uncle Dennis.  (That’s also no secret!  Ha!)

This week, I wanted to close my eyes while I listened to this song.  We used to do that in music classes when I was in elementary school.  It allowed for deep listening.  And sometimes, it allowed us to “see pictures” in our minds–creating scenes that followed the sounds we were hearing.

When I closed my eyes to listen to this song, the image that came to mind was a group of people having a conversation.  A dialogue.  With activity happening in the background.  Pretty interesting that the song is called ʻOhana Slack Key–ʻohana being the Hawaiian word for family.

Pops tells stories about growing up in Hālawa Valley on Molokai.  When the family was done eating, often times there would be a kanikapila, a music session.  I imagine conversations happening, music playing and activity like cleaning up after the meal–all happening at the same time.  Peaceful yet active.  Just like this song.  Different voices and different energies moving together.  Weaving together.


*Please click HERE to visit Uncle Dennis’ website.

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 (#41)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kamaka ukulele, Inwood Hill Park, NYC Strummin' in the City, Jason Poole

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele & the autumnal splendor of Inwood Hill Park (NYC Nov. 2011)

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!)