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Archive for January, 2012

Strummin’ in the City (#50)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele and an outdoor citrus display at an NYC supermarket. (January 2012)

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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In November of 2011, my friend Lisa asked me if I would come to O’ahu in January to be a part of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi‘s New Year’s ʻOhana Festival.  She knew my story and wanted me to come share and sing as part of the festivities.  

A chance to sing at a major festival in Hawai’i.  An opportunity to leave wintery NYC for a few days and head to the warmth of O’ahu.  A chance to be seen as a Hawaiian musician in Hawai’i.  All of those things made it an easy decision:  I HAD TO SHOW UP AND SAY, “YES!”  

I arranged a trip so that I could be on Oʻahu for the festival and then planned to head to Molokai to spend some time with Pops and the ohana.   

Once those plans were in place, all sorts of additional opportunities presented themselves–including opportunities to do some press for the festival as well as a chance to sing on Pakele Live!  

The trip turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime.  Here’s the story:

Good morning, Oʻahu! Aloha kakahiaka! (1.6.12)

I hadn’t been on Oʻahu in years.

Well, that is, if you don’t count the quick stop at the Honolulu International Airport where I’d make a mad dash from one side of the airport to the other to catch a flight to Molokai.  Ever since Pops took me under his wing, my first responsibility has been studying on Molokai.  So that’s been my primary “Hawaiian experience” since 2008.

But this time, I went from baggage claim to a cab to meet up with one of my best friends, Lisette Kaualena Flanary.  She  moved from NYC to Oʻahu last year to teach at University of Hawaiʻi.  I planned to stay with her while I was on island and then head to Molokai after the festival.

As luck would have it, I’d arrived during the evening rush hour which meant TONS of cars on the road and long periods of sitting still.  (This was definitely NOT Molokai where there isn’t even a single traffic light on the entire island!)  I took advantage of the gridlock and made use of the time.

Taking a deep breath, I sat back and thought about the wild twists and turns that had lead me to that moment.

When Lisa first asked me to be a part of the festival, I knew I had to do it. But I was worried: would a dude with an ʻukulele who sings traditional/old-school Hawaiian music be enough to satisfy music-hungry festival goers?

And then I’d remembered something amazing:  my good buddy, Andy Wang was going to be on Oʻahu at the same time!  Andy and I both share Hawaiian music in NYC.  (And he’s also an accomplished slack key guitar player.  Bonus!)  It was a sign!  It had to be, right?  I’d asked him if he’d join me for the JCCH’s festival and he was available!  Phew!  A duo instead of a solo act!  (And he’d also agreed to be a part of the Pakele Live! show. But more on that soon…)

Because I had a few days on Oʻahu before the actual festival, the folks at the JCCH asked me if I’d be willing to do some press for the event.  And you KNOW that I agreed to do that!  It’s always fun to share some Aloha.  And I thought it would interesting to represent Hawaiian music and culture as a dude from the East Coast–no Hawaiian blood, but a heart full of Aloha.  An opportunity to show folks that Hawaiian music and culture exist beyond the islands’ shores.

Lisette greeted me at her building’s entrance with a beautiful white orchid lei.

Looking at the delicate white flowers, I was reminded that I was definitely in the islands.  And all of the stress that had been building up since I’d booked the trip–all of the nerves and jitters–finally started to fall away.

We went out to have a fantastic dinner and then back to her apartment for some serious “catching up.”  I couldn’t wait to hear all about her new life in Hawaiʻi.  And she wanted to hear all about the gang “back home” in NYC.

As we sat in her living room, I developed a cough.

Strange.  It was like there was something stuck in my throat.  I attributed it to the change in climate–surely my body was just reacting to being back in the warm tropics, right?

After we’d talked ourselves silly, it was time to go to sleep.  As I was lying in my bed, I could feel a bit of tension starting to creep back into my body as I went over the itinerary.  But I tried to tell myself to relax.  It would all be fine.

I’d made it safely to Oʻahu.  Andy was already on island.  Sure, I still had no idea what we would be singing.  Or what the “press opportunities” I’d agreed to do would be like.  But it didn’t really matter.  We’d create something wonderful.  It wasn’t about us.  It was about the music.  It was about honoring the traditions of those that came before us.

And besides… there was plenty of time to worry.  I didn’t have to be anywhere until the following evening at 5pm where I’d do a 30-mintue interview/performance on KZOO AM1210–Honolulu’s Japanese language radio station.  (How was I going to do a 30-minute interview when I don’t speak a word of Japanese??)

My mind grew blurry and I fell asleep with a warm breeze blowing through the open window.

When I woke up in the morning–EARLY because Hawaii is currently 5 hours behind Easter Standard Time–I could tell something wasn’t right.

My throat didn’t exactly hurt, but it was a bit raw from coughing through the night.  And my lungs felt like they had water trapped in them.

I coughed.  Nothing.  I coughed, again.  Nothing.

I coughed harder and my lungs expelled something–well–otherworldly.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I now understand the expression “I must have swallowed a frog.”  Gross!

I opened my mouth to sing and the voice that came out wasn’t my own.  It sounded like someone had taken my vocal cords and rubbed them with sandpaper.  (Those of you who are old enough to remember the raspy-voiced actor Brenda Vaccaro will know what I mean.)

OH NO!

I’d come 5,000 miles to sing–to make my debut as a Hawaiian singer in Hawaiʻi–and now I didn’t have a voice?  How was this possible?

I knew I needed to gargle with some warm salt water.  But that didn’t help.

I knew I needed to get some blood pumping in my body.  So I threw on some clothes and headed out into the Honolulu sun in search of a drugstore and a health food store for some first-aid.

I stocked up on fresh orange juice, throat lozenges and herbal remedies that my friends suggested.

And then my phone rang.

“Hello?” I barked.  It sounded as though I was talking through a piece of crackly celophane.

“Hi, um… is this Jason?”  The voice on the other end of the line sounded confused.  And why shouldn’t they be confused?  I sounded like a giant toad!

She continued, “This is Denise from the Japanese Cultural Center.”  And then she asked a few questions, trying to arrange an opportunity for us to meet up prior to the KZOO interview later that day.

“Um… I’m not far from the Center.  How ’bout I come over and say ‘Aloha!’” I suggested.  I figured if they could see me–and see that I’m not some raspy-voiced crazy man–they might not regret asking me to come and be the headline entertainment for their New Year’s Ohana Festival.

Walking past Mōʻiliʻili Field, where they were setting up the stage for the weekend’s festivities, my mind was racing.

How on earth was I going to meet these obligations with no voice?

To be continued…

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Aloha kākou!

Here’s this week’s question:

Dennis Kamakahi recently collaborated with another artist on a stunningly beautiful album called WAIMAKA HELELEI.  What is the name of the other artist?

A.  Stephen Inglis

B.  Raiatea Helm

C.  John Keawe

D. Robin Kneubuhl

• 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!

** Crooner Update:  Y’all are amazing!

Yes!  Everyone had the correct answer this week!

The answer is A.  Stephen Inglis.

Does that mean that mean that some of you might even have the album?  Have you heard the beautiful music that these two masterful musicians recorded?  So nahenahe!

And this week’s winner, chosen randomly from all of the correct answers by the technology at www.random.org is… (Drum roll, please…) BARBARA WAY!  Congrats, Ms Barbara!  You are this week’s Trivia Super Star!

I’m happy that so many of you played along in the challenge this week!  And I hope you’ll take the ALOHA FRIDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE next week, too!

Happy Weekend, gang!

A hui hou…

Jason

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waikiki, palm trees, oahu, hawaii

Looking up at some beautiful palm trees in Waikīkī (Oʻahu, HI 1.15.12)

Aloha, gang!

Just over a week ago, I got back from an amazingly wonderful (and equally terrifying!) trip to Hawaiʻi.

It was the kind of experience I’ve heard folks refer to as a “game-changer.”  I mean, it really turned my life upside down and made me take a long look at WHAT I’m doing and WHY I’m doing it.

I’ve been asked to share stories from the trip.

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down at my desk and started writing about some of the experiences—only to find myself at a complete and total loss for words.

Clearly, I’m still chewing on the memories and only beginning to digest them.

(And waaaaaay too much happened to just condense it into a single blog post!  I don’t want to just throw a few quick details/anecdotes together.  This trip was heavy and oh-so-good!)

So…

I’ve decided to write a series of posts to really honor the experience and take you there with me—trying to capture how it really happened.

Those stories will be posted here on the blog in the coming weeks!  Stay tuned…

——————–

In the meantime, I’m excited to share some links to  the videos that have been posted from appearances I made while I was there.  

A giant MAHALO to everyone who posted the videos!  It’s so great to see those moments, again! (Note:  I do not own any of these videos.  They have been posted by the individuals/organizations.)

**Please click HERE to see an interview (with embedded VIDEO!  Look toward the middle of the article) that I did for the Hawaii Vacation Blog (Hawaii-Aloha.com).   

**Please click HERE to view just the video portion of that article.

**Please click HERE  to a view spot that I did on KITV to promote the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi’s New Year’s ʻOhana Festival.

**Here are the links the performance that Andy Wang and I did on Pakele Live!

Part 1: HERE

Part 2: HERE

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The Crooner’s Weekly “TOP 5″ (1.25.12)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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. Pōhai Ke Aloha (Kawai Cockett’s recording on the album Beautiful Kauaʻi)

Ok.  I’ve had this song (and Uncle Kawai’s recording of it!) on my TOP 5 before.

Wanna know why?

Because I love it!  I mean I think Uncle Kawai’s version of this song (which is one of my all-time favorites) is outta this world!

Most often, I think this song is associated with a female singer.  At least that’s been my experience.  And the lyrics mention tears wetting the singer’s cheeks–and all too often, tears are associated with women instead of men.  (*Crooner Note:  Men cry, too!)

But when Uncle Kawai sings this song–wow… So tender and yet so masculine.  So AWESOME.

*Sadly, Uncle Kawai passed away in 2006. Please click HERE to read more about this amazing man.

2. ʻAkaka Falls (Elodia Kāne’s recording on the album Tribute to Lena Machado)

This beloved Hawaiian classic, attributed to Helen Lindsay Parker, is a favorite.  And Aunty Elodia’s recording is also a favorite.

Her voice has the clarity of a bell–the kind of voice I can imagine carrying through the air and being heard from a great distance.  Never shrill. Always tender.

And I love that she includes an English language verse, too!  It helps a listener who may be totally unfamiliar with the Hawaiian language by giving them an anchor–something they are familiar with.

Lovely from start to finish.

3. Kuʻu Kumu (Kaukahi’s recording on the album Life In These Islands)

Perhaps it’s because I’ve just gotten back from Molokai and spent some time with Pops, my kumu.  When I listened to this song this week, it really struck a chord.

The song uses the word KUMU in two ways, both as a teacher and as the trunk of tree.  The metaphor holds true–we learn from our teachers and we, as students, are branches of them and their knowledge.

Totally brought tears to my eyes… in the best way! (**Crooner note:  Please see above–men cry, too!)

(*Crooner Note:  I had the chance to see Kaukahi perform while I was on Oʻahu.  They are just as good–and maybe even better–in person.  Go see ‘em!  Wow…)

*Please click HERE to visit Kaukahi’s website.

4. Pua Tuberose (Raiatea’s recording on the album Hawaiian Blossom)

An unforgettable ballad about an unforgettable flower.

The classic song, attributed to Kimo Kamana, speaks of the tuberose flower and its delicate fragrance.  It’s not hard to infer that perhaps the kaona in this song is describing a beloved–an unforgettable love.

Raitea’s voice and the simple, almost understated accompaniment are a perfect combination for this lovely song.  I can see a hula being danced to it when I close my eyes and listen…

*Please click HERE to visit Raiatea’s website.

5.  Lei Nani (George Kahumoku, Jr. and Daniel Ho’s recording on the album Classic Hawaiian Hulas Vol. 3)

Oh!  So good, this version!

A favorite hula to play and sing, I love how Uncle George Kahumoku sings this, with Daniel’s sparkling ʻukulele in the background, dancing around Uncle George’s masterful ki hoalu (slack key) stylings!

The song, attributed to Charles Nāmāhoe, is a lovely song of affection. And it’s a favorite of so many hula dancers.  Musicians, this is good one to know!

*Please click HERE to visit the Uncle George’s website.

*Please click HERE to visit Daniel’s 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 www.mele.com for being an awesome Hawaiian music resource. You all make the world a better place!  I’m DEFINITELY thankful for that!

**Wanna be the first to know when Crooner News/Updates are posted?  You can subscribe by clicking HERE!**

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Strummin’ in the City (#49)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kamaka ukulele, urban strummer, Jason Poole

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele beside a NYC Electrical plate. Urban Strumming! (NYC Jan 2012)

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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