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Posts Tagged ‘ʻOhana’

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. The Hawaiian Wedding Song (Ke Kali Nei Au) (Alfred Aholo Apaka’ recording on the album Hawaiian Wedding Song)

The golden voice of Hawaiian crooner Alfred Aholo Apaka never disappoints me.

And this song, sung as a beautifully touching duet with Diana Moncado, is–well–it knocks my socks off.  Amazing.  Amazing.  Amazing.  Such control.

Wow.

So beautiful, this song.

Some say it’s not the original Hawaiian Song.  And that leads us to the next selection.

2. Lei Aloha Lei Makamae (Aunty Genoa Keawe’s recording on the album Among My Hawaiian Souvenirs)

Aunty Genoa sings this duet with her son, the amazing baritone crooner, Gary Aiko.  Wow.

I mean it:  W.O.W.

Amazing voices singing an amazing song.

I was told by several folks in Hawaii that THIS is the original Hawaiian Wedding Song and not Ke Kali Nei Au… and who am I to argue, right?  I just keep learning and growing.  That’s my job.  (I think we need to discuss this in more detail, don’t you?  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post!)

This piece, written by the incomparable Charles E. King, has some of the most beautiful lyrics I’ve ever read.

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

3. Kaimuki Hula (Ata Damasco’s recording on the album Paʻina Hou!)

Are you looking for an amazing hula tune with some of the smoothest vocals (and falsetto!) you’ll ever hear?  Well, this is your song!

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the voice (and ʻukulele stylings) of Mr. Ata Damasco.  So smooth.  So seemingly effortless.  I wanna sing like him someday!

*Please click HERE to read more about Ata Damasco on his page on the Ululoa website.

4. Pua Pakalana (The Hula Honeys’ recording on the album Life Just Got Sweeter)

I love the sweet sounds of The Hula Honeys!  And this song, penned by Robyn Kneubuhl, is so dreamy!  I mean it… Heavenly. Ethereal.

According to the album’s liner notes, she wrote the song about the Pakalana flower as it reminds her of her grandmother.

If you close your eyes, I think you’ll be able to see a hula being danced to it.

Sounds that remind of us of “yesteryear” being sung today by a duo of amazing musicians like Robin Kneubuhl and Ginger Johnson.  Yes, please.

*Please click HERE to visit The Hula Honeys’ website.

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

One of my favorite composers/performers is Uncle Dennis.  And he’s such a great mentor for all things Hawaiian.  A true source!

In this recording, he shares the song based on an chant that honors King David Kalākaua.  The recording is like a jam session–including Uncle Dennis’ amazing slack key guitar skills, David Kamakahi’s sparkling ʻukulele stylings and Uncle Dennis’ golden baritone voice.

Wow… imagine what it would have been like to be a fly on the wall in that recording studio when they recorded it!

*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 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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In November of 2011, my friend Lisa asked me to 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:

*Please click HERE to read Part 1.  

*Please click HERE to read Part 2.  

*Please click HERE to read Part 3.

Getting ready to take the stage! (Andy Wang, Lisa Shozuya and Jason - Honolulu, HI 1.8.12) (Photo courtesy of Lisa Shozuya)

It’s SHOWTIME!

When I arrived at the festival, I was blown away by the crowds that had already gathered.   The grounds had been transformed into a true festival site.  Ok… so maybe it wasn’t as huge as Woodstock back in 1969.  But to my eyes, it certainly felt that way!

I took a deep breath as I looked around.  I was expected to be able to sing.  This was the whole reason I’d scheduled the trip to Hawaiʻi.

When I’d tried to vocalize earlier in the day, I was so happy that there was a little more voice than the day before at the KITV studios.  But it still wasn’t strong.  It was shaky.  I didn’t have much of an upper register–my voice was low and gravely.  But I needed to trust that a voice would appear.  I kept hearing Pops in my mind, “You just get up there and sing.  You’re honoring the kūpuna, the elders.  Those that came before.  You’ll be ok.”  I needed to have faith.

Mōʻiliʻili Field is known for its baseball diamonds.  But I barely recognized it.

A covered stage had been erected beside the baseball diamond.  A covered seating area had been created for guests to get out of the sun, sit and eat some of the ʻono-licious foods that were available.  A whole children’s area had been created with all sorts of games and activities.  A section had been set up for the mochi pounding that was to take place.  Costumed characters like Hello Kitty roamed the grounds and greeted the guests.  It was pretty unbelievable!

With Hello Kitty before the shows! (Andy Wang, Lisa Shozuya and Jason - Honolulu, HI 1.8.12) (Photo courtesy of Lisa Shozuya)

I met up with my lifeline, Andy Wang, right outside of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii‘s main offices and we ducked behind closed doors to change into our “show attire” and plan the day.

In the offices, we were surrounded by our JCCH friends.  Talk about a great welcome!  I have been trying to figure out a way to express how they made us feel.  The word that keeps coming up is FAMILY–ʻohana–in the truest sense of the word.  I don’t know how I could have done it without them–huge smiles and warm hugs and nothing but helpful support.

We’d been asked to prepare 3 sets of music, approximately 30 minutes each.  We’d decided to create our set list right before we went on.  Sounds crazy, right?  But there was a method to the madness!

Andy and I play music together in NYC and we’re comfortable with each other’s repertoire.  I was so excited to have him there with me.  We “bounce off of each other”–having fun sharing songs.  Trading off lead vocals and harmony.  Jamming. Laughing.  Telling stories.  And let’s face it:  it’s always more fun to share the stage and have a blast with your friends!

When we selected songs for the first set, we chose songs that we felt comfortable with and songs that we knew the audience would enjoy.  (And we picked songs that I could actually sing–the laryngitis was limiting me in a big way!)  We figured if we had fun up on the stage, sharing music like we do back in NYC, we’d be able to really share Aloha with the audience.  We wanted it to feel structured, but not formal.  And that took away a lot of the pressure.

When we made our way out to the field, we saw the Royal Hawaiian Band on stage!

I was thinking, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  We’re on the same bill as the Royal Hawaiian Band?!  How cool is that?!”  And Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono spoke right before we took the stage to sing our first set of music.  (To read about the time I’d “crooned for the congresswoman” in NYC, please click HERE.)

Andy and I got ourselves situated on stage and plugged our instruments into the DI boxes.  (I’m still getting used to being amplified–and all of the hi-tech sound  stuff really made me feel like a rock star!)  Andy was playing a beautiful guitar–its rich sound complimented the bright sound of the ʻukulele beautifully.  Even our instruments were “in sync.”  How could we lose, right?  The guys that helped us with our sound were really helpful.  They made us feel like pros.

I took a quick sip of water and looked out at the crowds.  And my knees buckled a little bit. What was going to happen?  Would I have a voice?

You know how folks that skydive talk about that “make it or break it moment” they have right before they jump out of the plane?  Well, that’s kind of what this felt like.  I’d scheduled this trip and travelled 5,000 miles to sing at this festival.  Lisa had believed in me.  Denise had taken such good care of me.  Friends and family were in the audience.  New faces (friends to be?) were sitting in the audience, looking at us.  Expecting us to perform.  It was now or never.

I’d decided to bring my pū, my conch shell trumpet, with me on stage.  I wanted to honor the tradition of sounding it/blowing it four times before we began.  It was a way to connect to Pops.  It was a way to honor an ancient Hawaiian tradition.  And it helped to create the mood/space/environment I wanted for the performance.  After the fourth blow into the shell, it was ON!

I can’t really explain what happens, but when I perform in front of an audience, something just “clicks.”  It’s like “plugging in” to some kind cosmic electrical outlet.  It’s comfortable.  It’s safe.   And it’s FUN!

Andy and I did two sets on the main stage and then one more set on a smaller stage across the street at the JCCH.  Every set seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.  The pū was sounded and before I knew it, we were hitting our 30-minute mark and we were wrapping it up.  We laughed.  We sang.  We made good music. We shared a lot of Aloha.  Andy was there to sing the lead or play a slack key guitar piece to take some of the pressure off of my voice.  He was a touchstone from home, reminding me of why we were there–and helped me to remember not to take it too seriously.  We left our egos at the door and honored the songs as best we could.  We both approached the day’s performances with a spirit of humility and camaraderie.  How can you ask for a better afternoon than that?

After one of the sets, I was approached by a young woman who asked if she could interview me for a website.  I was totally in the Show Up and Say “YES!” zone, so I did  just that.  I said, “Yes.”

Alyssa made me feel right at home and for some reason, a lot of my camera-shyness disappeared.  She did an outstanding job editing the piece and really allowed me to share my story in a way that I was proud of.  In a way that allowed me to honor those that have come before.   (In the interview, my semi-laryngitic state is really apparent.  But it was such fun!)  I hope you’ll check out the video below!  And a giant MAHALO to Alyssa and the folks at www.hawaii-aloha.com for such a great piece!  It was an honor!

After we’d finished our last set, I had to head to the airport.  There would be no rest for the weary.  Molokai was waiting!

Once on island, I knew I had to deliver a talk-story/performance.  I would be staying down in Hālawa Valley–which is always an adventure!

And I needed to find a way to recover and find my voice, again.  I’d made it through the first leg of the trip but more was just on the horizon…

In less than a week, I would be heading back to Oʻahu to do an episode of Pakele Live!

Awesome opportunities continued to present themselves!  (And I needed a strong and healthy voice to be able to do what was required of me.)

To be continued…

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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.

Awesome.

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

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