Culture

PBS HAWAIʻI PRESENTS
Hawaiian Voices:
 Bridging Past to Present

HAWAIIAN VOICES: 
Bridging Past to Present

 

This documentary honors the role of kupuna in preserving Hawaiian culture, and taps into the valuable memories and perspectives of three respected Hawaiian elders whose lives bridged the transition from older times into the late 20th century.

 

 




SKINDIGENOUS
Prince Ruppert – Nakkita Trimble

 

Nakkita Trimble is the only tattoo artist from the Nisga’a Nation. Along with elders from her community, she hopes to revive the traditional process of tattooing known as gihlee’e. Ts’iksna’aḵs—the tattoos—were usually composed of crests, known as ayukws, and of adaawaḵs, which are stories, legends and history. She plans to teach someone else the art of the Nisga’a tattoing so that more people can reconnect with this ancient practice.

 

 

 

SKINDIGENOUS
Mexico – Samuel Olman

 

The ancient city of Palenque was once a hub of Mayan civilization. For centuries after its decline, it lay hidden under layers of tropical vegetation, until modern archaeologists peeled back the jungle to reveal it to the world in the last century. Today, Palenque is both an cultural centre and a sacred site. It was here that Indigenous artist Samuel Olman chose to set up his traditional Mayan tattoo practice. Living in the heart of the jungle near the ancient ruins, Samuel heads up the Olman Project, which aims to revive the art, knowledge and wisdom of Mesoamerican tattooing, while adapting it to the modern world.

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Kawika Kahiapo

 

Slack key musician and singer-songwriter Kawika Kahiapo is a longtime member of the PBS Hawaiʻi ʻohana. In 2008, he wrote the theme song for our “PBS Hawai‘i and You” campaign. He then served on our Board of Directors for six years, from 2009 through 2015.

 

Kahiapo makes his NĀ MELE debut, performing music inspired by his lifelong home, Windward Oʻahu. “When I lived in Lāʻie, driving up and down the coast every day, coming to and from work and from gigs, I was just inspired by the natural beauty,” Kahiapo says in the program. “I wanted to celebrate that.” Song selections include “Nani Wale Kualoa,” “Kaulana Makapuʻu” and “ʻO ʻOe ʻIo.” Kahiapo’s wife Laurie and daughter ʻĀlana accompany him with hula during several songs.

 

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at this production of Na Mele:

 

Don’t Miss Kawikaʻs Na Mele Digital Short.

 

 

 



SKINDIGENOUS
New Zealand – Gordon Toi

 

In the twentieth century, the Maori of New Zealand all but lost their tattooing tradition. Only the women who continued to sport the traditional chin design ensured that the art did not disappear completely. Today, a tattoo renaissance is underway, and artist Gordon Toi plays a key role in the process. Using modern machines to weave ancient patterns reflecting the powers of the natural world, Gordon has made it his life’s quest to ensure that the art of ta moko can continue to flourish in the twenty-first century and beyond. His studio House of Natives is more than a tattoo shop—it is a cultural institution and a place where one feels the presence of the sacred.

 

 

 

SKINDIGENOUS
Alaska – Marjorie Tahbone

 

Marjorie Tahbone, an Alaskan artist of Inupiaq heritage, was first among the living women of her family to get her traditional chin tattoo. Because no one was practicing the tattooing art at the time, she had to get her markings from a non-Indigenous artist in Fairbanks. Significant as the experience was, it ignited in Marjorie a desire to revive the practice for her community. Following this desire, she took up the tools and the old methods and became a full-fledged traditional tattooist working in the Inupiaq tradition. Thanks to Marjorie and other culture bearers across the North, the tradition of inking women’s skin to mark major life events and to symbolize spiritual beliefs is once again a part of Indigenous life in the region.

 

 

 

RICK STEVES’
Heart of Italy

 

Host Rick Steves delves deep into the Italian heartland, where la dolce vita is a way of life. Rick visits his favorite stretch of Mediterranean coastline, as he goes fishing for anchovies, sips wine out of rustic barrels, brings flowers to hilltop cemeteries, and savors twinkling Mediterranean vistas.

 

 

 

Josh Tatofi
Grammy-Nominated Musical Artist

NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Song - Josh Tatofi

 

June Cover Story by Liberty Peralta , PBS Hawai‘i

 

As a young child, Josh Tatofi thought he had an ordinary life.

 

“I thought everyone’s dad was a rock star, and I thought everyone was playing music,” he says. His father, Tivaini Tatofi, was a founding member of local island music group Kapena. “I didn’t really know that my childhood was special until way later,” says the younger Tatofi.

 

Likewise, he didn’t find music particularly special right away. He was about six years old when his dad would start showing him basic notes on the bass guitar. He’d also go through the motions of taking guitar and piano lessons. “I was so over it,” he says of the latter. “I wanted to play with the kids next door.”

 

That feeling changed a few years later – “when I was eight or nine” – when he and fellow children of Kapena’s band members were “thrown onstage to play a couple of songs,” recalls Tatofi. “I liked the feeling of being onstage, playing music. I wanted to be like my dad.”

 

He’d find further inspiration from R&B vocalists like Luther Vandross and Pebo Bryson. “Love songs, ballads is what I love to sing,” says Tatofi.

 

Born in Honolulu, Tatofi grew up on Windward O‘ahu, in Kāne‘ohe, before moving with his family to Maui in his early teens. It was in Kāne‘ohe that Tatofi would have a breakthrough moment, when his friends of the Hawaiian music group Hū‘ewa invited him onstage at a bar to sing a Hawaiian-language song.

 

“I came off stage, and I didn’t know, but Kumu Hula Auntie Aloha Dalire was in the crowd,” Tatofi says. “She tells me: ‘Eh, I don’t know what you’re doing with your music career life, but I think you should sing Hawaiian music.’ And I was like: ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Thank you, Auntie, but no, I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do.’”

 

Dalire passed away a week or two later.

 

“I remember singing at her funeral, and I remembered the conversation that we had, and it just lingered upon me for a while,” Tatofi says.

 

His desire to stay in the Islands and entertain local audiences, encouragement from friends, and a growing ease and excitement in creating Hawaiian music arrangements, steered him toward writing more Hawaiian mele.

 

Tatofi admits he doesn’t speak the Hawaiian language, so he writes his music in Tongan, his family’s native language, then in English, before enlisting the help of friends fluent in Hawaiian to translate.

 

“When you try to write it in English [first], and then translate it to Hawaiian, it’s kind of difficult just saying ‘I miss you,’” he says. “In order to get the proper ‘I miss you’ in Hawaiian, I have to write it in Tongan first, ‘cause once I translate it from Tongan, it turns into something like, ‘The morning mist lingers throughout my day.’ That part just kind of kills me, because it picks at your brain and your heart at the same time.”

 

Josh Tatofi (center) with bandmates Travis Kaka (left) and Laupepa Letuli (right)

Josh Tatofi (center) with bandmates Travis Kaka (left) and Laupepa Letuli (right)

 

Tatofi wrote his first Hawaiian language song, “Pua Kiele” – “not knowing once we released that song, that it would change my life forever,” says Tatofi. His 2016 debut album, also called Pua Kiele, would go on to win two Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards.

 

He hasn’t let success get to his head. “I’m still a student of being a practitioner of Hawaiian music, of Hawaiian culture,” he says. “I’m still very much learning.”

 

Josh Tatofi is featured on a new episode of PBS Hawai‘i’s Nā Mele: Traditions in Hawaiian Song. He’s joined by bandmates Travis Kaka on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, and Laupepa Letuli on lead guitar and backing vocals. The program also features hula dancers from three different hālau: Hula Hālau ‘O Kamuela, Hālau Hi‘iakaināmakalehua and Hālau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniākea. Watch this performance online here on PBS Hawai‘i.

 

 

 

SKINDIGENOUS
Samoa – Peter Suluaʻpe

 

Western Samoa is one of the few places on the planet where traditional tattooing continued unimpeded through the colonial era. Sua Peter Suluaʻpe is a contemporary master of the craft. With his father and brothers, he works out of a cultural village in the heart of Apia, the Samoan capital. The Suluaʻpes are one of only two Samoan families who are authorized by tradition to create tattoos in accordance with ancient custom. Embracing their role, they carry on a sacred practice whose origins lie in legend, and which continues to shape the character of Samoa today.

 

SKINDIGENOUS - Samoa: Peter Suluʻape

 

 

 

SKINDIGENOUS
Seattle – Nahaan

 

Seattle-born artist Nahaan sees tattoo, like many other forms of artistic expression, as a political act and a form of resistance. This artist of mixed First Nations heritage draws on traditional teachings to create new work using modern and traditional methods alike. Born and raised in an urban environment, Nahaan uses the city as a platform for upholding and revivifying cultural practices that colonization once threatened to wipe out. Drawing on the symbology and aesthetics of the Indigenous West Coast, his tattoo work becomes “permanent regalia” on the bodies he works on, expressing through image and symbol the deepest beliefs of his ancestors and the forces that give life to his people and the land.

 

SKINDIGENOUS - Seattle: Nahaan

 

 

 

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