Culture

Josh Tatofi
Grammy-Nominated Musical Artist

NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Song - Josh Tatofi, Monday, June 24, 7:30 pm

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.”

 

This month, 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 on Monday, June 24 at 7:30 pm on PBS Hawai‘i. The program will also be available to view online here at pbshawaii.org.

 

Josh Tatofi on NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Music, Monday, June 24, 7:30 pm

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
At Halekulani’s House Without A Key

 

NĀ MELE goes on location to document a traditional, cherished Hawaiian experience. Halekulani has a special place in the hearts of Hawai‘i’s people and everyone who has spent time there. PBS Hawai‘i captures a late afternoon at the hotel’s House Without a Key with hula dancers Kanoe Miller and Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, and the musical trio Pa‘ahana (Pakala Fernandes, Kaipo Kukahiko and Douglas Po‘oloa Tolentino).

 

 

 

CURIOUS TRAVELER
Curious Edinburgh

 

Why did the Scottish kings live in Edinburgh, and why don’t we have Scottish kings anymore? Why was Edinburgh Castle built high upon on Castle Rock? What’s the connection between Edinburgh and Harry Potter? And where are the real-life inspirations for Harry Potter locations? What is so royal about Edinburgh’s Royal Mile? Who is Arthur, and why does he get his own Seat?

 

 

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
SEASON 8 Programming

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT LOGO

 

Now in its eighth season, the anthology series PACIFIC HEARTBEAT brings the authentic Pacific – people, cultures, languages, music and contemporary issues – to your screen. This new season brings stories of determination and courage from Australia, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Tonga and the U.S. The series is a production of Pacific Islanders in Communications in partnership with PBS Hawai‘i, and is distributed nationally by American Public Television.

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8: Te Kuhane o te Tupuna (The Spirit of the Ancestors)

Te Kuhane o te Tupuna (The Spirit of the Ancestors)
Sat., May 4, 8:00 pm
Encore: Thurs., May 9, 10:00 pm

This documentary film is a journey from Easter Island to London, in search of the lost Moai Hoa Haka Nanaia, a statue of significant cultural importance. It explores the social and political landscape of the island of Rapanui as the people attempt to claim back what is rightfully theirs: their land and a lava-rock image of tremendous presence, representing one of the world’s most extraordinary cosmological views.

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8: Corridor Four

Corridor Four
Sat., May 11, 8:00 pm
Encore: Thurs., May 16, 10:00 pm

Corridor Four is a documentary that illustrates Isaac Ho‘opi‘i’s story in the aftermath of 9/11. After all the news cameras had turned off and all the lights had dimmed, Isaac was left only with the horrific images he had seen and the memory of those he was unable to save. His is a story not of a hero basking in the glory of his past deeds, but of a human being filled with regret that he couldn’t change something completely out of his control.

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8: Prison Songs

Prison Songs
Sat., May 18, 8:00 pm
Encore: Thurs., May 23, 10:00 pm

The people imprisoned in a Darwin jail are shown in a unique and completely new light in Australia’s first ever documentary musical. Incarcerated in tropical Northern Territory, over 800 inmates squeeze into the overcrowded spaces of Berrimah Prison. In an Australian first, the inmates share their feelings, faults and experiences in the most extraordinary way – through song.

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8: Leitis in Waiting

Leitis in Waiting
Sat., May 25, 8:00 pm
Encore: Thurs., May 30, 10:00 pm

Leitis in Waiting tells the story of Tonga’s evolving approach to gender fluidity through a character-driven portrait of the most prominent leiti (transgender) in the Kingdom, Joey Mataele, a devout Catholic of noble descent. Over the course of an eventful year, Joey organizes a beauty pageant, mentors a young leiti who is rejected by her family, and attempts to work with fundamentalist Christians regarding Tonga’s anti-sodomy and cross-dressing laws. Her story reveals what it means to be different in a deeply religious and conservative society, and what it takes to be accepted without giving up who you are.

Related: See interview with the filmmakers of Leitis in Waiting by Emily Bodfish, PBS Hawaiʻi

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8: Let's Play Music! Slack Key With Cyril Pahinui and Friends

Let’s Play Music! Slack Key With Cyril Pahinui and Friends
Sat., June 1, 8:00 pm
Encore: Thurs., June 6, 10:00 pm

Master slack key musician Cyril Pahinui, jams with some of the most revered and talented musicians in Hawai‘i in intimate kanikapila style backyard performances. Cyril was the son of Gabby “Pop” Pahinui, who is considered the “Godfather” of Hawaiian slack key guitar and whose music was featured prominently in the Academy Award winning film, The Descendants. Cyril Pahinui passed away on November 17, 2018; this broadcast is dedicated to him.

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Richard Ho‘opi‘i and George Kahumoku Jr.

 

Richard Ho‘opi‘i and George Kahumoku Jr. walked into the PBS Hawai‘i studio, sat down with their instruments, and began to play. George, with his mellow slack key guitar and soothing voice, performing alongside Richard, with his never ending smile and his beautiful falsetto, offered song after song, with talk story in-between. This impromptu concert can only be described as pure joy.

 

 

LUCKY CHOW
Food as Wellness

LUCKY CHOW: Food As Wellness

 

As bone broth and kombucha line the shelves of your local grocery store, we take a closer look at “food as medicine”. From visits to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Centre in China, Manhattan Chinatown’s Po Wing Market and Seoul’s Kimchi Museum, we learn that food is so much more than just sustenance.

 

 

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS - The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific

 

Directed by Sam Low and Boyd Estus, this documentary explores the heritage of Polynesian wayfinding, and how indigenous Pacific societies sustained their navigational practices and practitioners. The film features Mau Piailug, who was at that point the last known navigator to be ceremonially initiated on Satawal, an atoll in Micronesia’s remote Caroline Islands.

 

Preview

 

 

 



PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8
Let’s Play Music! Slack Key With Cyril Pahinui and Friends

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8: Let's Play Music! Slack Key With Cyril Pahinui and Friends
 
PACIFIC HEARTBEAT

 

The eighth season PACIFIC HEARTBEAT provides viewers with a glimpse of the real Pacific—its people, culture and contemporary issues. From revealing exposés to in-depth profiles and unexpected histories, the anthology series features a diverse array of programs that draws viewers into the heart, mind and soul of Pacific Island culture.

 

Preview

 

Let’s Play Music! Slack Key With Cyril Pahinui and Friends
Master slack key musician Cyril Pahinui, jams with some of the most revered and talented musicians in Hawai‘i in intimate kanikapila style backyard performances. Cyril was the son of Gabby “Pop” Pahinui, who is considered the “Godfather” of Hawaiian slack key guitar and whose music was featured prominently in the Academy Award winning film, The Descendants. Cyril Pahinui passed away on November 17, 2018; this broadcast is dedicated to him.

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Josh Tatofi

NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Song - Josh Tatofi

 

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.

 

Preview

 

NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Song - Josh Tatofi and his bandmates Travis Kaka (left) and Laupepa Letuli (right)

NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Song – Josh Tatofi and his bandmates Travis Kaka (left) and Laupepa Letuli (right)

 

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.

 

NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Song - Josh Tatofi's performance includes a Hula performance

The program also features hula dancers from three different hālau: Hula Hālau ‘O Kamuela, Hālau Hi‘iakaināmakalehua and Hālau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniākea.

 

Read more about Josh Tatofi in our June program guide cover story here.

 

Josh Tatofi on NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Music, Monday, June 24, 7:30 pm

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8
Leitis in Waiting

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8: Leitis in Waiting
 
PACIFIC HEARTBEAT

 

The eighth season PACIFIC HEARTBEAT provides viewers with a glimpse of the real Pacific—its people, culture and contemporary issues. From revealing exposés to in-depth profiles and unexpected histories, the anthology series features a diverse array of programs that draws viewers into the heart, mind and soul of Pacific Island culture.

 

Preview

 

Leitis in Waiting
Leitis in Waiting tells the story of Tonga’s evolving approach to gender fluidity through a character-driven portrait of the most prominent leiti (transgender) in the Kingdom, Joey Mataele, a devout Catholic of noble descent. Over the course of an eventful year, Joey organizes a beauty pageant, mentors a young leiti who is rejected by her family, and attempts to work with fundamentalist Christians regarding Tonga’s anti-sodomy and cross-dressing laws. Her story reveals what it means to be different in a deeply religious and conservative society, and what it takes to be accepted without giving up who you are.

 

 

 

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