Culture

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Weldon Kekauoha

Story by Emilie Howlett

 

 

Hawaiian musician Weldon Kekauoha has been crafting beloved musical arrangements and sharing them with Hawaiʻi, the continental U.S. and beyond for over 30 years. He’s enjoyed a successful solo career, amassing multiple Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards and, in 2014, a Grammy nomination. For the past 15 years, he has been going to Japan to perform, finding an enthusiastic audience there that has embraced the Hawaiian culture.

 

Web exclusive:

 

 

Kekauoha gave a soulful performance in PBS Hawaiʻi’s Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Multimedia Studio, for the taping of our newest Nā Mele. In this episode of our traditional Hawaiian music series, guitarist Jack Ofoia, bassist Alika Boy Kalauli IV and hula dancer Yuko Hashimoto accompany Kekauoha with a performance set against dramatic photo backdrops of Hawai‘i landscapes.

 

Identifying himself as a contemporary artist with a traditional foundation, Kekauoha goes in-depth about the meaning behind his songs, his experience as a longtime performer and the importance of music in his life.

 

He also addresses an incident at the Halekulani Hotel in 2013. While enjoying the pool during a weekend getaway at the Waikīkī hotel, Kekauoha and his family were asked by security guards to verify that they were guests. The guards were acting on another hotel guest’s suspicion that the Kekauohas did not belong at the pool because they were locals.

 

Kekauoha vented about the incident on Facebook. The post went viral, sparking widespread outrage. The hotel apologized, but for Kekauoha to be a target of discrimination in the same neighborhood where he and many other Hawaiian musicians made a name for themselves was a bitter irony for him.

 

Today, Kekauoha says he doesn’t harbor any ill feelings toward the hotel. “Hopefully it brought a little bit more of an awareness,” he says. “Racism can rear its head often, and we’ve got to always be vigilant to try and keep it in its place.” Thankfully, as Kekauoha knows intimately from his world travels, nothing breaks down barriers of difference better than the art of sharing music.

 

In these excerpts from an interview with Kekauoha and Jason Suapaia, PBS Hawaiʻi’s former Vice President of Integrated Media Production, Kekauoha highlights the many ways music has touched his life.

 

 

PBS Hawaiʻi: How important is music in perpetuating the Hawaiian culture?

Weldon Kekauoha: Very, very important. People say hula has been able to sustain that part of the culture, and from there, so much of the [Hawaiian] Renaissance has been able to flourish. More interest has grown because of hula, and music has always been there in the background.

 

I think music is a little bit of a different animal, only because it’s so open for creativity and influence. If you look at so much of the history of Hawaiian music – in Hawai‘i, on the U.S. mainland, even abroad – it’s incredible to see how much the music has changed from being super traditional, and then going way out from it, to being commercialized.  And I mean that in a good way. There’s of course some negative aspects to it, and then “Hollywood-ized,” if you will. Then it took a long while to bring it back [to the traditional], because it just got so way out from the original intent of our culture. But it’s neat to see the revival of all that is Hawaiian, and the new pride that has been fostered from it. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the next 20 years.

 

Kekauoha, left, performs on Nā Mele with bassist Alika Boy Kalauli IV and hula dancer Yuko Hashimoto. Photo: Richard Drake

 

How has music touched your life, and your family’s life, and what would it be without music?

I can’t imagine how it would be without music. It’s always been there, it’s always been in the background for me at some level. And obviously, now, where I am, it’s what I do and it’s what I’m known for. I feel blessed that I get to do what I love to do. Oftentimes, people are looking for something to do that they enjoy, and I think if it wasn’t for music, I would probably embrace whatever it is that I was doing, and that would become perhaps my passion and I’d make it work. That’s your job. If you’re not happy, you gotta change.  But if you get to know your job well, and you love it, it’s a different type of enjoyment.  In this case, it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed since I was a young boy. To be able to carry it over into sustaining me, my family and my life all this time, I’ve been lucky.   And it’s still a work in progress. It’s like any other business; you gotta kind of take care of it, and try to make sure you have something good to sell, something good to give people. And you just continue with good relationships and good performances, and all that that entails. Having a good business is pretty much what you should shoot for.

 

When people listen to your music, what do you hope they will get from it?

I just hope that they would like my music, for whatever reason – whether it strikes a chord in them, or reminds them of something. Even I am totally susceptible; I can listen to a song and it just takes me back somewhere. And that’s the power of music. I always remember how strong music can be. I just hope [listeners] take away something. I don’t expect one song to be like a huge, life-changing moment for anybody, but if I can have a place in someone’s heart or mind because of my music, I think that would be my goal. I want them to take away something from my music that they will always remember, whether it’s a feeling or the melody.

 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

 

 

 



ANTIQUES ROADSHOW
Spokane, WA, Part 2 of 3

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW: Spokane, WA, Part 2 of 3

 

Discover fantastic finds in Spokane, including a 1961-1963 JFK archive, a grotesque face jug and Gone with the Wind sketches. Can you guess which is valued at $60,000-$80,000?

 

 

 

FAMILY INGREDIENTS
Puerto Rico – Arroz con Gandules

 

Part foodie, part travelogue, part genealogy, Family Ingredients follows acclaimed Hawai‘i restaurateur and sustainability hero Ed Kenney, as he meets with different individuals in the Islands, and follows each person’s cherished food memory to its origin around the globe. He takes off to explore Okinawa, Tahiti, California, Japan, Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian Islands, showcasing how cuisine can profoundly unite cultures, communities and families.

 

Puerto Rico – Arroz con Gandules
Puerto Rican pride thrives in Hawaiʻi. Ed Kenney meets up with entertainer Tiara Hernandez, whose family grew up in Waikiki showrooms. They follow a culinary path to a country she’s never seen to learn more about her heritage.

 

 

SAMANTHA BROWN’S PLACES TO LOVE
Lakes and Mountains of New Hampshire

 

Visiting her hometown state, Samantha arrives on Lake Winnipesaukee aboard the M/S Mount Washington and goes straight to Funspot, the world’s largest arcade. Not only does she play her childhood favorite video games, but gets a chance to chat with legendary owner, Bob Lawton. From there, Samantha grabs a tasty bite at a wildly popular local farm-to-table restaurant, aptly named Local Eatery. Samantha continues her tour of the Lakes Region by taking a loon-spotting cruise on Squam Lake, where she learns of the indigenous wildlife. Heading to the White Mountains Region, Samantha gets a sugar rush at Chutters, home of the world’s longest candy counter, then takes a stroll through the remarkable town of Littleton, where she listens to a ukulele quartet perform at Northern Lights Music. Samantha concludes her trip with tea time at the historic Omni Mount Washington Resort, and a Cog Railway ride to the summit of Mount Washington State Park.

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
The Lim Family

 

Our newest offering of NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG features the hugely talented, musical Lim Family of Kohala, Hawai‘i Island. Family members perform regularly at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, as well as the nearby Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, and they also travel often to Japan to entertain audiences and to teach hula. This program, recorded in PBS Hawai‘i’s Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Multimedia Studio, is a new setting for the Lims. But they seem at home almost anywhere, surrounded by music and family. On the program, you’ll see siblings Sonny Lim, Nani Lim Yap and Lorna Lim perform as a trio. Among the featured hula dancers are family members Namakana Davis-Lim, Brianna “Wehi” Lim Ryder and Asialynn Yap. Songs performed include “Lei Ana O Kohala,” “Ka Wahine O Ka Lua” and the instrumental “Pau Hana Rag.”

 

NĀ MELE: The Lim Family

 

 

 

FAMILY INGREDIENTS
Japan – Miso Soup

 

Part foodie, part travelogue, part genealogy, Family Ingredients follows acclaimed Hawaiʻi restaurateur and sustainability hero Ed Kenney, as he meets with different individuals in the Islands, and follows each person’s cherished food memory to its origin around the globe. He takes off to explore Okinawa, Tahiti, California, Japan, Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian Islands, showcasing how cuisine can profoundly unite cultures, communities and families.

 

Japan – Miso Soup
In Japan, miso factories are like microbreweries in America. Host Ed Kenney and fellow Hawai‘i restaurateur Alan Wong dive into the origins of miso soup, Wong’s favorite childhood dish, and search for the finest ingredients.

 

 

FAMILY INGREDIENTS
California – Pipi Kaula

 

Part foodie, part travelogue, part genealogy, Family Ingredients follows acclaimed Hawai‘i restaurateur and sustainability hero Ed Kenney, as he meets with different individuals in the Islands, and follows each person’s cherished food memory to its origin around the globe. He takes off to explore Okinawa, Tahiti, California, Japan, Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian Islands, showcasing how cuisine can profoundly unite cultures, communities and families.

 

California – Pipi Kaula
At one time, the Hawaiian cowboys were considered some of the best cowboys in the world. They also made the most tender beef jerky called pipi kaula. We’ll trace the origins of the Hawaiian cowboy lifestyle to the adobes of California and discover how these traditions of music and food are still enjoyed today.

 

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