Hawaiian

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

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Nani Lim Yap

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Nani Lim Yap

 

Musician, singer and dancer Nani Lim Yap tells how her Lim family’s music grew from an entertaining pastime to a career that takes them around the world to perform. She also reminisces about her upbringing in Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, and the way she keeps the traditions and stories of her ancestors alive as a kumu hula.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, June 23, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Program

 

 

Nani Lim Yap Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I can remember when we were trying to do chants and mele.  We would choose other places, and something would tell us: Why are you choosing to do an O‘ahu mele, when there’s so much right here?  Not somebody came to us and told us; it was this feeling that you got, like, there’s stories here that need to be told, so tell these stories first. And that’s how we began going in that direction, telling those Kohala stories, singing those Kohala mele.

 

Nani Lim Yap, descended from the ali‘i of Kohala, keeps the traditions and stories of her ancestors alive through mele, chant, and hula.  A member of the remarkable Lim musical family, Nani Lim Yap says she’ll always call Kohala home, no matter how far her travels take her. Nani Lim Yap, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Nanette Lim Yap, better known as Nani, was one of six children growing up in Pu‘u Hue in Kohala, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, where her father was a cowboy at Parker Ranch.  In their isolated mountain community, playing Hawaiian music was the family’s primary source of entertainment.  The musically gifted family was discovered by the rest of the world when Nani’s mother, the late Maryann Lim, was asked to play at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel when it opened in 1965.  Performances soon became a family affair, and the music group known as The Lim Family became a well-known, much-respected, and popular Hawaiian music group. Learning the songs at a young age came easily to Nani, she says, because it was not only through her parents that she learned Hawaiian language.

 

My father worked for the Parker Ranch.  And they had these little stations, and little housing for the workers.  And some workers would have their families, whole families.  So, we were one of them, another family.  Just two other families, other than us.  And so, we were raised out there.

 

So, very remote.

 

Very remote.  So remote that when we did move into town, streetlights bothered us.

 

Well, when you say town, do you mean Kohala town?

 

I mean Kohala town.

 

Because it was so far.

 

And the streetlights bothered you?

 

Yes; all of us.  And we’d be up at night, like …

 

‘Cause starlight was all we knew, you know.  But we grew up at Pu‘u Hue.  And very close; all of us were very close, me and my brothers and sisters.

 

Your parents would take you on long rides, and you had a Rambler station wagon. They don’t even make Ramblers anymore.

 

No.

 

Not for many years. 

 

No.  So that story is all of us in that car.  Like when it was time to go holoholo, oh, my gosh, we’re gonna go someplace.  And it was my father; he just loved to drive. My father, my mother, one child in the front, and all the rest of us just filling up the back seat.  And we would go.  We would have one ‘ukulele.  We fought over the ‘ukulele like: Who’s going to play the next song?  So, if you make a mistake, you gotta pass that ‘ukulele on.

 

This was as you’re driving along.

 

As you’re driving; yeah.  So, goes like this, goes like this.  But if you were the longest, then you were the winner.

 

So, very competitive kids.

 

From when we were young.  And you know who won the ‘ukulele; right?

 

Who?

 

Me.

 

Always?

 

Yeah.  That’s why I’m the ‘ukulele player.

 

It’s so interesting, ‘cause none of you has had formal training in any of this.

 

Nope.  Nope. Not in music.

 

You picked it up, and figured it out, and listened, and learned.

 

Yeah; my father taught us how to play all the basic keys.  So, if you try to give me a sharp or a what, it’s like: show me it.

 

You show me it, and you tell me it, and I’ll get it.

 

And do you read music?

 

No; no.  Even my brother, when we were growing up, I would take him to his piano lessons.  So, he’d be playing along and playing along.  And then he’d finish, and she’d say: All right, Elmer, now read the notes. ‘Cause he’d be playing by ear, by what he heard.

 

Really?

 

Yeah.

 

And Elmer is Sonny?

 

Yeah.

 

Was music always a part of your life?

 

See, my father and his friends played, and my father and my mother sang to us.  That’s what they did.  Yeah. So, my mom sang, and my father played, and that’s how we knew that they had that.  And my mom had a hula background, and she was our first teacher.

 

Were they singing in Hawaiian?

 

In Hawaiian.

 

And did you understand Hawaiian?

 

This is how we understood Hawaiian, is my grandparents. My grandfather and my grandmother spoke fluently.  And they were our babysitters.  So, when we were little, it was so easy to understand what they were talking to us about.

 

That’s manaleo style, isn’t it?

 

Exactly.

 

It’s the real thing.

 

So, understanding them, even being around them and hearing them talk, we knew exactly what they were talking, ‘cause from babies, we knew that.  But however, my parents, my mom them didn’t follow through.  ‘Cause it was at that time when it wasn’t good to speak the language.

 

You were supposed to go Western.

 

Yeah.

 

And succeed in that world.

 

It’s so sad.  Just one generation away, you know.  And we’ve lost so much.  But however, if a song played, you knew exactly what the song was talking about. Because it was just automatic; you just knew Hawaiian already.

 

So, you didn’t just listen to the music; you could know what the songs were about.

 

Easily; easily.  Even my mother was surprised.  Like, we had this old radio, just this old radio, and you only could play it as certain times, ‘cause you didn’t want to break the radio, ‘cause that was like your communication to the world.  So, it was like, okay.  And then, the songs would play, and we’d be like, we know it.  And so, I’d tell my mom: I know exactly what this song is saying. She said: You do?  I said: Yeah.  And I’d tell her what it is.  She said: That’s amazing that you would know that. I said …

 

That’s what it says.

 

Yeah.  And then, I’d um, gesture things to her.  I said: Because I think this is what they’re saying.  She said: Oh … oh, so … you have that hula sense already.  Yeah?  So, just by knowing what that was, making interpretive movements, and then her being our first teacher, that gave me the—you know, it’s not that gave me the know-how, but it’s just automatic that everything came into play.

 

So, for you, it wasn’t choreography and the movements of hula that came first; it was the story behind the music.

 

Definitely, definitely; story behind the music.

 

You’ve had your fascination with non-Hawaiian.  You did Beatles, and Elvis, and Supremes; right?

 

Everything.  I love Supremes.  I love all that kinda music.  I loved it, and I would sing it, too.  We’d all sing it.  And then, we just realized that Hawaiian was where it’s at.  Because it was always around us, always around us, Hawaiian music.

 

But one day, there will be dancers who are saying: I’m from the Nani Lim Yap, that’s who gave birth to me.  Even though you’re saying: I didn’t really do anything except pass it through.

 

I’m hoping.  And they know; they know what my intention is for them, is that they continue. Any of the mele that I’ve taught them in their lifetime that they’ve been in hālau with me will remain the same.

 

Nani Lim Yap of Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, was twelve years old when she started performing with her family at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.  Dancing hula or singing with her family, whether it was on a formal stage or at a baby luau, became a regular part of her life.  Yet, she didn’t necessarily see herself growing up and becoming a professional musician, or a kumu hula.

 

After high school, you moved to O‘ahu.

 

Yeah.

 

To beauty school.

 

Yeah; I came to beauty school.  That’s what I wanted to be; I wanted to be a beautician, they said back then.

 

So, you didn’t see being a musician or performer as a career, then?

 

No.  No.

 

Even though you’d actually made money for it already in your teens.

 

Yes.  I don’t know; I wanted to do hair, I wanted to do hair from when I was younger.  If somebody was available during the afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday, they were sitting down in this chair, I was gonna give them some kinda up-do or something.  That was what I thought I knew, that’s what I wanted to do.  But then, when I came home and I had my first job at Mauna Kea, in the evening time my parents would say: Come over here and sing with us.  And the first time, my father said: What’s wrong with you?  I could not look at the crowd.  I would sing backwards like this, or sideways.  My father said: Is something wrong with you?  I said: I can’t look at them.  He said: Stop it; stop it, stop it.  Like, I would just try not to, I was afraid of the crowd.  Isn’t that crazy?

 

But you’d performed before.

 

No; I performed before as a dancer, but not as a singer.

 

I see; I see.

 

So, it’s like, okay.  Then I had to break that habit, break that habit.  And then, the next time, my father would say: You guys gotta smile; you have to smile, you have to smile.  And I was like: Okay, smile.  This was when I’m singing, and I’m trying to.  Because I don’t know; I didn’t think I was like, that great.  So, I’d be like, I don’t know if they like it, I’m not sure if they’re gonna like it.  And then after, you get your confidence up.  And then, the more I played, the more money I made standing up and playing than standing up all day to do hair, and my feet would be sore. So, it was like, okay, that’s just the easiest route to go, just play music.

 

I know you were a co-kumu hula with your elder sister Lei for many years. And now, all three of you; Lorna, Leialoha, and you have your own hālau.

 

Separate; yeah.  Which is fine.  I think we still all have the same mindset.  We were raised in that kind of environment, you know.

 

Same mindset, but different visions?

 

Yes.  I guess our missions have changed, I think.  You know, what is it that you really want to accomplish; yeah?  For us, lineage is important; yeah?  What are we passing on, what is the style that our kumu from Kohala taught us.  ‘Cause that’s it.  Somebody said: Is that your Kohala style?  And I would say: I think so.

 

What is Kohala style?

 

See?  Everybody would ask me that, and I said:  I’m not sure. But some others, if you were on the outside looking, they would say that’s distinctly different from Ka‘ū.  And I thought: Really?  I never saw dances from Ka‘ū.

 

So, you still can’t quantify it, but people from all over see it as being different.

 

That’s different, that’s a Kohala style.  And I was like, okay.

 

But you can’t point to any one thing about it?

 

Nope; nope.  Because it translates to us as being something that we’ve always done. And so, if you’re wanting to perpetuate, I think future wise now, I think that’s where hula is now, at the lineage state, at a place of lineage.  Like, what are you passing on; yeah?  So, my thought is: Do you mix both styles together, or do you carry this lineage through and make sure that your students now understand that you learned from this?  And this would be part of your koi or your—

 

Are you allowed to combine your own mana with that, with someone else’s?

 

See?  I think you have to honor them.

 

Ah …

 

If you took hula from them, I think you have to honor them and keep that as a separate entity that moves forward.  When I look at hula, yeah, I look at just being a vessel. That hula moves through me. Yeah.  Lineage comes from kūpuna. And then, the lineages that come from Kohala before that; it’s all of this that goes through this.  Yeah.  I cannot claim I own that.  I cannot claim that it’s actually from me.  It comes from a place, and it moves through me.  It has to.

 

And do you change it, by virtue of its having moved through you?

 

Oh; so a lot of the mele that we’ve learned from them, those mele still remain.  Mele that, like, from research and all those movements, all those things that we’ve shared with you, and what we’ve choreographed now; same style.  The style remains the same.  That’s how you continue that.

 

Nani Lim Yap of Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, has made a successful career as a member of The Lim Family, playing Hawaiian music with her brother Sonny and her sister Lorna at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Mauna Lani Bay Hotel.  She also has been successful as a kumu hula, entering hālau into the Merrie Monarch Festival that have been perennial winners.  But even with all the success, surviving as a musician often means traveling outside the State.

 

The way to make money and to support your family the best, I take it, is if you fly away.

 

Yeah.  Now; now, yeah.  Because they want that music, they want to dance that hula.  Yeah.

 

What does that say that it’s not valued that much in Hawai‘i, in our commerce centers? Waikiki, which used to adore the entertainment.

 

Yeah.  Gotta bring that back.  I’m not sure how.

 

But Japan and who else?  Japan loves hula.

 

China, now.

 

China.

 

Yeah.  Sweden, Taiwan.

 

And you’ve been to all these places?

 

I’ve been to Taiwan to teach, I’ve been to Japan to teach.  People want me to come to China.  And I’m like: China?  Are you sure they’re ready for us?  I’d have to start, like, teaching them from the very beginning.  No; that’s what they want, they want it.  And yes, that is the place to make the money.

 

You know, I’m surprised you don’t have a fulltime family travel agent.  Because I know we’ve talked to your husband a lot in arranging appointments with you and your family, and he’s always booking flights, isn’t he?

 

He’s really good at it, that’s why.  There was a time when we … I’m not sure.  I think it was earlier in our hālau career, where we were booked by Hayden Holidays to go to the mainland, just like for about six years, we would do it. And he’d be the one; they’d book all the flights and everything for us, but he’d be the one.  Like, all right everyone, this is the last day, get everything together.  He gets everybody up, he gets everybody on the plane, he makes sure everybody is … so everybody knows him as Ed, the tour director.

 

Because he did that so well.

 

How does it work as a family?  I mean, I know there’s a family business, but there are several family members involved. And you all play in different combinations, in different cities, at different times.  I mean, so hard to keep track of you.

 

It is.

 

How does that work as a business?

 

Well … there was a time, I think, when we stopped doing the job at Mauna Lani, that we all decided to do other things.  So, my brother is a soloist.  He’s still there as a soloist, which was good for him. Yeah; it’s good for him, ‘cause then he can be expressive to his own type of thing.  And then, we’d have the Atrium job, which would be a combination of people.  So, Lorna would do that, and then my husband Ed would do that, and then my daughter Asia would help them do that.  And Asia learned how to play bass from her father, so that’s her instrument right now. So, all the different combinations. If she can’t go, then I would go down there and sing in that.

 

So, you can always find a family member who’s very versatile to jump in.

 

Best to do that.  Yeah; best to do that, is to keep your family together.  Keep your family together.  Then of course, my brother had his own Hawaiian group, too, with some of our local friends from Waimea and Kohala.  They were so good.  They played all the Eddie Kamae songs, ‘cause that was what their group loved to do that.  Yeah. And then, now he plays with a lot of other people.  Which is fine, as long as we’re not playing.  You know, The Lim Family together.

 

But it all seems to work out, no matter what.  You know, you’re hired to do all kinds of gigs, and it seems like you can kind of manage so many things at once, I guess because you have so many people who can jump in last minute.

 

Yes.  For our regular jobs, yes, people could take over for us.  Well, well, Mauna Lani just closed, yeah, so that job, we don’t have anymore.  For me, I’m kinda happy, because it was from the beginning of time, when they first opened.

 

And they’re doing renovations; right?

 

Yeah, renovations; yeah.  It’s gonna for a year and a half, I think, or almost two years. Something like that.  Yeah; so you know, we just have just the Mauna Kea show, and that’s all taken cared of.

 

Which means you can all travel more.

 

We can all travel more.  So, if Lorna goes away, then we have another emcee that we bring in from O‘ahu to do that.  And then, yeah.  And I’ve not gone back to that show for a while.  Yeah.  That is our show, though, but I’ve not gone there, ‘cause they’e good.

 

And what do you do instead?

 

I just hang out at home until somebody calls me to go to Japan.  No.

 

I just figure out when to go.  Like, at least every other month, I’m going to Japan. But if you met my students, they’re like Hawaiians.  They have so much aloha.  You know. And a lot of aloha for the culture. Yeah.

 

You’ve been with them a long time?

 

Long time.  Long time, they’ve been my students.

 

Why do you think Japan has embraced hula so closely?

 

Ooh; I think at first, it was, what they saw is what they liked.  Yeah? And then … gosh, I’m not sure.  I just think they just love everything about our hula.  The costumes, the flowers, the leis, the movements, you know, and some really want to graduate knowing, you know, hula as part of their lineage, you know.  So, I think they’re just moved by it.

 

And you know, Japan is very proud of its own lineage.  They’re very much into the past, as well.  So, to be so interested in another culture’s past, and to practice it.

 

Yeah.  And then, when we go over there, they want us to go to their temples.  Go to our temple, and could you do a blessing? What are you saying?  What is a blessing?  Maybe oli?  I said: Ooh, okay.  And then maybe do a dance.  Now, when you come to that kind of thought like in their temples, yeah, they’re wanting us to do their kind of culture, I had to stop and sit back, and think about. What is my purpose?  What am I going to leave or change in that space, that is going to make a difference?  Why are you wanting me to do this; yeah?  So, everything would have purpose and intention.

 

Have you ever thought of staying there for an extended period?

 

I thought about it.  I thought about living there.  And then, I thought: No, I wouldn’t like it.  And here’s the thing, is that if you live there, people will get your place, they’ll rent it, they’ll make sure it’s there, they’ll get you places to go and make a studio.  It’s amazing how much kōkua you can get from Japanese who want to …

 

They’ll take care of you because of what you do.

 

Who want to be able to learn hula.  Like, it’s almost amazing.  Then I said: No, I don’t think so.

 

They have so much hunger for it.

 

Yeah; it’s amazing.

 

I see in your career, you know, you’ve done very natural things.  I mean, you know, you’ve learned to research.  I mean, everything seems like, okay, that’s a good opportunity, I’ll take it, I’ll move into that.  But going to Japan doesn’t seem like a natural … you know. But it is, in terms of how the world has become.  Because Hawaii doesn’t put that kind of premium on the hula.

 

That’s true.  I was thirty-five years old, I think, was my first time to Japan.  And oh, my god, we loved it.  My mother went, too.  Was the first time in snow; fell on the ground.  My mother ran outside and she said: Oh, my god, it’s snow.  And we were like, so cold.  My mother was still out there, taking pictures of her in the snow. Well, we’re just not used to, to those kinds of things; yeah?  But that was our first time we ever went, was way up in Fukushima.  And we went for three weeks, four weeks.  That was hard.  Was hard, ‘cause we wanted to go back home so bad.

 

And yet you love the place, too.

 

And—yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

But that’s how long we’ve been going.  A long time.

 

That’s right.  So much travel.

 

Yeah; a long time.  And from that one event, our very first event, we had several people who wanted to be sensei who came to see us.  And now, they’re great sensei of hula in Japan.

 

Wow.

 

Yeah.  They have some of the biggest hālau.

 

What are your predictions for the future for hālau, and for The Lim Family?

 

Lim Family, we have another generation of musicians and dancers.

 

Who are they?  Who are your dancers and musicians?

 

Well, of course, Asia.

 

Your daughter.

 

Yeah.

 

Your son.

 

And Manaola, of course.

 

Nani Lim Yap’s son, Manaola Yap, is a widely known fashion designer.  He learned costuming from his mother, researching and designing fabrics to tell the stories of the dances and chants.

 

You know, he sings as well, he writes as well too. And of course, Asia plays the bass, she can sing as well, she sings with all of us.  Anuhea, my brother’s daughter, she plays slack key.  So, that’s another.  And then, of course, Lorna’s children are the two.  This past weekend was Keiki Merrie Monarch, and her youngest daughter won third place, and her hālau won third place.  And so, lots of hula.  The future is really wide open.

 

Mahalo to Nani Lim Yap of Hawai‘i Island, for sharing her Kohala style. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

No Kohala Ka Makani ʻĀpaʻapaʻa

 

by Sarah Pule

No Kohala ka makani ʻĀpaʻapaʻa

Ua kaulana ʻoe a haʻaheo

Ka nuku aʻo nākānaka

Ua piha hoʻi me ke aloha

 

No Kohala ka makani ʻĀpaʻapaʻa

Ua kaulana ʻoe a haʻaheo

Ka nuku aʻo nākānaka

Ua piha hoʻi me ke aloha

 

Ke aloha ʻāina ua ʻike ʻia

Ke aloha poina ʻole a kākou

Hoʻomanaʻo aʻe e lāe nākūpuna

ʻO ke aloha ʻo ia mau lā

 

Huli aku nānāi ka ulu hala

E kau mai ana lāi luna

Me Kona nani uluwehiwehi …

 

 

 

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.

 

 

HIKI NŌ
Compilation Show from the Spring Quarter of the 2018-2019 School Year

 

This compilation show features some of the top stories from the Spring Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year. Besides being excellent stories, these pieces all explore the connections between people and, in some cases, between people and other living things.

 

Students from McKinley High School in Honolulu tell the story of teenagers who connect with senior citizens in ways that bridge the generation gap.

 

Students from Waiʻanae High School in Central Oʻahu tell the story of a young tattoo artist who uses his art form to connect with his Hawaiian heritage.

 

Students from Konawaena High School on Hawaiʻi Island feature a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor who connects with Big Island students by teaching them about the devastating effects of bigotry and racism.

 

Students from Hilo Intermediate School on Hawaiʻi Island focus on the special connection between a bone marrow donor and the recipient of that donation who discover (despite the astronomical odds against it happening) that they live just minutes away from one another.

 

Students from Kua O Ka Lā Miloliʻi Hipuʻu Virtual Academy on Hawaiʻi Island follow conservationists who are facilitating the connection between male and female members of an endangered Hawaiian crow in order to save the species from extinction.

 

Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauaʻi introduce us to a singing nun who uses music to help students connect with the values she tries to instill in them.

 

Students from Maui High School in Kahului show us how a disabled student makes profound connections with her non-disabled peers through a program developed by the Special Olympics.

 

Students from Waiākea High School on Hawaiʻi Island tell the story of a pet placement service that connects homeless canines with their forever owners.

 

This special episode is hosted by Crystal Cebedo, a 2016 HIKI NŌ graduate from Waiʻanae High School on Oʻahu who has just completed her junior year at Menlo College in Northern California, where she majors in marketing and human resources.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Harry B. Soria Jr.

 

As the voice of Hawai‘i’s longest running radio show, Harry B. Soria Jr. has kept the music of Hawai‘i’s past alive for current and future generations. His weekly show, Territorial Airwaves, preserves and shares vintage Hawaiian, or hapa-haole, music recorded between 1915 and 1959. While he is a third-generation member of what is called “The First Family of Hawai‘i Radio,” he didn’t immediately enter radio broadcasting. The Honolulu born-and-raised host shares how he eventually surrendered to the siren call of radio. He tells of the rare recordings he has saved, and the launch of Territorial Airwaves, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, June 9, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Harry B. Soria Jr. Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

But a lot of the young kumu hula, who are now old kumu hula, weren’t so keen on what I was doing.  They thought it was the black period of Hawaiian music, you know, where our kūpuna had been tricked, and we had gone into the territory and lost our identity.  And there was some ill feeling at that particular time.  But as they got older, and as people learned more about all of this, they began to accept it.  And now, it’s revered.  And now, you see it at the Merrie Monarch, and you know, it’s found its place.

 

He kept the music of Hawai‘i’s past alive and meaningful for future generations. Territorial Airwaves radio host Harry B. Soria, Jr., next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  For forty consecutive years, Harry B. Soria, Jr. has hosted Territorial Airwaves, weekly radio show featuring vintage Hawaiian music recorded between 1915 and 1959.

 

You’re in the Territory with Harry B.

 

Soria first launched Territorial Airwaves on KCCN in 1979 with the late radio legend Jacqueline “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti.  It’s the longest-running radio show in Hawai‘i airing at this time in 2019 on AM 940, as well as on TerritorialAirwaves.com. Soria continues to preserve and share rare and otherwise forgotten recordings of Hawai‘i’s past in a collection that now numbers more than ten thousand vinyl records.  The territorial era music he passionately advocates is also referred to as hapa haole music, or a merging of Hawaiian and Western music.

 

Hawaiian music is always a reflection of the Western musical influences of the decade.  So, whether it’s big band swing, whether it’s calypso, whether it’s Jawaiian now, whatever it is, it’s always a reflection of what’s on the mainland, and it’s coming in and affecting the youth, and they’re listening to it.  You know, Richard Kauhi was a reflection of Nat King Cole and all of that.  You know, there’s always some influence coming in which was persuading the youth to change the way they expressed Hawaiian music.

 

When a young person comes to you and says: Why should I listen to Territorial Airwaves?, what do you tell them.

 

It’s actually been the other way around. People say: Oh, you know, I was born in 1998, but I listen to Territorial Airwaves.  And I’m amazed.  You know, they’re young musicians, they ask for songs to put on their records.  There’s this curiosity where they’re interested in language, hula, you know, all of the performing arts, and they realize that the older music is where it all is.

 

And there’s no direct connection to the people performing it, but you’re the link.

 

I guess that’s it.  Yeah.  ‘Cause the aunties and uncles are all gone.  You know.  I mean, when I play voices on my show—You’re in the Territory with Harry B, this is Andy Cummings or whatever—well, they’re long gone.  They’ve been gone forever.  But they still live on my show.  They still talk to you every week.  One thing about radio, when the record’s playing, that’s when you hear the real story.  So, the challenge is to, decades later, remember the story that was told off-air by the person who has passed on, and share it with the contemporary audience in a meaningful way.  So, it is challenging, but for some reason, all of these things stay with me.

 

You remember all those conversations.

 

I think it goes back to my father telling me: This used to be that, that used to be this.

 

As a child, Harry recalls that his family moved into the very first block of homes in the new housing subdivision of ‘Āina Haina in East Honolulu.  He attended public schools in the district all the way through his graduation from Kalani High.  Here’s a stunning fact: for one hundred years, there’s been a Soria working in Hawai‘i radio, three generations, starting with Harry G. Soria, then Harry B. Soria, Sr., and currently Harry B. Soria, Jr.  Together, they’re called The First Family of Hawai‘i Radio.

 

Well, Soria is Spanish.  They emigrated from Spain to Bordeaux, France, and then to Saint-Domingue, which is the Dominican Republic today, and then to New York City in 1791.

 

Became Americans then?

 

Yes.  So, just twenty years after the revolution, we were there, some of the earliest Spanish. We kept moving westward, and my grandfather came to Berkeley, California to represent a company, brought his family, and then came over from Berkeley to Honolulu in 1919.

 

Talk about traveling; that’s a lot of movement.

 

Yeah.  So, this is our centennial, our hundredth year in Hawai‘i.

 

1919 was the year he set foot here.

 

Yup.  He very quickly got involved with Marion Mulrony of KGU Radio, the first radio station that started in 1922.  And he became the solicitor, and very successful for decades.

 

What is a solicitor?  Attorney?

 

A time salesman.

 

A time salesman.  Okay; so he sold radio ads?

 

Yeah, yeah; the very first.  And Dad eventually broke in as a personality.  So, he became, you know, Going To Town With Harry Soria, or Voice of Hawai‘i, or all these specialized shows that my grandfather created to feature him.  And so, he became a radio star in the 30s.

 

So, your grandfather created the shows as a way to sell commercials, and your father provided the content for the shows.

 

Yes; exactly.  My father would jury-rig things and make the first remote broadcast, or the first shortwave broadcast, or whatever he could figure out.

 

And this was in the days before television.  Radio was huge; right?

 

It was everything.  Yeah.

 

That’s what people depended on.  So, was your dad a star?

 

At that time, yes.  Yeah; I have a lot of his publicity pictures and so forth.  And he was the first guy with his name on a show, Going To Town With Harry Soria.  And he was the first personality that was known outside of Hawai‘i, because he was known as The Voice of Hawai‘i.  So, there was recognition transpacific wise.  So, it made for a very heady time in the 1930s, but when World War II came, it was all over.  After that, the war, when he returned, he was—

 

When he returned from fighting?

 

Well, he was a censor for the electronic calls, long distance phone calls and so forth.  So, when he returned, he was immediately activated in the Navy Intelligence to be running this particular division.  And after that was over, he was in management and sales after that. My mom was a war widow.  She was in her early twenties.  She left Washington, DC, came all the way across the nation, demonstrating business machines for the women now entering the workforce during the war.  At the end of war in ’46, she was assigned to Honolulu to Fisher Printing, and she was supposed to demonstrate the addressograph and the new machines.  And her first client was my father, who was trying to put together what would be like a Midweek today.  It didn’t go, but you know, he was trying to get it off the ground.  And so, she was consulting for him, and then at the end of the week, they had argued the whole week, and he said: Hey, have you gone around the island yet?  She said: No, I haven’t seen anything.  He said: Okay, I’ll pick you up.  And that was it.

 

And there was a big age difference between them.

 

Yes.  When I was born in ’48, my father was forty-three, and my mother was twenty-four. So, they were able to bridge those generations, and I think that was part of the magic of our family.

 

Wow. And that worked; that May-December marriage worked.

 

And just held hands, walked around the block every night.

 

Long into their marriage?

 

All the way through their marriage; never stopped. Yeah; very much in love.  My parents bought one of the very first homes in ‘Āina Haina, on the very first street, Papai.  And it was one of the first ten houses.  And we have a photo of nothing but this little street with a few houses on it.  My father was a Shriner, and we had lots of parties.  That was a side thing going on.  And Shriners had lots of parties.  So, we had Andy Cummings playing for dancing in our lanai, and I sat in the living room and talked to Duke Kahanamoku,

 

Wow. 

 

We had all these people who, I found out later, were very important celebrities, but they were also part of the Shrine organization. So, because of that, I got to meet everybody in our home, and it was kind of amazing to look back later and realize who I’d actually spent time with as a young boy.  I think the cleverest thing he did was, I was pretty young, still in elementary school, and he brought home a reel-to-reel tape recorder. And he said: Here, this is how you use it; why don’t you try and make a show, an adventure series.  You know, like I watched on television, the serials. So, sound effects, and voices, and imitating things.  And he told me that the biggest thing that he worried about was that his son would have mic fright.  And so, he wanted me to get used to the sound of my own voice on this tape recorder, so that I wouldn’t intimidated by a PA system or a tape recorder, or any other form of electronic recording.

 

Do you think he saw you going into broadcasting, the way he and your grandfather did?

 

You know, I don’t know.  I wonder about that, because—

 

Pretty subtle, but—

 

Very subtle.

 

Yeah.  But he did want me to get over that.  To him, mic fright was a big deal.  You know, he didn’t want that.  And if you think, in the 50s, where there were very few microphones and opportunities, it’d be easy to have mic fright.

 

Oh, yes.

 

So, he had this fear that, I don’t want you to be afraid of a microphone.  And that seemed to be very, very important to him.  So, we addressed that very early on.

 

Harry B. Soria, Jr. did not immediately follow his father’s footsteps into Honolulu radio broadcasting.  Despite being introduced to the microphone at a young age, he did take his father’s advice and earned a college degree in business, and then had a career in credit collections.  Along the way in 1976, he found something in an old overlooked storage crate that would transform his life.

 

And then, suddenly in ’76, the renaissance was happening, and my father said: Hey, you want to see this box of things I have? They’re in the garage, and I have to get rid of ‘em, we’ve moving.  So, I went through, and here’s the contents of his entire office at KGU that he put into a shipping crate on December 8, 1941.  So, at one point, Dad pulled this paper tape out.  It was carbon paper; it wasn’t plastic tape.  It was on a reel, and he cued it up on an old machine.  And there was Alvin Isaacs and his group.  One of the songs had never been heard, and it was about the interisland airport, and it was a comedy song.  So, I initially thought: Oh, this would be a great record.  So, I approached Mike Kelly and Jerry Santos and the gang, and asked them if they would want to release it on their label.  But happily, they said: You should talk to Skylark, ‘cause that’s more of a radio vehicle.  So, I went to Sky, and I showed her something, and we transcribed it.  And Skylark heard it, and she was just amazed by it.  So, she started playing it on the radio, and it became a big hit.

 

What was it like?

 

It was: Here comes the big mokulele.  It was called The Mokulele E.  And it was all about the interisland airport and the early airplanes.  And it was hapa haole, it was real fun kinda lyrics.  And it just took off.  And so, in ’78, ’79, it became this big hit on the radio, a highly-requested song.

 

Harry B. Soria, Jr. would continue to share more forgotten vintage Hawaiian music with Jacqueline “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti, then a young KCCN radio deejay. She immediately took interest in both the vintage records and the pre-statehood stories that Soria and his father could share with radio audiences.  In 1979, Harry and Skylark co-hosted the first episode of Territorial Airwaves.

 

Sky recognized that we had this older music. She had a passion for 78s, but she was like twenty-three.  So, she would play the records, and she’d go: This is so weird, what does this mean, why are they doing this?  And I would call my father and say: Dad, they’re asking a question about this song. He’d say: Oh, well, that’s because we did this.  And then, I would call up her and I’d say: Well, my dad says.  So after a while, she would say: Why don’t you come on.  So, I started coming on, bring in some records. .  It took off, and that was it.

 

The beginning of Territorial Airwaves.

 

Exactly.

 

And did your father’s old office suitcase yield more songs?

 

It was full of records, and song sheets, and photographs, and business cards, and whatever you can think of.  And he spent the time to explain each and every item to me, and kinda walk me through this history of what radio was like.  So, he realized that I was interested at that point, and so, he really immersed me in everything.

 

And I think there are parents who want to tell their children, you know, more about their jobs, but sometimes kids aren’t interested at that age.  But you were.

 

Well, especially in our case, because there was two generations between us; right?  So, he was like my grandfather.

 

Even though he was your father.

 

Yeah.  And so, for me to take an interest in his life, back in his prime, was unexpected and he loved it.  So, he was very proud, and he was like the consultant for the show for the first eleven years.

 

And it gave you reach far beyond what someone your age would normally have.

 

Exactly.  You know, if people would ask questions, I could go right to the source.  He would give me the answers.

 

He must have loved hearing the show.

 

You know, every show, every week, he would listen. And I would come home, and on my answering machine would be a critique.

 

Oh, on a positive way?

 

In a positive way.  You know, this was good, but you could have …  Yeah.  And then, other radio guys, legends, got involved, started supporting me.  Ron Jacobs started calling me and giving me advice, and listening to the show.  And occasionally, Tom Moffatt.  And these guys, I had known them as a young rock and roller, so now they were giving me advice about the radio.  So, it really helped that they would give me insights into their careers and what they had done.

 

And nobody else was doing what you were doing at that time.

 

No.  It was unheard of, you know.

 

But in part, it was because it was not all that popular.

 

Well, we didn’t even have oldies rock and roll shows yet.  You know, this was oldies Hawaiian.  Period.

 

You know, you mentioned this was right about the time of the Hawaiian renaissance.

 

M-hm.

 

The Hawaiian renaissance wasn’t wild about territorial music.  I mean, it was hapa haole, it was not Hawaiian, it was not authentic, it was kind of a mixture, lots of malihini references.

 

Luckily, I had Skylark, who was my champion, who believed in what I was doing.  There’s two ways to look at it.  You know, some people say: Oh, they outlawed the language, and they destroyed the connection, and we lost our roots.  But on the other side, without hapa haole music, we wouldn’t have had that string to keep us going to this point, so that we would have a generation rediscovering Hawaiian language and writing songs again .

 

In addition to his weekly broadcast of Territorial Airwaves, Harry B. Soria, Jr. worked to restore rare and out of print Hawaiian music recordings based on the records he collected over the years.  He re-released many of these lost albums on newer formats, like compact discs and digital music files.

 

Through the years, people would say: Harry, get rid of your records and put it all on tape; get rid of your records and put it on cassettes; get rid of your records and put it on CDs; get rid of your records and put it on the internet.  But the point is, I’ve kept the source material, and I’m glad I did.  Because all these other mediums have gone away. They don’t last.  You know, CDs, whatever; they’re gone.  So, by keeping the original 78s, 45s, 33s, I haven’t lost my connection to the source material.

 

And I understand you have a lot of those.  How many records do you have?

 

About ten thousand Hawaiian.

 

Wow …

 

Yeah.

 

And do you keep them in a place you won’t say where it is?

 

No, no.  In our living room, we have the working collection in big bookcases.  And then, we have more in our storage lockers, so forth.

 

Wow; ten thousand.  And some of them were given to you; right?  I heard the story about you going door-to-door.

 

Yeah.

 

And saying: Do you want your old records?

 

Well, there was that time when nobody had a 78 rpm player anymore.  And so, what I would do after work is, I had handbills, and I would drive around the communities of Kaimuki, Kapahulu, you know, wherever.

 

Older communities.

 

Older communities.

 

Yeah.

 

And I would look for a home with fruit trees and a green-and-white striped canvas awnings, so forth.  And I would go up and knock, and give my handbill.  And they’d say: Oh, yeah, we have that; come, you can get it.

 

And they have no way to play it.

 

No way; it’s just taking up dust.  So, I got lots of records that way.  That was in the ’78 acquisition.  And then, as I went into the 90s, people said: I have all this vinyl, all these 33s; let me give it to you, I’ll bring it by the station.  I’ll do this, I’ll do that.

 

And nobody wanted money; they just wanted to give them to you.

 

Just want to hear it on the radio.  You know, ‘cause nobody had a record player anymore. You know, everybody was going to CD; who cared about vinyl.  Now, the kids are into vinyl.  So, it’s gone full circle.  You know? Suddenly, they all want vinyl, and they want turntables, and they want to listen to old records, and they’re paying big top-dollar for them.

 

And your wife, she has the same reverence for the past that you do.

 

You know, it’s amazing.  We were introduced because she has a collection that she acquired in Paris, when she was living there for thirty years.

 

A collection of …

 

Of records, vinyl, 45s and 33s, from the 1950s, that a French scientist had acquired in the 50s, and then wanted to give to her in the 90s.  So, she took care of it all these years.  She paid to bring it back home, when she came back home after she was widowed.  And then, we had a mutual friend that said: You know, you both have these record collections; you should meet.  So, we merged our collections, and we merged our life, fell in love.  And her name is Kilohana, and she’s a kumu hula in Paris, Rome, Mānoa, Beijing, Juneau, Alaska; all over the world.  And so, we have this winter love.  You know, we met late in our lives.

 

How long ago did you meet?

 

In 2015.  Yeah; right after I retired.  And so, we took our incomes, refinanced the home, and we have a 1931 vintage home in the back of Mānoa Valley.  And we’ve remodeled it for aging in place, which is the thing to do.  At this point, we’re focusing on our nonprofit foundation, The Hawaiian Music Archives Foundation.  And the idea is, now that I’ve turned seventy, and Territorial is forty, I don’t have an heir, it’s time to focus on preparing all of this for sharing with a curriculum for future generations.  So, my wife and I hope to have it out there so that it’s accessible, and then when the time comes, we can just transfer it to the proper and the chosen institution to, you know, take care of it for perpetuity.  If you had told me back in 1979 that all this was gonna happen, I never would have believed it.  But it just seems that slowly, but surely, we’ve gotten opportunities, whether it was the CD series, or emceeing shows, or you know, being involved in productions, whatever it is, we were able to be part of the culture. And we went from we were this weird little thing, to now we’re having Hapa Haole Hula Festivals.  You know, that’s quite a stretch, over the decades.

 

And it’s because you were there, and you waited for other people to join you.

 

Pretty much.  Yeah; that‘s all it took.

 

Territorial Airwaves.  Yeah; we’re Territorial Airwaves, your source for the history of Hawaiian music.

 

In 2017, Territorial Airwaves and Harry B. Soria, Jr. were honored with a Krash Kealoha Industry Award at the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Awards. He’s also received eight Hōkū Awards for the vintage recordings that he’s helped to re-release.  At the time of this conversation in the spring of 2019, Soria continues to broadcast new episodes of Territorial Airwaves to audiences worldwide.  Mahalo to Harry B. Soria, Jr. of Honolulu, O‘ahu.  And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

What are some of the best-known Territorial songs?

 

Of course, R. Alec Anderson is my favorite, because he was a local boy.  He was not a mainlander.  Most of the hapa haole composers are.  But he was a local boy who had the ability to, in English, with some Hawaiian words, convey the meaning of, you know, the earth, the sea, the wind, all of the elements.

 

 

 

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
Waipuna

 

Kale Hannahs, David Kamakahi and Matt Sproat of the acclaimed Hawaiian music group Waipuna present their interpretation of Hawaiian music, accompanied by hula dancer Jaimie Kennedy. From “Malama Mau Hawai‘i,” a selection from Waipuna’s first album, to “E Mau Ke Aloha,” composed by David’s father, Dennis Kamakahi, Waipuna will take you through a joyful musical cycle.

 

 

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

 

NA MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Maunalua

NA MELE Maunalua

 

Maunalua – with Bobby Moderow Jr. on rhythm and slack-key guitar, Kahi Kaonohi on bass guitar and vocals and Bruce Spencer on ukulele and vocals – blend their talents to evoke memories of old Hawaiʻi in this vintage performance from the PBS Hawaiʻi studio.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Francis “Palani” Sinenci

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Francis "Palani" Sinenci

 

After leaving his isolated hometown of Hāna, Maui, Francis “Palani” Sinenci spent decades away in the military before becoming inspired to reconnect with his Hawaiian roots. Serendipitously, he fell into the art of building traditional Native Hawaiian houses. Over the past twenty years, he has become a master, having built more than 300 traditional Hawaiian hales thatched with grass or leaves.

 

Program

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, May 26, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Francis “Palani” Sinenci Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

And do hale stand up to strong, strong winds?

 

Well, we really haven’t had one that’s Category 5. But we had a storm … and we had campers at our site.  And you know, we heard the wind—whoosh.  But we were living in a cement house with a pitch roof.  So, the next morning, I go outside; our pitch and tar roof, that thick, blew off the house.  I go: Oh, god.  So, I went and looked down at my hale.  Six leaves blew off the hale, which were not tied.

 

That’s it?

 

Six leaves.

 

So, very durable construction.

 

It is durable.  It’s like a coconut tree; it bends with the wind.  Yeah.

 

He lashes together hale, or traditional Hawaiian houses, that can withstand fierce winds.  Francis “Palani” Sinenci, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  After retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a Chief Master Sergeant, Francis “Palani” Sinenci is now a chief of a different order.  He has built over three hundred hale, or traditional Native Hawaiian houses, thatched with grass or leaves.  Uncle Palani, as he’s often called, is a master hale-builder.  He grew up in the isolated town of Hāna and Kāpahulu, Maui, to a Native Hawaiian mother and an immigrant Filipino father.

 

I had a really fun life.  ‘Cause I was born in Hāna, the plantation was just winding down, and cattle was being brought in, so I was in that transition stage.  And so, I just grew up fishing all the time.  You know, we lived right close to the ocean, right next to a boarding house with all mixed ethnic workers from all over.  They had Japanese, Portagees, Filipinos, Hawaiians, and we lived in a place called Old Camp.  My dad was from the Philippines.  He was a plantation worker.

 

And he came to work plantation, and he got sent to Hāna?

 

He almost went to jail, ‘cause my mother was only fifteen years old when they got my older brother.

 

And your mom was from Hāna?

 

Yeah; my mom was from—

 

Hawaiian from Hāna.

 

Yeah.  But lucky thing he didn’t go to jail, ‘cause I wouldn’t have been here.

 

Oh; ‘cause that was your older brother.

 

That was my older brother.

 

Got it. 

 

Yeah.

 

How many siblings do you have?

 

It was altogether, nine.  And there were two girls and seven boys.  And I’m number two.  And I lived with that number-two syndrome for all my life.  ‘Cause my older brother immediately got hanai’d by my tutu lady.  So, I was the oldest in the family, so I had to take care of my siblings while my mom and dad went to work.  Yeah.

 

So, does that mean you took care of feeding them during the day?  Your siblings.

 

After I got to be about like eight to ten years old, yeah, I started taking care of the younger ones.  I was a really good spear fisherman, ‘opihi picker.  And we did a lot of kalua pig, and all.  You know, regular stuff.

 

So, you gathered your food.

 

Oh, yeah.  We were gathering.  We were on the lower part of the ahupua‘a, I guess you call it, and we’re mostly ocean people.  So, some of the people from Kaupōor Ke‘anae, they’d grow the taro, these guys would grow the goats and whatever. So, we’d trade, you know.

 

You would have the fish.

 

Yeah, we’d trade.  We had fish, and then every week, we’d get taro.  I didn’t know where it came from, but they brought in taro. Sometimes, we’d have goat, and we’d have beef.  So, I was on the border of when Hawaiians just starting to start eating rice.  So, I was raised up eating rice.  And taro; we pounded all our own taro.  Every week, we had taro.

 

So, whatever you ate came from the land?

 

Came from the land.

 

And the sea?

 

Yeah.  It was fun. I had a good childhood.

 

But you ended up traveling all over the place.  So, you went from a very small and remote area, very isolated by geography.

 

Yeah.

 

What made you leave?

 

Well, about my high school days, I joined the Civil Air Patrol.  It was the thing; it was a way to get off island, free, on Air Force airplanes. So, I joined the Civil Air Patrol, and we used to travel to different islands, and got a taste of other than Hāna or other than Maui.

 

After graduating high school in the isolated town of Hāna, Maui, Francis “Palani” Sinenci says he got itchy feet, and wanted to see the world.  So, he enlisted in the Navy, and left behind his rural life and worked on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, the USS Hancock.

 

I was an air crew survival equipment technician. In other words, I took care of the pilots’ survival gear, and some of his environmental systems within the aircraft, like breathing, his G-suits, his ensemble.

 

Did you rig up his parachute?

 

Oh, yeah.  In fact, one of the pilots got shot over South Vietnam, and he jumped out of the plane.  Not ejected; jumped out and used my parachute.  And he came back to me one day and he says: Here’s your Crown Royal. So, the person that packs the parachute that was used gets a bottle of Crown Royal.  That’s the tradition.

 

After traveling the world on an aircraft carrier, Francis “Palani” Sinenci wanted to attend college.  So, after four years in the Navy, he returned home to Maui to enroll in school.  That plan did not last long, as Sinenci says he got itchy feet once again, and enlisted in the Air Force.  Sinenci would spend the next twenty-five years in the Air Force, rising to the rank of Chief Master Sergeant.

 

I know what happened between the time you were in the Navy and the time you joined the Air Force.

 

Met my wife.

 

Yes.

 

Yeah.  I went to a party.  And she looked fourteen years old, playing the piano.  And I asked my auntie: Hey, who’s that little girl playing the piano? She goes: That little girl is nineteen years old; she’s going to University of Hawai‘i.  Oh, that changed my whole … oh, yeah; intelligent, too.  I don’t know if she’s watching.  But anyway …

 

Long story short; we’ve been married fifty-one years.

 

And I know you call her your wife for life.

 

Mm.

 

And I asked her where she calls home, because you’ve lived so many places.

 

Yeah.

 

And she said: Wherever my husband is.

 

Good answer.

 

It is a tough life.  And she’s in the Reserves, or she was in the Reserves.

 

Was.

 

Right? So, how did that work?  You then joined the Air Force.

 

Luckily, we lived close to the base.  And she went temporary duty sometimes, off base to other bases, but only for two weeks at a time.  You know, the Air Force and the service is like one big family.  They always take care of each other. Yeah.  So, there’s no worries.

 

During the time you were in the Air Force, and then the—first, the Navy, and then the Air Force, were you keeping Hawaiian traditions?  Or how much a part of your life was Hawai‘i?

 

Well, actually, I kind of wanted to distance myself from home.  ‘Cause I wanted to see the world.  And I go: Oh, man, the world is my oyster.  You know, I really loved what I was doing, and I was traveling a lot. And I go: Hāna is just a little dot, you know, I grew up there.

 

At the end of your service in Air Force, in which you did very well, you were all set to retire on the mainland.

 

Uh-huh.

 

Where?

 

South Carolina, Charleston.

 

Why South Carolina?

 

Because I had a home there.  And my home was like Hawai‘i; I had banana trees, literally, my back yard was a Hawaiian garden.

 

And you were okay living in Charleston.

 

Charleston, South Carolina.

 

Rather than back home.

 

Yeah; my son was there, my wife was there, you know. So, yeah.  And all my friends were there.  Close to the golf course, I had all my imu rocks.  You know, I was like at home.

 

What happened?  Why aren’t you in Charleston right now?

 

So, one night, a friend of mine calls me over to his house.  He goes: Hey, brah, come over.  Hawaiian Senior Master Sergeant.  Come over, and let’s watch some some videos.  He just came back from Hawai‘i.  So, I go: Sure.  So, my wife and I go over, and we’re having pupus and drinking beer.  And he shows the Merrie Monarch.  I go: Wow!  And I started getting emotional.  And I said to my wife: Tomorrow morning, I’m putting in my retirement papers.  And she goes: What?  Where we going?  I go: We’re moving back to Hawai‘i.  And she goes: Really?  Yeah. She goes: What about our house?  I go: We’ll sell it or leave it for the son.

 

Just like that.

 

Just like that.

 

And it was the call of the Hawaiian culture?

 

Yeah.

 

Which you had not really repressed.  You’d lived it, but you also didn’t really seek to immerse yourself in it.

 

Yeah.

 

Wow.

 

And it was Eddie Kamae, and he was playing, you know, cowboy songs and all that.  Wow; I really got choked up.

 

So, it was two films; Merrie Monarch and Eddie Kamae?

 

Eddie Kamae; yeah.

 

Wow.

 

And later on, I told Eddie Kamae; I go: You know, you’re responsible for bringing me home.  When we had a chance meeting over in Maui at a festival.

 

Inspired to reconnect with his Hawaiian roots, Francis “Palani” Sinenci retired from the Air Force, packed up, and shipped out to Hawaii from South Carolina.

 

 

And you knew where you would come when you got home, you would go to Hāna?

 

Well, actually, I didn’t go to Hāna.  I just wanted to come home.  You know. And so, I came home, and the first thing my brother-in-law says: Hey, you know what, we need a kūpuna at school.  They were lacking teachers and stuff.  I go: What’s a kūpuna? You know, like, all my Hawaiian stuff was all left back in the old days.  So, he goes: A kūpuna, you know, a teacher, an elder.  I go: Oh, okay.  I don’t know anything about kūpuna. So, he goes: Well, you know what, go and interview with our principal, Jan. I go: Okay.  So, I show up.  And I considered myself old at that time; I was forty-eight years old, you know.

 

I was forty-eight years old.  ‘Cause in the military, when you’re forty-eight, you’re an old man.  And you really are; they make you feel like an old man.  So, I was doing backflips, and they called me an old man.  So anyway, I went and interviewed.  And she goes: You’re from Hāna; yeah?  I go: Yeah.  She goes: Can you speak Hawaiian?  I go: I can understand.  You know, I was brought up by my tutu lady, and yeah, I can, little bit.  She goes: No problem.  She says: Here’s what you gotta do; we’re gonna hire you, with all the classes I need to take.  So, I had like, two ‘ōlelo classes, and an ‘ukulele class.  She goes: Can you sing, play ‘ukulele?  I go: Sure. You know, what local boy doesn’t know how to play ‘ukulele.  So, I got these three things; now I gotta go. So, immediately, she hired me immediately. And so, I had to report to work on Tuesday.  So, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday nights, I was in school.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday days, I was teaching.  So, I was going to ‘ōlelo classes.  By the time Friday came, I just said: I gotta get out of here.  Honolulu of course, I was living here.  And I used to just jump on my truck and go to the airport and fly to Hāna, and just go fishing.  Just forget everything.  Sunday night, fly back here.  Same thing; teach.  I was working like, twelve to sixteen hours a day, retired Air Force.

 

Yeah; your wife told me you don’t have a lazy bone in your body.  You’re always doing something.

 

Yeah.  It’s weird.

 

You just keep going.

 

I just don’t want to waste time.  Because tomorrow is not guaranteed.  That’s the way I look at it.

 

Francis “Palani” Sinenci kept himself busy reconnecting with his Hawaiian heritage, practicing taro cultivation and working as a kūpuna, or Hawaiian cultural elder, at Helemano Elementary School in Wahiawā, Central O‘ahu.  One day in 1994, he received a request from a fellow kūpuna that would shape the rest of his life.

 

So, one day, one of my kūpuna says: Uncle Francis—we always call each other auntie and uncle in front of the kids as a sign of respect.  And I don’t know if she’s older, or younger than me. But she goes: Uncle Palani, why don’t you build us a hale?  I go: What’s that?  She goes: A hale.  And I grew up with hale ‘au‘au.  That’s bathroom.

 

M-hm.

 

Hale hopau pilikia, hale unu, and these kinda hale. Not a sleeping house.  She goes: Hale pili.  I go: Oh, pili; like pili grass?  She goes: Yeah.  So, I said: You mean a grass shack, don’t you?  She goes: Yeah; it’s a hale, not a grass shack.  ‘Cause when I was growing up, a hale was a grass shack.  I want to go back to my little grass shack.  Everything was grass shack.  So, I go: I don’t know anything about building a hale.  She goes: Well, we’re gonna send you down to Waimea Falls Park, and you’re gonna see Uncle Rudy, and he’s gonna teach you how to build a hale.  So, I go: Okay.  So, I go down to Waimea Falls Park, and meet Uncle Rudy.  He’s back there by all his archaeological stuff in the back.  And he’s smoking a pipe.  So, he introduced me.  He goes: Oh, you want to build a hale; yeah, boy?   You want to build a hale, boy?  ‘Cause he was about sixty.

 

I go: Yes; yes, sir.  So, he brings out this pad, and he starts drawing the posts, the tenons and, you know, how to connect the hale.  I go: Wait a minute; I know how to do that.  And he goes: Really?  I go: Yeah.  He goes: Why are you here?  I go: No, when I was in the sixth grade, that was my homework.  Our teacher, Mrs. Naone said: You guys go to the library, and go find something Hawaiian, and come back and do a show-and-tell, you know, story. Gotta write about it; you gotta draw the pictures.  So, that’s what I did.  Everybody did like, lamalama torch, all the other things, you know.  I chose hale-building.  So, he writes down all these things that I need to do.  You go to Bishop Museum, you look, you go read this book, this book, this book.  So, I went to Bishop Museum, looked at the hale there, they let me go inside.  And I got Russ Apple’s book, Dr. Russ Apple, and I read through it.  I go: Oh, yeah, this is easy.  So, I went out and gathered the wood, and I built a little hale, about a six-foot hale for a project that I was working at one of the schools, Helemano School.  And when I built it, I invited him to come up to come up for the christening or blessing.  Yeah; oki ka piko.  And he came up; he goes: Wow, boy; you get ‘em.  Now, if you like become one master, you gotta build one twenty-by-forty.  I said: Uncle Rudy, I’ll never be a master; this is too much work.  He mentioned that: You need to go back to Hāna, and go build a kauhale at the Hāna Cultural Center.

 

What’s a kauhale?

 

It’s a group of different type of houses.  Or a village, like a small village.

 

He wanted you to build a small village?

 

Yeah.  So, I go to Hāna, and I see Ms. Coila Eade, who was kind of my mentor too.  She’s there, and she goes: Yeah, we need a kauhale.  So, she goes: You know, I’m from Hana.  She goes: You know how to build a hale?  We don’t know that you can build a hale. So, I had to go out and gather more wood, and build a small table model, using dental floss for the lashing, then cement and rocks, and built a hale for them.  And I presented it at the meeting, and they said: Okay, you’re hired.  So, I started my career right there.

 

And were you loving the process by that point?

 

Doing the first one, and then making the model, you know, everything sinks in, and you get some muscle memory.

 

So many different things.  You get the rocks.

 

Oh; yeah, yeah.

 

I mean, it looks simple, but it’s not.

 

I mean, for me, well, it came natural, ‘cause I worked with cords and stuff.  After I finished the kauhale, everybody in Hāna was like, jumping in and helping out.  In fact, one of the hales that I built, we didn’t have pili grass, so I had to use the alternative thatching materials, which was loulu palm, palm leaf, loulu, and ti leaves.  And that one hale took about almost half a million ti leaves to thatch the totally enclosed sleeping hale.  So, I had the whole community out there, gathering dried ti leaves, and then putting them in bundles.  And then we lashed it all on.  And that catapulted me to a hale-builder, master hale-builder.  In fact, when I called Russ Apple—he was still alive, and I said: Russ, how do you become a master builder?  And he’s been tracking, he was tracking me.  He goes: You’re a master.  I go: No way; I gotta build a twenty-by-forty before I proclaim myself a master.  And the first twenty-by-forty I built, my wife and I, in strong wind, started to build it.

 

Where was that?

 

In Hana, at the place where we’re at right now. So, I built my first twenty-by-forty with my wife’s help.

 

And it’s your hale.

 

Yeah.  So, as we were building, the wind was blowing, it was starting to rain.  And we’d build these A-frames, and stand it up like this, and my wife was holding it in the wind.  I go: Don’t you let that thing fall.  Oh … she didn’t.  And we built the hale.

 

Do you marvel when you put those together about, you know, how you do it? I mean, you know, how durable it is.

 

I’m awe every time I build.

 

What are some of the things that impress you about the building?

 

How they can stand up to the weather, and how ingenious and simple, ingenious how those fittings come together.  And I firmly believe—you know, these EZ Corner tents that you see pop up, you know, people put them together?  It’s almost exactly like a hale.  The framing and everything is the frame of a hale.

 

If I were to be there to watch you do the work, what would I be surprised to see? What’s some of the most interesting parts of the job?

 

You will probably be amazed at how many people we can hold on the ‘oloke‘a, which is the scaffolding system.  By the way, you cannot build a hale without.  I mean, many have tried, and I’ve got reports back where they used modern metal scaffolding.  But an ‘oloke‘a, has to conform, or a traditional hale building ‘oloke‘a is actually building a hale, then another hale over it.  Because the scaffolding system has to be commensurate to the size of the hale, and the workers.  So, it’s gotta be kind of like ergonomic; yeah.  So, it’s gotta fit the guys and the people too.

 

So, first, you build the scaffolding.

 

No; first you build the foundation, then you build the scaffolding after the posts is all in to build the roof part.

 

And what do other people use you hale for?

 

Mostly for gathering places, like most of the hale that I build are called hale hālāwai, which means, you know, meeting place. And gathering, and some just for show.

 

Over the last twenty years, Francis “Palani” Sinenci has tirelessly built various types of hale across Hawaiian cultural sites, schools, private residences, Haleakala National Park on Maui, and even on the U.S. mainland, and in China.

 

The title that I have as a kahuna kuhikuhi pu‘uone suggests that I’m an architect.  The word kuhikuhi pu‘uone, breaking down the word kuhikuhi pu‘uone was to show how to build on a pile of sand.  So, now we have architects who use blueprints.  Back in the old days, they used a pile of sand.  Like, if a kahuna is gonna demonstrate how to build a heiau, he would go like this.  He would say: Okay; get the sand, and then stack all the rocks, stack all the wood. And I actually did one, demonstrated how to build a hale on a pile of sand.  So, kuhikuhi means to show or direct, or envision; pu‘u, a pile, a pu‘u; one, sand.  So, someplace I read, over on the Big Island, that became the title for the royal architect, kuhikuhi pu‘uone.  And at one point, somebody said: You’re a kuhikuhi pu‘uone.  I go: I didn’t get that title; somebody else gave me that title, I didn’t put it on myself.  I’ve met more people building hales than people do, except if you’re a concierge.  Of course, you meet a lot of people.

 

I have people from all walks of life that walk away with something.  Either just making a shaka or understanding the Hawaiian culture, or just coming to find out that, hey, I appreciate my job more than building hale.  You know, either positively or negatively, it impacts everybody.

 

Well, you bring people together to build it.

 

Yeah.

 

And then, it becomes a gathering place forever after.

 

I’ve had people get married, met at these hale gatherings.  And then divorced, and came back again.

 

Yeah; halawai, the word for meeting is really a truism.  Hale halawai; you meet, you gather, you eat.  And most of my hales are used for pa‘inas.  Yeah.

 

How many hale have you built now?

 

It’s over three hundred.

 

This takes tremendous energy and strength.  And you’re doing this, and now you’re seventy-six now.

 

Takes a village to build a hale.  Literally.

 

So, are you doing mostly the overseeing now?  Because you’re in your seventies, and you’re doing the main work.

 

Overseeing; I wish that was so yesterday.

 

So, you’re out there doing it.

 

But I mean, keeps the blood flowing, you know, keeps the energy going.

 

In 2018, Francis “Palani” Sinenci was featured in Ka Hale: A Revival,  a short film about his efforts to preserve the traditional practice of hale-building.  The film received a People’s Choice Award in the American Institute of Architects Film Challenge.  Working with his hands and showing no signs of slowing down, Uncle Palani also is rebuilding structures from Hawai‘i’s past.  In addition to restoring a Native Hawaiian fishpond in Hāna, he’s now turning his attention to recreating plantation era Portuguese stone ovens.

 

Mahalo to Francis “Palani” Sinenci of Hāna, Maui.  And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

So, I devised this shaka.  And you coil it up, you pre-cut all the lashing.  Like if I say: Hey, throw me a number three shaka.

 

And what’s a shaka?

 

This is called a shaka, a coiled piece of rope. Okay; this is how we test to see if you did it right.  So, you’re supposed throw.  Did it come out?  Oh, yeah. See, no knots.

 

No knots.

 

 

 

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