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AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Chasing the Moon

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of
the moon landing

By Jody Shiroma , PBS Hawaiʻi

 

Apollo 11 Saturn V launch vehicle lifts off from Kennedy Space Center.July 20, 1969 was a momentous day, a day whose events some would refer to later as the “greatest experience of their lifetime.” Parents around the world invited their children to join them around the television, “Come and watch this,” they said.

 

Families gathered around their television sets in awe, listening intently as messages came crackling over the airwaves. From Apollo 11, two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, accomplished what no other humans had done – they stepped foot on the moon. Armstrong’s words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” echoed around the world.

 

(Image at right) Apollo 11 Saturn V launch vehicle lifts off from Kennedy Space Center.

 

As Americans and the world shared their experiences, for those living in Hawai‘i the event continued as astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins made their first landfall on O‘ahu after their capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Their quarantine unit arrived at Pearl Harbor aboard the recovery vessel, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, on their way back to Houston.

 

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and PBS Hawai‘i are premiering Chasing the Moon, a three-part, six-hour documentary series that brings the awe, excitement and unforgettable experience to life for both those who lived through it and for the generations who have come after.

 

Apollo 11 astronauts (from left): Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. share a laughFrom the space race’s earliest beginnings to the monumental achievement of the first lunar landing in 1969 and beyond, this series recasts this period as a fascinating time of scientific innovation, political calculation, media spectacle, visionary impulses and personal drama. Utilizing previously overlooked and lost archival material – much of which has never before been seen by the public – the film features a diverse cast of characters who played key roles in these historic events.

 

Among those are astronauts Aldrin, Frank Borman and Bill Anders; Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet premier and a leading Soviet rocket engineer; Poppy Northcutt, a 25-year old “mathematics whiz” who gained worldwide attention as the first woman to serve in the all-male bastion of NASA’s Mission Control; and Ed Dwight, the Air Force pilot selected by the Kennedy administration to train as America’s first black astronaut.

 

(Left) The Apollo 11 crewmen, still under a 21-day quarantine, are greeted by their wives. (Center) Poppy Northcutt became the first woman in an operational support role to work in NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston with the flight of Apollo 8. (Right) Ed Dwight, the first African American to be trained as an astronaut

 

“When we think of that breathtaking moment of the 1969 moon landing, we forget what a turbulent time that was,” said Mark Samels, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer. “The country was dealing with huge problems – Vietnam, poverty, race riots – and there was a lot of skepticism about the space program. Chasing the Moon explores the unbelievably complex challenges that NASA was able to overcome. It was a century-defining achievement, and our film tells a familiar story in an entirely new way.”

 

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

CHASING THE MOON

Monday – Wednesday at 9:00 pm
July 8 – 10
on PBS Hawaiʻi

Watch Preview

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Chasing the Moon - cover story

 

 

 

Josh Tatofi
Grammy-Nominated Musical Artist

NĀ MELE: Traditions in Hawaiian Song - Josh Tatofi

 

June Cover Story by Liberty Peralta , PBS Hawai‘i

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Dalire passed away a week or two later.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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PBS HAWAI‘I PASSPORT

 

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PBS Hawai‘i Passport is an added benefit for valued donors of public television.

 

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