tradition

NĀ MELE
Weldon Kekauoha

By Emilie Howlett

 

Hawaiian musician Weldon Kekauoha has been crafting beloved musical arrangements and sharing them with Hawai‘i, 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.

 

Weldon Kekauoha performs on Nā Mele. Photo: Richard Drake.

 

Nā Mele: Weldon Kekauoha

Premieres Monday, February 26, 7:30 pm on PBS Hawaiʻi

Watch online at pbshawaii.org starting Tuesday, February 27

 

Kekauoha gave a soulful performance in PBS Hawai‘i’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 Hawai‘i’s Vice President of Integrated Media Production, Kekauoha highlights the many ways music has touched his life.

 

 

PBS Hawai‘i: 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.

 

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Mele Murals

 

This film is about the transformative power of art through the unlikely union of graffiti and ancient Hawaiian culture. At the center of the story are two renowned street artists – Estria Miyashiro (aka Estria) and John Hina (aka Prime) – a group of Native Hawaiian youth, and the rural community of Waimea on Hawai‘i Island. The story is a look at how public art and Native Hawaiian traditions transform the artists, students and community.

 

 

AMERICAN MASTERS
Jacques Pépin

 

Discover the story of Chef Jacques Pépin, a young immigrant with movie-star looks and a charming Gallic accent, who elevated essential kitchen techniques to an art form to become one of America’s most beloved food icons.

 

 

HIKI NŌ
Episode # 909: Top Story – The pros and cons of using Uber and other ride-sharing services

 

TOP STORY
Students from Sacred Hearts Academy in Kaimuki on O‘ahu explore the pros and cons of using Uber and other ride-sharing services. The main issues raised by students, parents and drivers revolve around convenience versus safety for young riders. The story also explains Uber’s policy that restricts minors from riding alone, a fact of which many teenagers and parents are unaware. The student reporters learn that Uber is testing a service for teens in several cities, though not yet here in Hawai‘i.

 

ALSO FEATURED
–Students from Maui Waena Intermediate School explain how their robotics coach found his passion while teaching students to stretch their tech expertise.

 

–Students from Farrington High School in Kalihi on O‘ahu introduce us to an alum who has devoted decades to preserving the school’s history and spreading a positive message about the school and its students.

 

–Students from the Montessori School of Maui Middle School explore the pervasive problem of bullying and offer tips for students dealing with bullies at school.

 

–A student from Kapa‘a High School on Kaua‘i shows and tells us how Tahitian dance has helped her relieve stress, enjoy life and preserve her cultural traditions.

 

–Students from Waiākea High School in Hilo on the Big Island profile a student athlete who proves that determination can overcome her physical disadvantage and beat the competition.

 

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Ohta-san: Virtuosity and Legacy

 

Herb Ohta is one of the giants of the ‘ukulele who snatched the simple four-stringed instrument out of the background and planted it firmly at the front of the stage. In this special, Herb Ohta, known as Ohta-San, brings his solo ukulele riffs to the PBS Hawai‘i studios, playing numbers such as “Rhapsody in Blue,” “The Girl from Ipanema,” and his chart-topping ballad, “Song for Anna.” He also teams up with his son, Herb Ohta Jr., for their take on the Hawaiian classics “Hi’ilawe” and “Sanoe.”

 

 

NA MELE
Natalie Ai Kamauu and Family

 

Natalie Ai Kamauu’s voice fills the PBS Hawaii studio.  Natalie performs with a passion that comes from the origins of the songs she sings, and the love she has for her family. She is joined by her husband, Iolani Kamauu, on guitar and vocals, and their daughter, Sha-Lei Kamauu, who accompanies the music with hula.

 

Among the songs featured are “Pili Aloha,” which connects Natalie to her mother, kumu hula Olana Ai, and “Shower Tree,” which was written for Natalie and Iolaniʻs son, Chaz. Sha-Lei joins Natalie and Iolani with hula, including the playful “Hula Tease,” and a graceful accompaniment to Natalie and Iolaniʻs performance on “Uhiwai.”

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Hawaiian Masterpieces: Ka Hana Kapa

PBS HAWAII PRESENTS Hawaiian Masterpieces: Ka Hana Kapa

 

This film follows present-day kapa makers through the kapa-making process. Marie McDonald and her daughter, Roen Hufford, create kapa using the same types of tools and methods that ancient Hawaiians used. The program culminates with the dressing of a hula halau in Hawaiian kapa for the Merrie Monarch Festival.

 

 

BARE FEET WITH MICKELA MALLOZZI
Where Asia Meets Europe – Turkey

 

Join Emmy® Award-winning travel host, producer and dancer Mickela Mallozzi on her adventures as she experiences the world, one dance at a time! From re-discovering her family’s roots in Southern Italy to exploring the diverse regions of Central Asia in the hills of Turkey, Mickela’s travels explore the traditional dances of every culture while connecting with the local community through celebration.

 

Turkey
Turkey is a country that crosses two continents, full of rich dance and music, from the bustling city of Istanbul to the fairy caves in Cappadocia. Mickela’s magical journey through Turkey connects her with the locals through the universal language of dance.

 

 

NA MELE
Peter Medeiros

NA MELE Peter Medeiros

 

Slack key artist Peter Medeiros, accompanied by guitarist Josh Silva and bass player Nate Stillman, presents a fun evening of traditional slack key. Joining the trio are the dancers of Pua Ali’i ‘Ilima, led by kumu hula Vicky and Jeff Kānekaiwilani Takamine. Songs performed include “Ulili E,” “He’eia,” “Ke Ala O Ka Rose” and “Kananaka.”

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