traditional

Josh Tatofi
Grammy-Nominated Musical Artist

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

BY LIBERTY PERALTA , PBS HAWAI‘I

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Dalire passed away a week or two later.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

This month, Tatofi is featured on a new episode of PBS Hawai‘i’s Nā Mele: Traditions in Hawaiian Song. He’s joined by bandmates Travis Kaka on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, and Laupepa Letuli on lead guitar and backing vocals. The program also features hula dancers from three different hālau: Hula Hālau ‘O Kamuela, Hālau Hi‘iakaināmakalehua and Hālau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniākea. Watch this performance on Monday, June 24 at 7:30 pm on PBS Hawai‘i. The program will also be available to view online here at pbshawaii.org.

 

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

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
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

 

More from Josh Tatofi:

 

Kaleohano, commentary

 

Kaleohano. Written by Louis Moon Kauakahi

 

Kāneʻohe

 

Kuʻu Leo Aloha

 

Kuʻu Pua Ilima

 

Lei Hala, featuring Hālau HiʻIakaināmakalehua

 

Leolani

 

Pua Kiele, featuring Hālau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Kealiʻi Reichel

NĀ MELE: Guest artist Keali'i Reichel

 

Kealiʻi Reichel has long established himself as one of Hawaiʻi’s premier artists. His dedication to the perpetuation of Hawaiian language, song, chanting and hula has evolved into unique and personal performances that showcase the depth of Hawaiian culture for international audiences. This performance, recorded at the PBS Hawaiʻi studio, excellently showcases his artistry.

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
The Lim Family

NĀ MELE: The Lim Family

 

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

 

Program

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Natalie Ai Kamauu and Family

Na Mele: Natalie Ai Kamauu and Family

 

Natalie Ai Kamauu’s voice fills the PBS Hawaiʻi 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.

 

Program

 

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.”

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1012 – One in a Million and other stories

HIKI NŌ Episode 1012: One in a Million and other stories

 

TOP STORY

 

“One in a Million”
Students from Ewa Makai Middle School on O‘ahu feature two cancer survivors who battled with their diseases at a very early age: Lily Mallory, who was undergoing treatment for her cancer at the age of three, and Emi Robison, who was battling leukemia at the age of seven. The girls’ fathers discuss what it was like dealing with their daughters’ life-threatening illnesses at the time. Phil Mallory, Lily’s father, comments on how scary it was to know that the size of his daughter’s tumor indicated that her chances of survival were not very good. Emi’s father, Ryan Robison, created video games with superheroes who defeated cancer in order to help he and his daughter visualize beating the disease. Lily says the experience taught her that “if you really want something, you gotta work hard for it. Life is short, and you really have to do what you want before you don’t have enough time.”

 

Program

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

–Students from Lahaina Intermediate School on Maui profile a cross-fit instructor who helps students find their mojo.

 
–Students from Hilo High School on Hawai‘i Island show the proper way to conduct oneself at a job interview.

 

–Students from Kamehameha Schools Kapālama on O‘ahu show how high school students are discovering the joys of traditional film-based photography.

 

–Students from Waiākea High School on Hawai‘i Island profile a star athlete who faces his toughest opponent off the field: diabetes.

 

–Students from Kea‘au High School on Hawai‘i Island honor the memory of a beloved student who departed far too soon.

 

–Students from Ilima Intermediate School on O‘ahu show us how to make a traditional Maori dance implement.

 

–Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i introduce us to a unique facility that uses friendship and personal bonds to help treat mental illnesses.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students from Iao School in Wailuku, Maui.

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Melveen Leed

NA MELE: Melveen Leed

 

Singer Melveen Leed is joined by her hula dancer daughter Kaaikaula Naluai at the PBS Hawai‘i studios. Best known for contemporary Hawaiian, jazz and country, Moloka‘i girl Melveen also has deep roots in traditional Hawaiian song.

 

 

 

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

PBS Hawaii 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.”

 

Preview

 

 

 

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