The Hawaiians and the Dreadnought Guitar


I came across some fascinating bits of information while reading the recent Martin Guitar online journal. Celebrating the 100 year anniversary of their iconic dreadnought guitar, they present a detailed history if its creation, from its inception through its alterations throughout the years. In this journal article lies some information relating to how Hawaiian guitar playing of the early 20th century helped shaped the design of the Martin Dreadnought guitar.

To read the entire article go to this link here.

Just to give some general background, the dreadnought guitar is a larger bodied acoustic guitar that was developed by Martin in 1916. Over time it has become a signature design for the Martin guitar company and played by countess well known musicians from Johnny Cash to Eric Clapton to Neil Young to Bob Dylan and many others. These larger bodied guitars became important as the guitar moved from small parlors and home concerts to auditoriums and theaters. But where did the idea for a larger bodied guitar originally come from?

The story begins at the 1916 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. One of the featured performance pavilions at the exposition had Hawaiian musicians who came playing `ukulele, taro patch fiddles (a double coursed `ukulele) as well as steel stringed guitars. What is still up for interpretation and debate is the origin of these guitars and the tuning in which they were played in. Stories vary as to whether it was the sailors from whaling ships or the Mexican cowboys who originally brought the guitar to Hawai`i. Nor do we know how the guitars were tuned or where these tunings originated form. What we do now have documentation of is that the guitars were played both Spanish style as well as in a new style placed horizontally on the lap with a steel bars used to glide across the strings. For more on my interpretation of the origins of slack key tunings you can link to my previous blog post here.

One of the performers at this exposition was Major Kealakai who went on to perform throughout America with his group called the Royale Hawaiian Sextette. In order to project a louder and richer sound he worked with Martin Guitar Company to produce a “OOO” body sized guitar that was proportionally larder with a larger 21 inch body and a four inch sound hole. This guitar dubbed the Style 17 was sent to Major Kealakai who was touring in Chicago in March of 1916. This new design led to a collaboration between Martin guitar builder John Deichman and Oliver Ditson of the Oliver Ditson Guitar Company which in turn produced the first Dreadnought guitars which were shipped in August of that year.

The release of the new dreadnought guitars were announced in Music Trader Review as such, “A new steel guitar called the ‘Dreadnought,’ and said to produce the biggest tone of any instrument of its kind, is now being used in the making of phonograph records. It is also said to be an excellent instrument for use in auditoriums and larger halls….”.

I found the involvement of a Hawaiian musician with the development of this iconic guitar to be a fascinating piece of important musical history. It also lends another layer to the mystery of the early years of guitar playing in Hawaii. How were these guitars originally tuned, where did the tunings come from? We do know the guitars were tuned lower or slacked, so the need for a larger bodied guitar make sense form that standpoint.

What is amazing is that not only was it the unique tunings and playing style of the Hawaiian but also the demand for Hawaiian music in concert halls and vaudeville shows that really pushed the need for a larger bodied acoustic guitar that eventually led to the dreadnought design which today is an iconic piece of American instrument design.



Na Hoku Hamajang

I joined the HARA this year more so out of curiosity than anything, and it’s turned out to be quite an interesting experience. From the six month long process of confirming a membership I had already payed for, to the arbitrary placement of my music in their preset categories, there has yet to be a dull moment.

I do want to say I highly respect the Hawai`i recording industry and all those that are a part of it. But I do want to say also that I am highly suspect of the establishment and anything I can do to shake things up I embrace. And I feel if I do it from a place of respect and graciousness I am being as appropriately engaged as anyone. Really my main goal is to express myself artistically and if in the meantime I can do something to move the Hawaiian music scene forward, mo bettah. And in a time of extreme stagnation I do not think there is anything wrong with that. In fact, I would say it should be highly encouraged.

What I wanted to talk about in this post is the placement of my album “Paniolo Music” in the contemporary category for consideration for album of the year. And I’d like to use the term “consideration” loosely as I am not delusional enough to think that my album has any chance of actually being nominated for contemporary album of the year. Really it’s about how the establishment interprets people’s art and dictates how it is consumed by the masses.

So just to give you a quick rundown of how it all works after you’ve paid the $110 fee and prove you’re a resident of the state of Hawai`i, you submit your album to the Na Hoku Hamajang awards. When doing so you fill out a form and check boxes listing your first, second and third preferred choices as to what category you’d like your album placed in. The options can be seen here .

I put down “alternative” for my first choice “contemporary” for my second and really for lack of a better category “island” for my third. And after having read the descriptor for “island” album I realized my album isn’t even eligible for that category!

So I figured that was that, I’ll go back to writing music and playing the music I love in my little town I love. But then a few weeks later I received an email from the chairperson of the selection committee informing me that my album was not going to be placed in the “alternative” category but rather in the “contemporary” category. At first I shrugged it off and figured, fine no bodda me. But after thinking it over I was a little peeved that this album I put so much energy into creating is being placed in a category that I felt did not properly reflect the type of music I was creating.

So I wrote back and said so to the chairperson. At this point I was referred to the official website descriptors of the categories which you can read here. Now if you look carefully at the summaries of the “alternative” and contemporary” categories you can see it’s not much help. If you didn’t bother with the link I’ll summarize for you here:

Alternative Album of the Year:  Best performance of music in an alternative style.

Contemporary Album of the Year:  Best performance of music in a contemporary style.


So I did a google search and came across this other document which was a little more helpful:

Contemporary Album of the Year: Best performance in a contemporary style.

Oh wait, in some ways it was helpful:

Alternative Album of the Year “Alternative” is defined as music of a non-traditional form that retains an outsider and underground perspective, and is mostly outside the mainstream music consciousness. Currently viewed as avant-garde in nature, the music and recordings may utilize new and vintage technology, innovative production techniques and could contain trace elements of mainstream punk, rock, pop, R&B, reggae, dance, folk classical, Hawaiian, and other musical forms.

Aha! So now I had something to work with. Now this had some meat to it. “Non-traditional”? Well the International Council of Traditional Music defines traditional music as “songs and tunes which have been performed, by custom, over a long period (usually several generations)”. Ok, so I’m good, I wrote all these songs so unless you consider the ten years I spent writing them they haven’t been performed for a “long” time, definitely not over several generations.

“Retains an outsider and underground perspective” Well that’s easy, I determine my perspective and I say it’s outsider and underground and i’ve retained that rather well thank you. “Mostly outside the mainstream music consciousness”? Easy, mainstream country music is based on a form of hard rock with song topics centered around attractive young females, drinking, trucks and partying, things none of my songs talk about or sound like. My songs talk about heartbreak, redemption, yearning for lost love and finding it again.

Shall I go on? “Currently viewed as avant-garde in nature”, well this is a little subjective, but I am incorporating the ukulele into an interpretation of country music based on the outlaw country movement of the late 60s and early 70s. Sounds avant-guard to me. “The music and recordings may utilize new and vintage technology, innovative production techniques”. Sure, I used new technology, some old ones as well such as live miking of acoustic instruments, innovative production techniques such as multi-tracking of slide guitars and the ukulele as well as open tuned resonator guitars buried in the mix for ambient drone sounds.

And finally “could contain trace elements of mainstream punk, rock, pop, R&B, reggae, dance, folk, classical, Hawaiian, and other musical forms”. Well you said it “could” but trace elements of folk, Hawaiian and other musical forms, for sure! There’s all kinds of that stuff on there. Anyways, doesn’t take “trace” to merit much of anything does it?

So I concluded my music was alternative. Which was great because if I had to best categorize it by currently accepted modes of genre placement I’d say it is alternative-folk or alternative-country. These are categories I regularly use and tag my music with in different social media platforms and other popularly used music sharing sites such as Soundcloud, Reverb Nation, Band Camp and the like.

So I wrote her back and said thanks but no thanks, my album should be placed in the “alternative” category. But alas. no beans they said. They took another listen and responded with “not having a Country or Folk category, most submissions in the past have gone into the Contemporary category as the closest category we could find”.

Fair enough I thought.

So please go listen to the 2014 alternative album of the year winner and tell me this fits into that description of alternative at all. Tell me that is anywhere near what that category descriptor says. It doesn’t! It’s contemporary acoustic pop!

As for contemporary, well with the description being “best performance in a contemporary style” I don’t know what to say. Other than when I listen to mainstream or contemporary country radio I hear what I just explained a few paragraphs previous. Do they mean “adult contemporary” What does “contemporary” even mean?

If I look at the past winners such Amy Hanaiali`i Gilliam, Kapena De Lima, Waipuna, Anuhea there is no continuum. It could be soft R-n-B, Hawaiian or pop. So is it just a catch all for things that don’t fall into the prescribed categories? I’m asking because I don’t know. Is the music of Hawai`i moving towards such blurred categorical uniqueness that really anything can be placed in contemporary. Is this catch all the future of Hawaiian music where everything is so watered down that it can’t be placed in specially defined categories?

If we as artists don’t strive to maintain our individual artistic integrity and help promote and encourage each other to record our music and submit it into specific categories to merit their inclusion, will we all just end up being thrown into the “contemporary” category?

Listening to the winners for alternative album I have no idea how it is any different than any other contemporary album. Really none if this makes any sense and seems so arbitrary.

So I digress. I dunno you can listen to my album if you’d like and decide for your self. I just wanted to give a little insight into my experience with the process and share a little bit about how I view this categorization. Which if you couldn’t gather from my post I think is a bunch of crap anyways. So I’ll keep making my music and probably keep submitting my recordings anyhow. Will I win an award some day? Who knows. Would I be grateful if I did, well of course, but I won’t loose any sleep over it in the meantime. I’ll keep doing my art and leave the categorizing and genre defining to others. I know I’m just an outsider existing in the underground on the little ole Big Island away from the center of the music industry in Honolulu. Wait that sounds kinda alternative to me…

Atta Isaacs and the Holy Grail of Slack Key

atta isaacs

I am amazed at times that with the vast quantities of information available on the internet how sometimes it can be impossible to even locate some basic facts or stories relating to an individual. But thankfully with one important set of liner notes posted on-line I recently was able to learn more about the elusive slack key master and legend Leland “Atta” Isaacs.

In playing different slack key tunings, one tuning that I have always enjoyed is Gabby’s C Mauna Loa tuning. Recently while doing some reading up about it on the interwebs, I reminded of another C tuning that is often referred to as “Atta’s C”. I realized that in the world of slack key this tuning is often glossed over as just being some creation by Atta Isaacs, one of Gabby’s friends and members of his “Hawaiian Band”. But as I began to explore and dissect this tuning more the subtle complexity and genius of this very versatile tuning was revealed to me.

While slack key tunings by nature tend to be very freeing by way that they open up the strings and allow for melodic embellishments in the treble register, they can be limiting at times in their ability to express some complex chord voicings in the bass regions. But in analyzing this tuning I could see that Atta’s C tuning was able to accomplish both! Not only that, I also discovered another important facet of this tuning. With most open tunings you are limited to playing in the given key of that tuning. For example in open G you are essentially limited to playing songs in the key of G, unless you retune. But as I learned the different chord fingerings for Atta Isaacs’ C tuning I began to discover that it was quickly adaptable to playing in G, F or D, or even A with relative ease. This way you could stay in the same tuning and play in various keys as long as you could figure out the various chordings in the tuning. No need to constantly retune!

So it was in making these discoveries and searching on-line that I came across these very important liner notes from a compilation album released on Cord International Records. Without these liner notes, there was very little if any information to be found about Atta Isaacs. These notes can be found here and I recommend you read them, especially the first 12 or so pages. Here you will find quotes and stories from his immediate family and personal friends that shed some light on this very humble, quiet and happy man. Here you are able to read about his friendship with Gabby, his approach to music and most importantly about his development of this very important slack key tuning,

For me the most fascinating and telling quote comes from his son-in-law: “His contribution of creating that tuning and also the required chord patterns or fingering which allows the artist to play in any key without the need to retune, is the holy grail of Slack Key. As elusive as it is for the rest of us, Atta’s tuning is the age old quest that Slack Key artists have always dreamt of finding.”

There is even a story about how he exactly came up with this tuning: “He instinctively began to search for that perfect tuning. Every waking hour, as soon as he came home from work, was spent tuning and re-tuning, playing various chords to no avail. Time went on and turned into years. But he was persistent and determined to find it. In his search he talked to a close, elderly, family friend who was knowledgeable about music and chords. It was from this meeting that the ‘seed’ was planted that eventually brought forth the creation of that perfect C tuning that would eliminate constant re-tuning and or the need for taking additional pre-tuned guitars onto the stage. This was our mother’s account: “One night Pops was tuning and playing his guitar like every other night. He slacked one of the strings, began playing and shouted, Nola, I got it! I got it! This is the one!” It was just before I was born in 1953 when he ‘found it’. Tweaking the chords and perfecting his craft developed throughout the years that followed.”

Truly amazing stuff. Over these past few days I have come to realize and appreciate the genius that was Atta Isaacs and his C major tuning. I think it is something that should be studied and preserved along with the other great inventions of Hawaiian music like the steel guitar and the ukulele. To experience this pick up the compilation album “The Legendary Atta Isaacs” and hear for yourself.

Get a little taste and take a listen to one of his most famous tunes “How’d You Do” an instrumental classic written by Andy Iona for the steel guitar. Here you can hear his use of jazz chord voicings, his laid back style and emphasis on the easy going swinging groove of slack key playing. And so I leave you with his music and another telling quote from his son-in-law that further explains how important Atta is:

“Whether it was a gift from the creator or just raw talent, I would like to somehow have Atta recognized for his marvelous contribution to Slack Key music. His contribution of creating that tuning and also the required chord patterns or fingering which allows the artist to play in any key without the need to retune, is the holy grail of Slack Key. As elusive as it is for the rest of us, Atta’s tuning is the age old quest that Slack Key artists have always dreamt of finding. But now that he has taken it with him, artists again must resume that quest. Atta’s historical achievement has come not even once in a lifetime, but only once in history.”

Scholarly Southern Blues and Hawaiian Slide Guitar Connections

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A fellow musician friend of mine recently shared an article with me that outlines a compelling argument supporting the theory of the connections between the Hawaiian steel guitar and early southern blues and the development of finger slide guitar playing. This was a truly fascinating article that verified some connections I had made in a previous blog post of mine that discussed this very topic. You can read my post that explores these connections on this blog or linked here.

The article shared with me was written by John W. Troutman and was published as part of the “Project Muse” which is a free on-line database of scholarly articles. You can go to his website to read the article in full at this link.

If you read my blog post and the article I think you can see the connections, but to summarize the article demonstrates that the large presence of Hawaiian guitars and Hawaiian guitar players in the south must point to the origins of southern blues slide guitar playing as being sourced from Hawaii rather than from African monochord zithers.

I hope you enjoy reading and further exploring some of those musical connections between southern blues and Hawaiian steel guitar playing; two timeless classics of musical mastery.

Ukulele In Orbit

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I am always amazed at the new undiscovered gems out there waiting for me. Like a rare stone sitting beneath the layers of sand, it remains undiscovered by my eyes, until the right gust of wind comes and blows away the top layer to reveal the beautiful shining crystal. Such is the case with this spectacular set of ukulele recordings, which up until earlier today I had no idea excited.

After my last blog post about THE top 5 ukulele albums of all time I was doing some follow up research and I came upon this page on Herb Ohta Jr.’s website. Here he mentions an ukulele player named Don Baduria. I had never heard this name before and judging by Herb Jr.’s musical skill and tastes, I figured he had to be someone important. Reading the short bio posted on the page written by Don Baduria’s son I started to get excited. This guy sounded like a real talented player! Could there be another ukulele player out there that had slipped through my ears?

After clicking on the small media player with some audio clips I quickly realized I was dealing with a serious player here. His rapid fire strums set off a wave of sounds that soon transitioned into precise single note picking lines, is this “Mr. Sandman” on ukulele?! OK, it’s on!!!

After a google search I discovered that there are two albums of material that was released by Don Baduria. One album called “Ukulele In Orbit” is completely out of print and looked as if it would be impossible to find. The other album “Ukulele Magic” had been re-released and was available on iTunes. After a few other searches I was able to locate his son’s Reverb Nation page which is a website for musicians to share their music as a free streaming service. Here in his play list he had a number of tracks from his father’s long out of print album. You can link to that website here. Note that the son’s own R & B recordings are mixed in so look for the songs with the tag “Don Baduria Sr. Bertram Records”.

That’s what I was looking for! While “Ukulele Magic” is a nice set of tunes, it is mostly covers of Hapa-Haole tunes, and like I said they are well done pieces and quality recordings, but it lacks the inventiveness or creative sparks to the playing that I am always searching for. Definitely quality for sure, but nothing like the recordings from “Ukulele In Orbit”. Those songs have depth, they are complex, they have a sense of soul and freedom that I had only heard in a couple other players, most notably Eddie Kamae, Jesse Kalima and Herb Ohta.

I figured I had to do a YouTube search to see if I could find more. While no video of him performing surfaced I did find audio of some recordings put up by his son. Doing a simple search in You Tube for “Don Baduria” you can find seven of the tracks he recorded on his first album, my personal favorite at the moment being “Tea For Two”.

Listen carefully and you’ll hear many of the elements that made Kamae and Kalima so amazing, tremelo chording strums with accented melodies using the pinky, fast chording changes with emphasis on the 6th, 9th and diminished voicings, but there is a sense of jazzy swing that really sets Baduria’s playing apart. Maybe it was his time in the service that exposed him to more jazz, swing and dixieland recordings?

While I thought the exploration had ended there, after more internet sleuthing I found that his son had also made a Face Book page dedicated to his dad. That can be accessed here. On this page you will find two really remarkable videos. One features Don Baduria performing on the Ed Sullivan show on the same night with guests Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Floyd Patterson!

This video is dated June 6 and is about two posts down as of July 21st. At the 2:00 minute mark you are treated to some fabulous playing by Don Baduria. This is remarkable for so many reasons, a local boy playing the ukulele on the Ed Sullivan show, he is doing it in uniform, he is playing a rare Gibson Tenor and he is using a shoulder strap! All those pieces make for a a really historic and important performances, I really couldn’t believe my eyes and ears as I was watching this. Scroll down a little further and you will come across another video from another televised event. Here he is again in uniform playing his Gibson tenor ukulele. Still after repeated watches I am still trying to swallow and grasp what he is doing.

Overall this made for a ear-opening experience that forced me to rethink my understanding and historical knowledge of the ukulele. I must say while I have not listened to the entire album yet, this easily edges out Eddie Bush’s “A Man and His Ukulele” from my top five, as “Ukulele In Orbit” is without a doubt a seminal recording in the history of ukulele music. Now I must go on an eBay and record auction websites and hunt down my own vinyl copy!

What this makes clear to me is there is a need for some formal documentation of the era of ukulele playing after the second world war leading into the Hawaiian renaissance. There was a pocket of playing here in which solo instrumental performance was featured and explored. Players like Eddie Kamae, Jesse Kalima and Don Baduria were finding a new voice for the ukulele and adding songs to create a new repertoire of ukulele numbers. Songs that were rooted in Latin music, pop standards, military marches and jazz numbers. It seems to be that this style of ukulele playing got pushed aside as traditional Hawaiian melodies began to dominate with the emerging Hawaiian music renaissance. Tiki and lounge music seemed to take over on the instrumental and tourist end of things, leaving little room for the humble ukulele. The dominate instrumentation became the vibraphone, steel guitar, piano and horns. Not to mention the burgeoning rock-n-roll scene that came about in the mid to late 60s that threatened even Hawaiian music itself.

I thank God for people like Don Baduria. This is the style that I believe needs to be studied and resurrected. This is the type of playing that needs to be grabbed onto and shared for the next generation of players if the ukulele is to survive and thrive past this current wave of interest. I hate to say it, but retirees picking out Elvis tunes at ukulele clubs in the mainland is not going to present a compelling picture to the young ukulele player, nor will kitchy tongue in cheek covers of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber tunes sung by hipsters on yellow ukuleles posted to Instagram. And while Jake and the emerging set of young copy cats playing soul-less, bland, commercial pop ukulele numbers may present something that is flashy and appears new and exciting, once the initial “wow” wears off there is nothing left.

As an ukulele player who has struggled of late with my own direction and inspiration for moving forward with the instrument in the face of the above noted realities, seeing video like that of Don Baduria and listening to his tracks has helped reassure my own playing and has further motivated me to pursue and continue to develop my own voice and style in order to leave something of value for the next generation of players, I feel it is my duty to do so.

So here we come again, another player doing what is best…HO`ANALU…going beyond the known boundaries. It is amazing that tucked away in a lost Face Book page or in the far corners of You Tube lies recordings, sights and sounds that hold the key to the long lost voice of this subtle instrument. All we need to do is find it, make it our own, and pass it on!

The Real Top Five List


Another day, another list of the top fifty Hawaiian music albums, or the ten best Hawaiian songs or top five essential ukulele albums. While these lists are valuable in exposing outside audiences to Hawaiian music artists and albums they may have otherwise not heard about, they still are far from comprehensive in my humble opinion. As Hawaiian music, and the ukulele in particular, continues to be pushed into the limelight outside of the islands, the more people without the proper knowledge of Hawaiian music history are trying to define what is the “best” most “important” and most “significant”. And while I usually ignore these lists, two in particular I came across this week really drew my attention, so I felt it was time for a little clarification and education from my own perspective. The two lists I am speaking of are the following: The All-Time Best Hawaiian Playlist and Ukulele Magazine Five Essential Ukulele Albums.

The first list I can ignore because it say it was reader generated, so looking at that lit I would assume they no nothing about Hawaiian music or its historical significance. While there are some nice songs on there, any list without a song by the Sons of Hawaii, Hui Ohana or Kahauanu Lake Trio is meaningless.

The second list I would like to ignore as well, but this one I feel needs a rebuttal, and here’s why. That list was published by a reputable ukulele magazine. By attaching the word “essential” to their article, people doing basic internet searches will probably come across this list and think they have found the true answer to the question of what are the top five Hawaiian ukulele albums. But I am sorry to say they have missed the mark. I do want to give kudos to them for attempting to make a list that is presented as a “those other than Jake Shimabukuro” list. And looking at the list they were going somewhat in the right direction with the inclusion of the Sons of Hawaii, Kahauanu Lake Trio and The Sunday Manoa. But if you want to talk about essential UKULELE albums, there are some glaring omissions. (author note: after posting this on their discussion board the writer of the Ukulele Magazine article responded by clarifying as such “I have to say, this piece is not a ranking —- it’s only five (out of dozens? A hundred?) of great Hawaiian ukulele-driven records — and one that makes no claim, anywhere, that it’s the ‘Top 5.'” I would like to note I appreciate and acknowledge this clarification and feel it is important to point out this distinction by the author).

But before I start, I think it is important that I qualify myself if I am going to make such broad judgements about lists made by such “reputable” sources as Ukulele Magazine concerning the historically complex and comprehensive body of work that is Hawaiian music, and the recordings of ukulele music. First off you can refer to my detailed blog post here where I discuss the history of the ukulele as part 4 of an eight part series of the history of Hawaiian music. From there I would recommend that you link to the other parts in my eight part series on the history of Hawaiian music. For your convenience they are as follows part 1, part 2, part 3, part 5, part 6, part 7 and part 8. In referencing those posts I think you can see that I have familiarized myself with the history of Hawaiian music and I am not sharing my thoughts simply as a matter of providing further uninformed chatter, but rather as an interested contributor to the proper documentation and perspective of Hawaiian music in the realm of world folk musics.

So I would like to present to you in a very particular order, the most significant, important, essential, monumental, ukulele albums in the history of all time. I hope to include those words throughout this blog post in hopes that I will catch some internet or google search algorithm along the way and introduce people to these oh so essential, important, monumental and historically significant ukulele albums.

1. Eddie Kamae “Heart of the Ukulele”

I have written extensively about this album in two separate blog posts here and here. I would highly recommend you refer to them for my comprehensive analysis of this important album. To summarize, no ukulele album has done such a thorough job of redefining the instrument in terms of technique, song selection and tonal delivery. Here Eddie Kamae is firing on all cylinders, presenting the ukulele as diverse instrument that can shine in a variety of genres and moods. Not only does Kamae solidify himself among the greatest ever through those elements, but it is all done in a tasteful musicality that should tickle the year of the most discriminating musical critics. And I still believe to this day that no one has still yet been able to top this album. Much like Wilt Chamberlin’s 100 point game in the NBA in 1962, it is possible the apex of individual performance was reached some 50 years ago, the rest of the world still vying to catch up to this masterful performance.

2. Jesse Kalima “Jess Uke”

Around the same time as “Heart of the Ukulele” came this almost equally as impressive and complex album. And in terms of breathe and scope this album is every bit as close to being on par and an equal to the Kamae’s ukulele album. So while this album does have the advantage of a clearer and higher fidelity recorded sound compared to that of Kamae’s album, and in addition is does feature many of the same techniques that Eddie showcase in the “Heart of the Ukulele” album, Kalima just falls short in terms of song selection and emotional depth. The clarity of his picking lines and well as the precision of his tremelo picking is there, right along side Kamae’s, but Eddie had that unmistakeable ability to find a song typically found outside of the traditional voicing structure of the ukulele, and get it to sing a new way under his deft and careful ukulele manipulation. Kalima’s album is chalk full of complex, careful and exact technique in the realm of traditional Hawaiian tunes, but it is not able to find that other gear in the environment of an American standard or Latin ballad. For those reasons I have to place this very significant and compelling album right behind Kamae’s.

3. Herb Ohta Sr. (Ohta-San) “Pacific Potpourri”

Time after time I am amazed that people who should be in the know are not familiar with this album. Some ten years after Kamae’s and Kalima’s albums were released, Ohta-San comes back with the album that borrows upon the forward thinking application of the ukulele demonstrated by those two masters and updates it with the additional orchestration of electric piano, guitar, electric and standup bass, congas, steel guitar and drums. This creates a very modern yet vintage sound. Here the ukulele finds its new found place as the true solo lead instrument. Rather than being a “solo” instrument in the sense that it is performing a solo piece with rhythmic accompaniment, the ukulele is now the feature, developing a distinct and separate voice within the environment of a full band. Like the lead saxophone or trumpet of a jazz quartet or quintet, Ohta-San shows the ukulele is the true star. The techniques put forth to vinyl by Kalima and Kamae are now refined and carefully placed within the melodic framework of a specific song so it can be showcased and enjoyed for what they are, true revolutionary presentations of never before heard instrumental technique much like Ornette Coleman or Eric Dolphy did with what Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins had done with the saxophone previously.

4. Gabby Pahinui and the Sons of Hawaii “Music of Old Hawaii” 

While it may seem repetitive to include another album with Eddie Kamae’s playing, it is important that this album’s significance be recognized in the development of the ukulele. While Ohta-San and Jesse Kalima and Eddie Bush (more on him later) took what Kame laid down and continued to develop and refine it, Kamae moved in a new direction. With a renewed love for Hawaiian music, Kamae abandoned the Latin ballads and American standards and instead focused on redefining not only the ukulele in the realm of Hawaiian music, but string instrumentation in Hawaiian music in general. The fact that he used the ukulele to accomplish this, makes for a very very important album indeed. What you will hear on this album is the ukulele not only taking the instrumental lead solos, but also providing sonically interesting musical interludes and vamps in the beginning, middle and ends of songs. Here the ukulele finds a third life, now not only as rhythm and solo instrument, but important member of a string ensemble. Without this important realization and application, the music of Peter Moon and Moe Keale in later recordings in the later 60s into the early 70s is not possible. Here the ukulele finds a way to supplement and compliment the slack key and steel guitars. Now the ukulele has become not only the quarterback that throws for numerous touchdowns a la Bret Favre and wins Super Bowls a la Joe Montana, but can run out side the pocket and use his feet to scramble and gain yards as well a la John Elway. Finally the ukulele has reached its fullest potential and has now expanded itself to its farthest reaches. What Eddie Kamae has done with this album in addition to “The Heart of the Ukulele” is put to record the blueprint for all to follow.

5. Eddie Bush “A Man and His Ukulele” (I can’t link to this album as it is out of print, does pop up on ebay in vinyl)

This was probably the hardest place to decide on. And here I would like to praise Ukulele Magazine for attempting to pay proper homage to some fantastic and historically important albums. Yes it is true Kahauanu Lake Trio was extremely significant in creating a sound and role for the ukulele that places it as an important musical element of a Hawaiian group much like Eddie Kamae did with the Sons of Hawaii. And yes it is true as well that Eddie Kamae and Moe Keale do a lot of this as well on the “Folk Songs of Hawaii” album. And thirdly yes it is almost blasphemy not to include Peter Moon’s work on “Guava Jam” as what he does on “Kawika” should be recognized for what it is, an extremely high level of ukulele instrumentation. And if “Pua Lilia” was on the “Guava Jam” album rather than “Cracked Seed” I’d be very tempted to put that album on this list, but it isn’t, so I just don’t think as a whole “Guava Jam” can make the cut. Many of you might be thinking Eddie Bush? Really? Yes really. While this album is out of print and hard to find, it is important that we recognize what was done on this record. Along the same vein as Kalima’s and Kamae’s two ukulele albums of 1962, this album from 1969 has all the same ukulele techniques found on those records. Sometimes it is in an environment that is more hapa-haole or pop orientated, but it is none the less the same equally complex and precise. Where Kamae succeeded in his variety in song selection, and Kalima succeeded in presenting versions of traditional Hawaiian numbers, Bush’s work on this album lies somewhere in between. Other than for the lack of cohesion maybe between the numbers, Bush proves himself to be every bit the ukulele master as anyone else to have ever picked up the instrument, he just fails to get the recognition. To me he is a Harmon Killebrew or Jimmy Foxx of the ukulele. He may not have the name recognition of a Babe Ruth, Willie Mays or Hank Aaron, he can still slug with the best of them on any given day of the week.

So there you have my definitive top five greatest, best, most significant and important ukulele albums ever recorded. And I could keep going and still not make it to Jake. Obviously Jake is an amazing talent, but until he can present the complexity and depth of innovation and inventiveness shown by these players, as well as by Lyle Ritz, Gordon Marks, Byron Yasui or Benny Chong, he will just be searching for his sound. But when he finds it watch out. And who knows, maybe on this upcoming album he does find it, I hope so, otherwise we will be pigeon holed by various internet top ten lists about the best this and the best that and never really get the full picture.

As always, my theme for these posts is “Ho`analu; To Go Beyond Known Boundaries”. Unfortunately with some of these lists, because they often have to pander to outside audiences with a limited view and scope of Hawaiian music, they present stock lists that don’t think beyond the normal confines of how we can define music and present the components of a specific genre or category of musical expression. I feel it is my job as a teacher and writer to present a differing view point to better help in painting a fuller picture. As always, HO`ANALU: GO BEYOND THE KNOWN BOUNDARIES!

All Hail the King

king bennie nawahi 3

I came across an article from TIME magazine recently about King Bennie Nawahi and it reminded me of the amazing gifts of many Hawaiian musicians and the limited awareness that exists about their abilities as instrumentalists. You can read the article here. King Bennie played during the era of music between the two world wars that throughout the world produced a tremendous trove of exploratory melding of jazz, dixieland, ragtime, swing and world musics from Africa, Cuba and Hawaii. I covered this era in a previous blog post that you can read here.

What really struck a chord with me when reading the TIME article is the level of competence that many Hawaiian musicians of this era had for many musical forms that were created and existed outside of Hawaii. Hawaiians have a natural musicality that translates so well to a variety of instruments and musical genres. King Bennie for one could play steel guitar, ukulele and mandolin all at a level of virtuosity unsurpassed throughout the world. Take a listen to this You Tube playlist to get a taste of his many musical talents:

Mele Aloha `Aina

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With the recent shift in ideology surrounding the A`ole TMT movement towards that of Hawaiian Sovereignty, I thought it fitting to offer a summary of three of the well known songs that are centered around the theme of sovereignty. Before I do that I would like to say that I offer this summary purely with factual interest in the music, the songs, the performers and the songwriters. I do not feel it fitting for the purpose of this blog to put forth any opinions on the sovereignty movement nor present this information with any particular agenda. I hope you are reading this with the same interest.

Anytime you are discussing songs about Hawaiian sovereignty you must start with “Kaulana Na Pua”. For a comprehensive background of this mele I highly suggest you visit this page and read this essay written by Eleanor C. Nordyke and Martha H. Noyes. Here you will find a comprehensive breakdown of the important elements behind its composition, meaning, initial performance and subsequent reworking of its melody. To hear an early version of the song I would suggest hearing the version found on the “Folk Songs of Old Hawaii” album. You can listen to this album streaming on Spotify or purchase it on iTunes. For the track “Kaulana Na Pua” go here.

Over time this song has been recorded numerous times, one of the most well known versions being by Peter Moon from his album “Tropical Dreams” in 1979 with this version here:

This version is up beat with a spoken word introduction summarizing the meaning of the song. It moves into an instrumental introduction section that is repeated throughout the song featuring a complex guitar riff that sets up the bouncing slack key solo in the middle of the track. The song is powerful and strong with a depth of arrangement, rhythm, choral repetitions and instrumentation that makes it one of the most standout Hawaiian recordings ever put together. This song is not for the light of heart. Listening to it is a summary of all that is Hawaiian music and the Hawaiian mentality. It is complex, well thought out, yet free and simple at the same time, presenting the ultimate dichotomy of the Hawaiian perspective.

Another well known version is by the Makaha Sons from their 2001 album “Na Pua o Hawaii”. Listen to it here:

Here the song is presented at a slower tempo with more emphasis placed on the lyrics and the complex vocal stylings of Moon, John and Jerome with contributions by Manu Boyd and Teresa Bright. Here the song is nostalgic yet up lifting. It reminds us of the past with its melancholy choral arrangement yet offers hope for the future with its key modulations and uplifting choral vocality.

A recent version that really puts a modern stamp on the tune is by the ProjectKULEANA group. This well crafted video presentation of the song starts with a chant by Na Haumana o Ke Kula `O Samuel M. Kamakau and then moves throughout the islands to different locales and features different established Hawaiian entertainers singing various lines of the sings to the same rhythm track. You can see and here it here:

With the familiar guitar, ukulele and stand up bass along with interjections of an ipu rhythm, piano, slack key and steel guitar solos really fill out of the sound of this song complimenting the variety in vocal deliveries and phrasing by each singer. Each sections is set up with different back grounds offering a variety of visuals from `Iolani Palace to the back streets of Honolulu to Mana road in Waimea. It is truly an amazing compilation of audio and visual greatness, presenting the song as part of a bigger picture of the struggle of the Hawaiian in today’s world.

Next to “Kaulana Na Pua” the second most significant and recognizable song about Hawaiian sovereignty is “Hawaii ’78” by Israel Kamakawiwo`ole. This song has a fascinating history that was relatively unknown until the creation of this website by Kawika Crowley one of the original co-composers of this song. To learn the true history of this song I would suggest you visit this website and read his description of how and who composed originally composed this powerful song.

Listen to IZ’s version here:

While not a true sovereignty song in the sense that it directly calls for the establishment of an independent Hawaiian nation, the imagery of the lyrics concerning the “land that was taken away”, “the people in great great danger” and the repetition of the phrase “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono” clearly points towards a dissatisfaction with the current state of Hawai`i and a call towards an older time.

Regardless, the song has become an anthem of sorts with its haunting vocal introduction and meditative ukulele picking. This is all complimented with the powerful message that the lyrics present, telling the story of the kings and queens of the past crying upon visiting the modern world and seeing all the changes modern man has made to the the land. This imagery is matched by the strength of IZ’s vocal delivery when he sings “how would he feel”. By asking this open ended question is forces the listener to really look at and ask themselves in their heart where they stand on this most fundamental of questions, how would those from the past react upon seeing all this that has been put built on this land.

Finally I would like to present Liko Martin’s “All Hawaii Stands Together”, a song that has also been redone by the aforementioned ProjectKULEANA group. Here is the most well known version sung by Dennis Pavao’s:

At first with its geographical references to various places throughout Hawaii the song appears to be a simple call for the people of Hawaii to stand together in support of unity moving forward. But upon looking deeper the lyrics present a more poignant and powerful message beyond a simple call for unity. In the first chorus Liko tells the listener to “hold their banners high”and that “we shall stand as a nation” references to the banners in support of the re-establishment of the Hawaiian nation.

In addition, towards the end of the song Liko uses the phrase “Onipa`a kakou”. This is a phrase accredited to Queen Lili`uokalani meaning “to be steadfast, establish, firm, resolute and determined.” (credit: Queen Liliuokalani Trust website)

For another version of this song see the video project by Project KULEANA here:

For the same reasons I suggest you see the ProjectKULEANA version of “Kaulana Na Pua” I suggest you watch the above video as well.

While this is not a comprehensive summary of all the songs that reference or present ideology of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, these three songs are a good place to start. I would suggest you also listen to Palani Vaughan’s “Ka Mamakakaua”. Lyrics can be found here. Also “E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua” would qualify as would “Hawaii Pono’i” and “Hawaii Aloha”. Finally I would suggest “Ka Na`i Aupuni” while not an anthem of sovereignty definitely has the potential to take on this role.

As the Hawaiian sovereignty movement changes and develops over time more music will come to the forefront that expresses the feelings and political goals surrounding this movement. While this blog post is just a tip of the iceberg in analyzing the music surrounding the issue of sovereignty, I hope it encourages you to look deeper into this issue and learn more about the facts involved.

Mauna Kea Is Me

stars piko

I would like to offer an amendment to the main points of my blog post that was recently published (linked here if you missed it). After deep reflection concerning my statement that “Mauna Kea is us”, I came to an understanding that it was missing a subtle component to it. So rather than go back and edit it, I left my last post as is, and am offering and new one here.

The purpose of leaving that post as is it was originally written is two fold. First off that represents my mana`o at the time and for me to go back and change and edit what was written would devalue their original intention. Also I think it is important, as this situation unfolds and new layers of its subtle complexity reveal itself, that we remain open to morphing our viewpoints to better shape an informed and well rounded view on the situation.

To summarize the main point of my blog post, the question was, what insights are provided by the song “Mauna Kea” by the Sons of Hawaii as it relates to whether the Thirty Meter Telescope occupies a proper place in the landscape of Maunakea in terms of it representing a balance and order with the elements and the world around us.

Before I expound on that point, I first want to make sure I am clear on my contrast of the journeys taken by Queen Emma to the piko of Maunakea and King Kalakaua’s journey around the world with the modern human’s journey to the summits of Maunakea to seek out spiritual identity either through native cultural practice or astronomical investigation. I need to make sure that this comparison is clear for my point to make sense. I think it is easy to make the surface connection without much historical context that when Queen Emma journeyed to the top of Maunakea and swam across Lake Waiau she was experiencing a spiritual rebirth which enabled her to be in better position to guide and help her people. And also, I think it is as easy to contrast that journey to King Kalakaua’s world trip in which he examined and learned about other cultures with the purpose of bringing what he learned and experienced back to Hawai`i for the betterment of his people.

What I need to make clear is how I am now making a connection between the journey of those two individuals with what we as individuals are doing today by journeying, whether to the stars or into our inner piko. What is different though from before, and the point I was attempting to make is that it is on Maunakea where we are all making this journey. There in lies my reasoning behind the statement I made in my last blogpost, “we need to reverse our perspective from ‘We Are Maunakea’, in order to better demonstrate a proper understanding of the balance of the earth, our land, our honua, our `aina, our moku, our wa`a and the elements…and let her speak to us.” So when I proposed that the guiding concept should be “Maunakea Is Us” what I am saying is that we are the ones making the spiritual journey, whether it be via the stars or our own inner piko, and that Maunakea is the vehicle for that journey.

This is a switch in perception from when it is said “We Are Maunakea”, as that statement directs and imposes our human perception onto the mountain, something that is not possible when taking a nature-centric view on the world. And if someone is to take the position that the mountain and/or the stars can speak to us what we are expressing and communicating is a nature-centric viewpoint. So here there lies a conflicted viewpoint.

What I reflected on specifically though is my statement, “Maunakea is us”. What I would like to say in retrospection is that this is a journey being conducted by the individual and by the individual only. Just like no scientist or astronomer can speak to the spiritual vision of everyone, the Hawaiian spiritualist or cultural practitioner cannot speak to the spiritual vision of all either. So my amendment to the “Maunakea is us” statement is to consolidate the thinking towards the individual and say “Maunakea is me”.

Maunakea is me.


So here I want to make a final point that this does not divide or segregate us, rather it brings us together. Through our individual journeys we are brought together in spiritual seeking and reflection. When I say “Maunakea is me” I am saying the Maunakea is where I find my spiritual destiny, I am saying I am going there to seek and to find out what is happening. The beautiful part of this statement is it is all inclusive, it allows all people to “look up towards her peaks and then into her piko, and then back out into the heavens again, we continue to seek, and we ask ourselves, ‘E aha ‘ia ana ‘o Maunakea?’. What is happening? What are we doing? Where are we going? How did we get here?” (from my blogpost “Maunakea Is Us”)

So this brings me to my second, and probably more challenging point in this discussion, does the Thirty Meter Telescope occupy a proper place in the landscape of Maunakea in terms of it representing a balance and order with the elements and the world around us? THrought he lens that I just presented, we have to consider that it possibly does. Political viewpoints aside, my concern again is for the whole humanity as I am part of the human race that temporarily resides in the earth’s space. TMT succeeds in fulfilling the function of occupying a proper place in the landscape of Maunakea in terms of it being a vehicle to draw and assist those who seek to more deeply understand the place of us as humans within the large expansive universe around us. And I do believe that failing to build this observatory will negatively impact the development of astronomy and the high sciences in Hawaii, and more specifically the Big Island, and will not fulfill the above stated function.

I hope this blog post was able to both clarify the points of my previous blogpost and also offer some deeper insights into them. And regardless of the direction that the proceeding events will take, Maunakea has done her job. She has called all who seek together and told us that she is us. And so I say in my most deepest and humblest of places to offer the more specific viewpoint that “Maunakea is me”.


Maunakea Is Us


The list of songs about and referencing Maunakea is a long one (note: I am using the spelling “Maunakea” as it has become an accepted convention based on recommendations from the University of Hilo College of Hawaiian Language¹). This mountain being the sacred piko of the Hawaiians and Polynesians it has been held in special reverence within the cultural and spiritual belief systems of the people here throughout Polynesia from the beginning of their known history. With the recent events taking place gaining world wide media attention there has been an increasingly passionate and sophisticated (at times) debate emerging concerning the issues surrounding the impending construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. As this is a music blog, I wanted to use a song as a vehicle to offer some reflection.

The song that I am interested in discussing is “Mauna Kea” by Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawaii (note: when referencing the song I will use the spelling “Mauna Kea” as that is the spelling found on printed copies of the album²). You can click here to hear a sample. Also you can click here for the entire song through Spotify.

Here are the words as sung by Eddie Kamae: (translation by Robert Lokomaika‘iokalani Snakenberg³)

E aha ‘ia ana ‘o Maunakea
Kuahiwi ‘alo pū me ke Kēhau‘Alawa iho ‘oe iā Mauna Loa
He moa uakea i ka mālieKū aku au, mahalo i ka nani
Ka hale a ka wai hu‘i a ka manuMahu‘i ho‘i au la e ‘ike lihi
Ka uahi noe lāo KīlaueaKe hea mai nei Halema‘uma‘u
‘Ena‘ena i ke ahi a Ka Wahine.Wahine kui pua lehua ‘Ōla‘a
I ho‘oipoipo no ka Malanai.

Aloha ‘ia nō a‘o Hōpoe
Ka wahine ‘ami lewalewa i ke kai

Iho nā Puna i ka hone a ke kai
Ke ‘ala o ka hīnano ka‘u aloha

Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana
No Puna ke ‘ala i hali ‘ia mai.

What is being done, Maunakea?
O mountain sharing with the dew-laden KēhauYou glance down to Mauna Loa
A mist-white chicken in the calmI stand and appreciate the beauty
Of the house of the chilly water of the birdsI also expect to catch a glimpse
Of the misty smoke of KīlaueaHalema‘uma‘u is calling
So hot with the fire of The WomanThe woman stringing lehua flowers of ‘Ōla‘a
In order to woo the Malanai wind

Hōpoe is beloved
The woman swinging her hips in the sea

Puna’s people descend to the soft sound of the sea
The fragrance of hīnano is what I love

The summary of the story is told
From Puna the fragrance is wafted.

So before I begin I must make note that much of my information and reflection is based on the work of scholar Kīhei de Silva, and at the bottom of this paragraph is a link to his essay specific to this song. I recommend that those interested should read his own words. I draw inference to some of his points, but no where will I use or reproduce his words. These are all my own personal opinions and reflections. But what you will find if you read his essays is that he has conducted thorough and academically sound research on this topic and is much more of an authority than I in the specifics of Hawaiian lyrical composition and the historical context of the mele I am analyzing. You can read his essay titled “Maunakea”by clicking here.

Also, to expound upon and offer deeper insight into the specifics of Hawaiian cultural history I will reference another essay by Kīhei and Māpuana de Silva, in which the entire series of eight chants that the song “Mauna Kea” is drawn from is analyzed and discussed. That essay titled “E Ho`i ka Nani i Mānā” is linked here. And finally a third essay titled “A Maunakea `o Kalani” will be referenced that looks specifically at the final chant of the eight part series. That essay as well is by Kīhei and Māpuana de Silva and can be linked here.

On the surface this appears to be a simple straight forward mele extolling the beauty of the land from a perch atop Maunakea. But the depth of this imagery is put into a broader perspective in Mr. de Silva’s essay “Maunakea” where he directs the intention of the imagery by stating that the song represents a sense of balance and order to the world and the elements. This is reflected in the various references to the elemental characteristics of the places the song is referring to. The breezes of Maunakea, the fiery heat of Halema`uma`u, the lehua blossoms of`Ola`a and the fragrant Hinano from Puna are all used to direct the listener to the balance and relationship that exists within the landscape. Each piece is properly placed and able to co-exist with its surroundings, not interfere or overwhelm it.

That is an important sentiment if we look at it in the context of the telescopes that have been built on the mountain and the one in particular that is to be built there (note: more info about the Thirty Meter Telescope can be found here and here). Does it occupy its proper place? Does building this observatory on Maunakea represent a balance in which the world is in order and it feels complete? These questions will frame this blog post, through the lens of the song “Mauna Kea”.

What is interesting as you dig deeper into the song and into Mr. de Silva’s analysis of the mele and the related chants is that this balance and order is being addressed to a specific person on a very particular journey. That person would be Queen Emma, for whom these chants were composed for. (note: I think the Queen’s Medical Center biography of Queen Emma is a great source for who she is if you are not familiar. That is linked here.) So what was her journey for and what did it represent?

This is where the essay “E Ho`i ka nani i Mānā” by the de Silvas becomes so significant. In this essay the song “Maunakea” is placed back to its place of origin as a chant and as being part of an eight chant series that describes a journey taken by Queen Emma to the top of Maunakea. Here the perspective is presented that her journey to the top of Maunakea and her subsequent swim across Lake Waiau was one of spiritual rejuvenation in which she reconnects with her inner spirit (note: refer to the chants “Hau Kakahiaka Nui ‘o Kalani” and”Kō Leo ka Ma‘alewa” from Puakea Nogelmeier, He Lei no ‘Emalani). Most thought provoking though is that the de Silvas contrast this journey to the top of Maunakea with King Kalakaua’s journey around the world. And those aware of the politics of the time would understand the historical context of this statement as it relates to King Kalakaua’s victory over Queen Emma in the 1874 election⁴.

As King Kalakaua looked to see and experience the world “out there”, Queen Emma focused her interests in finding out what was going on with the people and spirit right here in her home Hawai`i. But where the de Silvas describe the King’s intentions as seeking acknowledgment from the outside, I see Kalakaua’s journey as more of a means to bring back to Hawai`i all the things that were part of the outside world’s cultures. And in my perspective this contrasts with Emma’s desire to look into herself through her own personal journeys and then bring that back to her people. This is covered in detail in the de Silvas essay titled “A Maunakea `o Kalani”. Which I would like to reinforce I highly suggest you read using the link provided above. But to summarize, what the two royals do share is a strong desire to, in the end, strengthen and lift up their people. But the question being posed is, do we look in or look out? And more importantly, what allows us to live in balance with our world and the elements?

And here lies the duality of our present situation as it relates to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea. What I would like to do though is broaden the issue of how we strengthen and lift up the spiritual and cultural consciousness of people to humanity as a whole, rather than exclusively to the Hawaiian people. And I say this because from my perspective we have entered a global society, with global issues, with global consequences, calling for a global consciousness, or a spiritus mundi, as expressed by William Yeats in his poem “The Second Coming⁵”.

Here is where I would like to humbly offer a different line of thought than the commonly held narrative. For me the duality is not science versus spirituality, it is not haole versus Hawaiian and it is not development versus preservation. It is inside versus outside. To move forward and progress as a human race, should we look out to find the answers, or look in? And from my perspective what I see happening is people are doing both and both are equally valid because more importantly people are looking. They are seeking.

So to answer my original question, I believe this observatory can represent a balance to the world around us and the elements, because it has offered us an opportunity to look out or to look in, and both at the same time as well. But, for it to occupy its proper place, it must be constructed with balance at the forefront of its intention.

A wise Hawaiian shared with me that regardless of all the issues, regardless of what side you stand on, we have to remember, the mountain will survive. The mountain is bigger than all this, or us. She has the power to take care of herself, she doesn’t need us to survive. She can go on and on for as long as needs be with or without us. For this particular individual though, being a Hawaiian, at the end of the day, there needs to exist a sense of balance with the surrounding world. The idea that the universe cannot exist without this sense of balance is the perspective that Hawaiians offer, regardless of what side you stand on any of the issues.

This brings me back to the mele. To reemphasize, the song “Mauna Kea” speaks of a balance and order to the universe through the poetic imagery of the various elemental characteristics found in different areas. And so at this point I hope your eyes are open up to a new perspective, and that the meaning of this song can reveal itself to you in a new way. Now the song’s opening line “what is being done Maunakea?”, should be the guiding question to any individual, whether you are looking in, or seeking out.

What I hope to see happen, is that the construction of this observatory will bring people together through the fire that has been lit inside of all of us. Whether you are someone looking out deep into the heavens to find the origins and meaning of life, or one looking inside, deep into your own past and your own history, you are doing the right thing, you are seeking.

And in our seeking, which was birthed from deep inside our inner most being, we have heeded the call that Maunakea makes in full confidence, and we have found ourselves in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at the meeting point between earth and sky.

And then as we look up towards her peaks and then into her piko, and then back out into the heavens again, we continue to seek, and we ask ourselves, “E aha ‘ia ana ‘o Maunakea?”. What is happening? What are we doing? Where are we going? How did we get here?

Maunakea beckons all of us, astronomers, spiritualists, activists, citizens, chanters, hula practitioners, scientists, actors, politicians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, singers, journalists, to come sit at her feet. And in her bold declaration of survival based on a humble understanding of her own sustenance and confidence in her own power, she tells us to come and to ask this question, what is going on?

We come, and we ask, because the mountain tells us to…

And so to conclude, I say we need to reverse our perspective from “We Are Maunakea”, in order to better demonstrate a proper understanding of the balance of the earth, our land, our honua, our `aina, our moku, our wa`a and the elements…and let her speak to us.

And so again we ask “E aha ‘ia ana ‘o Maunakea?”, “what is happening Maunakea?”.

And she responds, “I am you”.

Maunakea is us.



¹See this link

²See this link 

³See this link

⁴This is a good starting point Ralph S. Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom. Vol. II. 1854-1874: Twenty Critical Years. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1953

⁵For full text of the Second Coming and more info on Spiritus Mundi see this link