The palaka print is for the Reverend Dennis Kamakahi, who joined the Sons of Hawaii in 1973 replacing Gabby Pahinui. He played with the Sons until 1995 and for a time with my mentor Uncle Braddah Smitty. Uncle Eddie supported Dennis’ song writing and encouraged him to blaze his own path and put his own stamp on the group. He wrote such beautiful and classic numbers as Wahine Ilikea, Pua Hone, Koke`e, Ka `Opae, Sweet By and By, Aloha Mau A Mau, Golden Stallion, Kanaka Waiolina, Honeymoon Hotel, E Hihiwai, Hualalai, and on and on and on…
Of course he went on to a magnificent solo career, but it was with the Sons that he got his start expressing himself as a song writer, something I deeply respect him for. I was very privileged to get a first hand account from Smitty about the composition of Wahine Ilikea as he was with Dennis when he wrote the song. The art of Hawaiian song writing is an under appreciated art and Dennis was a master at it. He will always live in my heart and in my mind as I compose mele.
Thank you Uncle Dennis for inspiring me. Thank you for reading this, if you are not familiar with the Reverend Dennis Kamakahi I suggest you listen to some of his recordings which are widely available. He was a true true master artist in the world of music. You will be missed, your enduring spirit was valued. Your originality and expression of the Hawaiian way through your mele is truly remarkable. Aloha mau a mau, aloha ke akua.
On June 9th, 2012 I was standing deep in the jungle on the eastern end of Hawai`i Island. In the silence of the moment I looked up and saw a falling star streak across the sky. In the still of one of the remotest places in the world, where I had not heard a sound for hours, in the distance a dog barked. I knew my friend had arrived safely on the other side.
I first saw Braddah Smitty at the Broiler in Waimea after I had returned home from college. I walked into the bar area and saw a well built Hawaiian man in a palaka shirt singing music that reminded me of the time from my childhood. It was that peculiar singing so unique to the people of Hawai`i and the odd rhythmic strumming of the guitar. This was the sound I had longed to hear. It had been locked in my memory from the braddahs under the tree at Napo`opo`o Beach and from the gatherings in the backyards of South Kona. I needed to know who he was, I needed to know how this sound is created, I needed to know how I could find my way onto a seat at this jam session.
Over the next 5 years I had the privilege and honor to get to know Braddah Smitty, to get to know how this sound was created and finally onto a seat at the greatest jam session I ever got to know. What happened is what I have come to know as HO`ANALU….to go beyond known boundaries. This phrase was given to me by a keeper of the knowledge of the Hawaiian way. What my experiences in playing music has taught me is that there is a place beyond what is known. There is something existing, not beneath the surface, but further past the limits of what we think we know.
I would like to explore these boundaries. Through the stories shared with me, through the things I have seen and through the knowledge passed to me, it is my time and I would like to share. I would like to use this blog to HO`ANALU….to go beyond known boundaries. It was in that moment standing in the dark amongst the trees around me and the damp grass beneath my feet that I was confronted with his spirit. And what he told me will stay with me forever. I knew it was my time, it was time to HO`ANALU….