Submitted by Leimomi Morgan, a student in my MUS 478B class at UH Mānoa this term.
Matt Sproat is one half of the duo Waipuna, and the 2003 winner of the Big Island Falsetto Singing contest. Since launching his music career after graduation, Matt has dedicated himself to mastering his craft as a Hawaiian musician specializing in the art of falsetto singing and continues his family tradition of perpetuating the Hawaiian culture through music.
Leimomi: When did you start being involved in playing Hawaiian music?
Matt: I started playing professionally after I graduated from high school in 1990. I was noshere wanting to play Hawaiian music. I loved rock and roll, heavy GBuns and Roses. That‘s what I wanted to play. My first band was a reggae band that was put together in the summer of 1990. We were right in the middle of the whole “New” scene. A brand new radio station “KCCN FM 100” just started broadcasting this new style of contemporary Hawaiian music called Jawaiian Music. It was the start of a huge craze. There were bands like Ho‘aikane, Braddah Waltah, Mana‘o Company, Kapena, and the just-released solo album of IZ that flooded the radio stations and concert venues and night clubs which our group was actively performing alongside of.
A few years later, I moved to Ohio to go to college. It was there that I was sooooo homesick (and back in those days we did not have internet, free wireless calling, email, and Facebook to keep in touch with our friends and things back home). I asked a friend of ine to turn on the Hawaiian Music station “KINE FM 105,” put in a tape, and press record. I wanted to hear all the songs, commercials, ads, and commentaries from Hawaii. I listened to that tape over and over and over again until it broke. It was then that I knew that my heart was with Traditional Hawaiian Music. The perpetuation of our culture. I knew that it was that simple aspect of what made us who we are as a people, and I promised myself that I would honor my Kupuna and our people by perpetuating our language and its traditions through music.
Leimomi: How would you describe your and Kale‘s [Hannahs] style in your grou WAIPUNA?
Matt: I grew up in Hau‘ula on Kawaipuna St. That‘s where the name “Waipuna” comes from. Waipuna literally means “Spring Water.” However, I asked my grandfather when I was young, “What does Kawaipuna mean?” He told me that Waipuna doesn‘t just mean “spring water.” He said it meant “the source of the spring” when the water first exits the earth. The water is at its freshest at this stage, very desirable and sought after. I always remembered that so when I birthed the name “Waipuna,” it was with understanding that our music will create the same effect. We wanted our music to be a fresh sound, always wanting the listener to return and take another listen. We wanted also to take songs from the 1800s, songs that the hula world and Hawaiian music listeners forgot, and revive them with a new appreciation of those specific mele. For example, “Ali‘ipoe” was written in the 1800s by a Catholic priest. That was a beloved song, but that was a song that was forgotten by many, so of course we had to re-introduce that song to Hawaii and the hula world. The other aspect of our music is being that we are just a duo, Kale and I had to make our sound BIG. BIG is a term I often hear some people use to describe our sound. The term is actually used to describe our instrumentation. We are very active on both of our instruments.
Leimomi: What kinds of challenges have you faced being a Hawaiian musician?
Matt: As a recording artist, the biggest challenge is getting our music played on the radio FM stations. There is an ongoing joke with a lot of the Hawaiian music recording artists saying that we et more air-play in California, Oregon, Washington, France, Germany, Spain, and Japan than we do here in Honolulu. It is sad that radio stations here in Honolulu are not playing “New” music. Even big name artists like Nā Palapalai, Weldon Kekauoha, or Natalie Ai Kamau‘u will not have their most recent CD productions played on the FM radio stations here in Honolulu.
Secondly, with the onslaught of burning music, a lot of musicians wil often hesitate when approached with the fact of recording an album. It is definitely difficult to sell CDs today. There is no return on the investment. Most music producers will lose money on creating an album, because they cannot recoup their costs of creation. In the larger markets of Hip Hop and Top 40, there is a large market of CD buyers, therefore they can recoup their costs quicker. However, the Hawaiian music market is a looooooootttt smaller.
Leimomi: As far as audience goes, what would be ideal? Locals vs, visitors?
Matt: That’s kind of a difficult answer. We love to play for the locals. However, a lot of them can be very critical. As far as visitors, it would depend on which kind of visitors. We perform at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel every Sunday night from 6:00-10:00p.m. The big majority of our audience are visitors requesting “Tiny Bubbles,” “Pearly Shells,” “Hukilau,” and their newest favorite Hawaiian song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” That is their definition of Traditional Hawaiian Music.
On the other hand, there are those visitors who have a genuine love for our traditional songs and they fall in love with the songs that we perform. There are also those visitors who seek us out to find out where we are playing so that they can hear the songs that we recorded, and they will treat us like rock stars. So there are two sides of the spectrum.
Leimomi: What are some poetical techniques that you utilize when writing songs?
Matt: OOOHHHHH definitely metaphors. Hawaiians compared every aspect of life to nature. So when I write, I will always use metaphors. I will use the birds chirping as a metaphor for gossip, the waterfall that does not touch the pool as compared to a legacy that is passed down which I will not personally see, the soft misty rain as a passionate kiss.