Debating Culture — first thoughts

On Thursday April 21, the special added Dialogue on “Debating Culture” will take place at UH Mānoa’s Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies. Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho will perform selections from their GRAMMY Award winning and nominated CDs, then join in on a panel discussion.

For many people who have commented publicly about not having heard our music, this performance is an opportunity to address this. (although, thinking out loud a bit, our CDs are on sale in the iTunes Store, where anyone can listen to 90-second clips now.)

Tia, Daniel & I wrote in Midweek two months ago that “our successes . . . have been bittersweet since we have become the target of attacks.” Undoubtedly there will be folks who will come to UH on Thursday to restate any number of objections to us and our music.

My purpose in organizing this event, however, goes far beyond Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho and the now-defunct GRAMMY Award category of “Best Hawaiian Music Album.” Hence the title of this specific event:  “Debating Culture.”

Here, as I see it, are the questions that matter:

1. What is Hawaiian music?

Wrapped up in this question are: Who gets to make Hawaiian music? Where is Hawaiian music made? When is Hawaiian music made? Where is there space for the creativity that artists conjure? (This was the focus of Dialogue #3, “Creating Culture.” There was complete consensus among that eveningʻs panelists–Kekuhi Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani, Napua Makua, Snowbird Bento, and Dr. Taupouri Tanagō, about the centrality of artists being creative visionaries, and acknowledgment that there is a chilling atmosphere in which creative artists are currently working.)

2. What is good Hawaiian music?

By adding in the dimension of value, stipulating an evaluation, a value, this question invites dialogue and debate over how quality is defined. This is the gound on which people take positions, and those positions become the focus of dialogue and debate.

3. Who gets to say so?

These three fundamental questions inform everything from the GRAMMY category itself to the overwhelming response to the outcome over the turbulent seven-year life of the category.

It is possible to take one step further back to ask the unspoken:  Why do these questions matter so much that so many people are moved to express their manaʻo so passionately and publicly?

I will continue thinking out loud after I get past todayʻs teaching obligation.

© 2011 Amy Ku‘uleialoha Stillman. All rights reserved.

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3 Responses to Debating Culture — first thoughts

  1. Liko Puha says:

    Aloha e Ku’uleialoha,

    What a thoughtful event! I hope that there will be folks recording the panel discussion or perhaps streaming it live via

    Best on a collegial and respectful discussion/debate.


  2. amykstillman says:

    Hi Liko. Iʻll look into this!

  3. Pingback: On Defining Hawaiian Music 3 | Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure

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