It seems that many folks are wrapped up in wrapping up 2011. Tis the season to reflect back, take stock, make resolutions, etc. etc. I am mindful that my blog posts have fallen victim this past month to end-of-semester madness, which coincided with some crazy travel, some crazy ceiling repairs (and the accompanying blanket of dust everywhere), some roller-coaster property transactions, lots of escapist LP digitizing . . . and holiday travel to Dallas, where I will mark the new year in several hours.
Was 2011 a good year? It was certainly a busy year. I began my second semester of guest teaching at University of Hawai’i, and produced a series of five public events on “The Present & Future of Hawaiian Music,” held at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies. Reflections on the first two of those programs were blogged here; and at some point I owe it to many folks to post reflections from the other three programs. The fifth program was the focus of intense interest, as I had the opportunity to bring my collaborators Daniel Ho and Tia Carrere to Honolulu for a performance and panel discussion. It drew an overflow audience to UH that balmy April evening.
Other activities? I attended the Hawai‘i Music Awards, where the chant CD Lili‘uokalani (produced with Kūlia i ka Pūnāwai Kumu Hula Association of Southern California) was honored for Liner Notes. I also attended the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards in May, where the chant CD Ancient Hula Hawaiian Style Vol. 1 Hula Kahiko was nominated for liner notes. It was bested by Kupaoaʻs mellifluous English Rose, liner notes co-written by Līhau Hannahs-Paik, Kellen Paik, and Puakea Nogelmeier. In their acceptance remarks, we were treated to Puakeaʻs uniquely singular (and singularly unique) perspective: “Iʻm so glad you folks are still reading liner notes!!” Indeed. ʻa ʻoia!
I also attended the 2 days of workshops organized by HARA the weakend of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards. So much valuable experience, insight and information was gathered at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, on aspects of the music industry, music instruments and gear, and an entire track of sessions devoted to haku mele, with at least one of them conducted entirely in ‘ōlelo. E ola ka ‘ōlelo!
This is the year that Aaron Sala completed a masterʻs thesis in ethnomusicology, on the aesthetics of Hawaiian-style piano playing, with some very 21st-century digital analysis. This is also the year that Keola Donaghy completed his Ph.D. dissertation, also in ethnomusicology, on an aesthetics of language and poetry in Hawaiian music.
This was the year that the contentiousness around the Grammy award in Hawaiian music . . . imploded, as The Recording Category collapsed us, along with numerous other diverse ethnic traditions like Cajun, zydeco, polka, and the spectrum of Native American musics into one category to be called “Best Regional Roots Music.” Congratulations to Uncle George Kahumoku, Jr., for his Wao Akua CD garnering one of the nominations in the new category. It is extremely problematic, however, that no musics of the United Statesʻ aboriginal settlers were recognized with a nomination in that category. Hmm, a roots music category that is entirely emptied out of the continentʻs first nations peoples.
And speaking of Uncle George, he is shepherding the exciting new Institute of Hawaiian Music and the University of Hawai’i Maui College, which makes valuable music industry training accessible beyond Honolulu. The first cohort of students have prevailed in auditions, and will enter a program directed by a Grammy award-winning producer!
The closing of Borders Books and Music nationally has had a major impact on Hawaiian music, because the Hawai‘i stores were particularly well stocked with Hawaiian music inventory, and supportive of new releases. The loss of Borders, along with continued growth in online music distribution, has left Hawaiian music fans with new challenges to continue learning about and acquiring new Hawaiian music releases. Artists and groups have been strengthening their use of social media like Facebook to get words out to their fans. Yet traditional outlets for music retailing, including Barnes & Noble, and online veteran Hawaiian Music Island (www.mele.com), and indie bookstores Native Books (Honolulu) and Basically Books (Hilo) –uh, sorry, I just donʻt know what exists on Maui or Kauaʻi or Molokaʻi–these retailers are showing signs that no one outlet is successfully staying on top of the production activity outside of the main distribution channels like Mountain Apple and Booklines.
On the positive side, venues for live music performance continue to materialize. In addition to Kani Ka Pila Grille at Outrigger Reef Hotel, regular events at Royal Hawaiian Center and Embassy Suites Beach Walk, the city-run series at Kuhio Beach, and a smattering of other venues, Ilikai Bar and Grille came online with a roster of younger groups, and chef Mitch Ueno has also extended his sponsorship of Hawaiian music to his Kapahulu eatery The Corner. Ku‘uipo Kumukahi has also taken up lunchtime serenading at Hailiʻs Kapahulu Ave. restaurant as well. Where thereʻs a will, hopefully there will be even more establishments willing to consider supporting Hawaiian music and musicians!!
The November premier of the feature film The Descendants drew critical notice, not only for George Clooneyʻs Oscar-worthy performance, but also for the filmʻs sountrack, which consists entirely of kī hō’alu slack key guitar music. Mainland critics have suggested that The Descendants may do for slack key music what films like Oh Brother Where Are Thou? did for “roots” music.
What have I got to show for 2011? Well, I continue to plug away at my book projects. I did complete a major encyclopedia article. And I dove headlong into digitizing LPs so that I could finally access the music. Nephew Nate did a tremendous amount of digitizing several years ago, which jumpstarted my own efforts . . . and I am very appreciative of the support of U.K.-based producer, steel guitarist and record collector Basil Henriques who introduced me to the venerable John Marsden. I look forward to tapping their wellsprings of knowledge and experience!!
Where will 2012 take us? Ah, I am not clairvoyant. We shall see where 2012 takes us. Iʻve been writing this blog for nearly 2-1/2 years now. So allow me to express my appreciation to you all, dear readers, for walking along this path with me. I have lots of ideas for 2012, and I hope that you all will continue in our shared passion for Hawaiian Music for our listening pleasure!!
Hau’oli Makahiki Hou iā ‘oukou ā pau!!