Traveling in China

Hello Dear Readers, and happy midsummer! You have not heard from me in awhile, because Iʻve been traveling in China. I had the privilege of being part of a delegation of faculty from the University of Michigan visiting universities and music conservatories, attending two international scholarly events, and lecturing on my research. At the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Wuhan Conservatory of Music, I lectured on “American Musical Soundscapes,” based on the undergraduate course I teach at Michigan. In both instances, there was sequential translation of my lecture into Chinese. But Chinese scholars and students are actually quite able to read English on the powerpoint slides!

 Also in Wuhan, we visited Central China Normal University, where I was asked to conduct a 90-minute masterclass on hula to 100 dance majors. I taught them two basic steps, kaholo and hela, which of course they grasped immediately. Then I taught them a version of “Liliʻu E,” which uses basic hand gestures for parts of the body. The challenge for them was to get the kāhea:  “He inoa no Liliʻuokalani”! I drilled them mercilessly, and I think they understood that it was probably as important as learning the gestures.

 And in a “what-a-small-world” moment, one of the students snapped a photo of me teaching “haʻina,” and emailed it to her teacher, who happens to be a postdoctoral fellow at University of Michigan (and who also happened to be taking care of our cats while we are in his hometown!!). He emailed it back to me in Wuhan, and it was the first email I read the following morning!!


 In Beijing, we were invited to participate in an international symposium on “New Musicologies: Theories, Methods, and Resources” at the Central Conservatory of Music. The title of my presentation there was “Beyond the Reef: The Role of Discography Research in Tracking the Global Circulation of Hawaiian Music Recordings.” I reported on initial findings from all that wild and crazy LP digitizing and from Malcolm Rockwell╒s and John Marsden╒s most generous contributions. The Beijing symposium ended our UM faculty tour responsibilities.

 Then my husband (who is a renowned scholar of Chinese music, culture and history) and I were off to Shanghai for the 42nd World Conference of the International Council for Traditional Music, at Shanghai Conservatory of Music. This was a weeklong affair with nearly 500 delegates from all over the world, presenting research reports on musics from all over the world! A total geek-fest for academics. These conferences are opportunities to renew contacts with colleagues, forge new relationships, and listen to reports on research, especially by young scholars and students who represent the future of research on world musics.

I was most excited about the fact that a record six presentations were scheduled on Hawaiian music in this world conference! One of the presenters did not make it to Shanghai after all, but five of us did. Here are the titles of the five presentations:

 “Aloha in the Heart: Japanese Slack Key Guitarists Re-imagine Japanese and Hawaiian Identity,” By Kevin Fellezs, a faculty member at Columbia University

“Japanese-American Musicians as Pioneers of “Japanese” Hawaiian Music,” by Minako Waseda, a lecturer at Tokyo University of the Arts

“The Past is our Future! A Narrative Analysis of the Ukulele Story,” by Gisa Jhnichen, a faculty member at Universiti Putra Malaysia

“Sound Travels: Inventing Ernest Kaleihoku Kaai,” by Andrea Low, a PhD candidate at University of Auckland)

“Singing the Past, Sounding the Present, Dancing the Future: Resurrecting Historical Hula Repertoire on the Contemporary Concert Stage,” by–me!

 Dig that–five presenters from four different countries, each doing distinct and unique research on Hawaiian music, and sharing their research results. What a feast for the mind and heart. 

(Written at Shanghai Pudong Airport while waiting for our flight to Hong Kong. We?ll be travelling for several more weeks, so it may be awhile before my next entry here. Thanks to Aunty Wanda Certo for letting my Facebook friends know that I am fine and all is well in this Facebook-blocked country!!)

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