Hawaiian music, wherefore art thou?

Happened again. I get into a groove, then the crush of teaching and grading hits   < ka – BOOM > !! And my beloved Hawaiian music gets pushed to the margins of consciousness. Which is kind of where, in a cosmic kind of parallel, Hawaiian music seems to teeter on the verge of disappearing. Sure I have lots of Facebook friends who are musicians and poʻe hula, for whom hālau hōʻike are now the biggest event of the year. More musicians seem to meet up in Japan than in Honolulu or Hilo or Kona or Hanalei. Hmm. What 20 years ago used to be marquee festivals that would attract thousands are now so frequent as to be normal . . . eh. Few venues host live performances, and I am mystified how anyone not already in the circles of friends finds out where to go to listen to Hawaiian music.

Then I hit Target and Walmart, which are practically the only places to buy new CDs anymore (havenʻt braved the Ala Moana traffic yet to get to practically the last Barnes & Noble  on the island) . . . and their displays are down to Mountain Apple-dominated kiosks. Now donʻt get me wrong: Mountain Apple products are excellent. But not everyone making Hawaiian music out there is in the Mountain Apple fold. In the past two months, only about five new CDs on mele.com are the kind of Hawaiian-language stuff I love. Five. Where do we go from here?

Tonight is the 2015 Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards show. Nominations in the “major” categories were dominated by industry heavyweights–Kealiʻi Reichel, Kuana Torres Kahele, Kenneth Makuakane. In the Female vocalist category, Mailani Makainai was the sole nominee whose focus is Hawaiian music. Perhaps this portends well that someone not working in Hawaiian music actually has a chance to win. But it is also a sobering barometer of activity . . . We shall see, wonʻt we?

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