Our lives and the world we live in are blessed and enriched by the presence of artists. These are the folks who render all manner of human experiences into visions–of truth and authenticity, of terror and horror, of connection and alienation, of groundedness, of aloha; visions that challenge as well as affirm our shared humanity, visions that inspire us to see beauty in the world and in each other.
We live in a time when artists face challenges to their livelihood, and to their very ability to continue making art. Thus at this time of holiday merrymaking and gift-giving, I am moved to make these recommendations because they call attention to artists who are making art in spite of the obstacles. This is precisely why their efforts as well as artistry deserve our support.
The Natives Are Restless: A San Francisco Dance Master Takes Hula into the 21st Century (naleihulu.org)
A lavishly illustrated account of Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakane and his San Francisco hālau, Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu. Kumu Patrick has achieved what a generation ago was completely unthinkable: He has built a hula school of note in San Francisco into a 350-person non-profit arts powerhouse in the cityʻs artscape. His singular vision of hula mua (explained by author Constance Hale as “progressive hula”) walks that fine line between preservation, perpetuation, and innovation. Honoring heritage and legacy, but also honoring a deep artistic impulse to be creatively generative, he “radically upends tradition and brings hula raging into the twenty-first century” (p. 21). Extending himself technically and administratively as well as artistically, his full-length theatrical productions have garnered critical acclaim not only in California and Hawaiʻi, but nationally.
These remarkable accomplishments are related by Constance Hale, a journalist of national stature who is also a haumana in the hālau. Although you can order the book on Amazon.com, please support Kumu Patrickʻs artistry by ordering it direct from the hālau at naleihulu.org.
The Haumāna Hula Handbook for Students of Hawaiian Dance, by Māhealani Uchiyama (North Atlantic Books, www.northatlanticbooks.com)
For the hula student in your life! This is a well-written and well-presented compendium of basic information for those immersed in learning the dance. Because we all know that hula is not merely dance. It is much more than dance itself. It is protectively wrapped in ritual and protocol; it is saturated with culture and language; it is a vessel for the stories of ancestral gods, warrior rulers, and kamaʻāina. Kumu Māhea is the founder and artistic director of the Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance as well as kumu hula of Hālau Ka Ua Tuahine in Berkeley, California. Her hula training includes years as a student in Hawaiʻi at Hālau Hula o Maiki as well as University of Hawaiʻi, culminating in study with renowned master Joseph Kahāʻulelio.
Hālau Ka Ua Tuahine has been featured in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival many times. Her commitment to excellence also deserves our continued support.
Kalani Peʻa. E Walea (Kalani Peʻa Music LLC, 2016)
Singer/songwriter Kalani Peʻa brings new excellence to Hawaiian music in his debut album that invites us to “relax, enjoy, dance”– e walea. Kalani is of the generation immersed in ʻōlelo, having graduated from Ke Kula o Nāwahīokalaniʻōpu’u. Yet he is also a Hawaiian of the here and now, who brings soul and R&B into his singing. The album brings us eight new Hawaiian-language compositions, six of them by Kalani himself, as well as two English-language cover songs, translated into Hawaiian by–Kalani himself. Musically he surrounds himself with first-class expertise: Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing co-producing as well as playing guitar and bass; steel guitarist Casey Olsen and pianist Iwalani Hoʻomanawanui Apo adding flourishes, and Dave Tucciarone co-producing and engineering.
E Walea has the exceptional distinction of receiving a 2016 GRAMMY nomination in the “Best Regional Roots Album” category.
Stellar production and a GRAMMY nomination are great. But this album and this artist deserve our support simply because of its excellence. He ʻoi aku, a he mea laha ʻole.
You can find this album on iTunes and Amazon, but please do consider supporting an independent Hawaiian business by ordering from mele.com or Me Ke Aloha (mkaloha.com), or stopping in at Nā Mea Hawaiʻi in Honolulu, Basically Books in Hilo, or Native Intelligence in Wailuku.
Happy Holidays, Dear Readers!