Ka‘ea: KAPA Hawaiian FM – 100.3, 99.1, and online at kaparadio.com.
It’s another beautiful Aloha Friday with Jaz and Ka‘ea.
Jaz: Rajah, and today is ah-starts the wonderful event with Kumu Ke‘ala Ching guys, Na Wai Iwi Ola, and of course it’s the ah 12th annual ‘Iolani Luahine Hula Festival, that happens today and tomorrow, and we have a special guest for the KAPA Cafe.
Kaea: Now we’ve been teasing about it all week, we have our list of questions, but on the phone with us this morning is Loea Kawaikapuokalani Hewett.
LKH: Aloha kakahiaka!
Kaea: Maika‘i! Maika‘i! Well, we’ve been discussing and sharing and very excited that you’re coming to Hawai‘i Island um, today and tomorrow, correct?
LKH: Yes, for the ‘Iolani Luahine Hula Festival.
Kaea: Now, many of us know or many of our listeners know that outside of your music and compositions um, I kinda-we wanted to kinda maybe start off by discussing a little bit about your hula upbringing. You started at a very young age, do you mind sharing that?
LKH: Ho, that was such a long time ago. You know why, cause this year, or this month, well February 22nd to be exact, I’ll be 60 years old.
Ka‘ea: wow, Kumu! You were so young! How old were you when you started?
LKH: Gee, my first public performance I think was 10 years old. Yea, but before that we were-you know, I learned from my grandmother, she lived Kane‘ohe, Iwa Kala‘e, and she’s a … and of course you know related to the Jones family, the Adams family, the Scotts, the…, real Hawaiian names yea?
Ka‘ea: Now, you grew up with your ‘ohana- your grandparents?
LKH: With my grandparents in Kane‘ohe, and you know, one thing about Kane‘ohe yea, with all those family names yea, it’s kinda difficult you know, to go to the store even now in Kane‘ohe yea, although it’s grown a lot yea, not to see a family because at the last family reunion I think 2,500 people showed up, all still living in Kane‘ohe.
Kaea: wow! So it’s like a major compound. Like you guys have your ‘ohana compound.
LKH: Everybody get their own area yea in Kane‘ohe.
Kaea: wow! We were kinda reading up on some of the most amazing things that you’ve done, but one of the things that stood out, and I guess why it’s so important for you in coming this weekend is, you’ve had an opportunity to learn under the direction of Aunty ‘Io, correct?
LKH: Yes, because, what had happened was back then, Aunty ‘Iolani Luahine and Aunty Emma D., Aunty Lani Kalama, they all cousins to my father, even Aunty Lokalia Montgomery. They are all my dad’s ‘ohana. So, what happened was, when I was young, they came and they took me, and of course they came to our house in Kane‘ohe and asked my grandmother and that’s when the more formal training began, and so, it was an amazing time to be with all of these people, and I guess it was at a time when it was meant to be. I don’t know what happened but, everybody had a hand in grooming um, my studies in the hula and course it was really really good. It wasn’t that I was a halau hopper, yea?
Kaea: Right. You was kinda like this was the next part of your life, chapter.
LKH: Yea, was like, they took-like one of them took me for 10 years, that was Aunty Emma D., and she said okay now I need you to go to see Aunty ‘Iolani, and Aunty ‘Iolani was done it was, okay now you need to go and work with Aunty Lani Kalama, and each one of them had something that I had to learn, so it was over a period of many many years, and it was kind of an exciting time, of course you know, I spent some time on the Big Island of Hawai‘i learning hula, haku mele, and ‘oli from Aunty Edith Kanaka‘ole. And then my own grandmother studied with um, Aunty Sally W. here.
Kaea: Okay, on O’ahu?
LKH: On O’ahu, and so I learned from my grandma who get all these old pictures of them doing their hula performances, and that is where part of the training began. And my grandma was a cousin of Aunty Kaui Zuttermeister.
LKH: So, and then you know, I danced for many many years with Aunty Genoa Keawe, and Aunty Genoa Keawe herself was a student of Pua Ha‘aheo.
Kaea: I didn’t know that.
LKH: Yes, yes!
LKH: So, you know, because I was so close to all of these people, um, you know, dancing with Aunty Genoa… the hula training never stop, yea.
LKH: She had that hula eye watching me on that stage. My critiques after every performance, yea.
Kaea: So um, do you-did you realize when you were training, did you realize-cause I mean, you were young, you know what I mean, that’s not a common um I guess…
Jaz: Well, not to mention, they’re legends now, and back then they were just, you know, Aunties to you, yea?
Kaea: So did you realize what you were in, when you were a youngster?
LKH: No, actually no I didn’t. I just did what everybody wanted me to do. So, I really did it and today I have great great value in the time I spent with all of them. The only one regret I have, yea, and it’s a small regret, is that although I did take pictures, I wish I took a lot more pictures, you know because those things, you know how they say photos speak a thousand words yea, you know I wish I had taken more, but back then I was kinda camera shy yea.
Jaz: Not to mention, nevah have da kine, never have like what we have today.
Kaea: Like today. Yea, was different back then.
Jaz: You no could Instagram back then.
LKH: Well, you know, little bit different because country kid ah, now today, everybody run, when the camera come out everybody run to the camera right, I was run away from the camera, yea.
Jaz: Now um, Kumu, when did you um, discover your haku mele talents?
LKH: So, in the fourth grade yea… I was born in the territory of Hawai‘i right, 1954.
Kaea: I love it, I love it!
LKH: And then 1959, I remember, we went to school one day Kindergarten, raised with Catholics and went to Catholic school so, we went to school and they sent us all home, nobody knew what the hell was happening other than it was a holiday, and so all the young kids was running home, playing and haw, no more school today, we was all happy, no realizing that was the day Hawai‘i became a state. So, that was Kindergarten. So I started writing poetry at fourth grade.
Jaz: wow! And what was your poetry about back then?
LKH: Oh, all kinds of things, you know as a young child, you know, it’s not really that intense, but to begin back then yea, and lucky, you know, I grew up with my grandparents who kinda spoke Hawaiian, you know, and it’s kinda funny cause today right I can read the Hawaiian newspaper and I can read stories about death.
Kaea: Yea, wow, right! Now, one of the stories I read, or I’ve heard was, in your composition time, one of the first um, I guess, maybe compositions that you’ve done in Hawaiian, you asked your grandmother to paka?
LKH: Yes, so, at that time, if you can imagine, because I guess, you see, when you raised in a home like that, you don’t always realize how lucky you are.
Kaea: Yea. I bet, right.
LKH: You know like a lot of people, you know, have to run to the Hawaiian dictionary, or you have to seek some other kind of source, and then all the sources or all the resources were right home in the house, and that’s why I go back to the Hawaiian newspaper and you know, my grandma and grandpa all spoke Hawaiian, my uncles and aunties, and I read about their marriage announcements… everything in the Hawaiian newspaper, and I’m like, wow, they did speak Hawaiian. Even that time when they’re talking to you and stuff yea, it was kinda interesting cause you’re in that environment, but not knowing in a sense where you’re at, and then years later you realize when people ask you something and you can give them that answer, that comes from that memory of being in that time.
LKH: You know, so, because grandma was so smart in her ‘olelo, then she was the one that helped me, but you know, I have to tell you something. My grandmother was very cautious yea, about to… hula yea, and ah, it was kind of a challenge because although they wanted me to do this, they were very cautious, so you know, I had like rules and regulations because of kapu yea. Can’t do this, cannot do that… but I must have overcame it all, I’m still here.
Kaea: So, do you remember ever a time when you was at grandma’s house and the language ever changed? Did you ever remember-cause I can envision you being at Tutu’s house and there’s, you know, just the normal language of the day, do you ever remember significant change when that environment changed for you?
LKH: When I went college, I used to get scolding a lot yea. Because the ‘olelo was ‘ano oko‘a no yea. And so, my grandparents, they would hear me practicing my ‘olelo, or doing my ha‘awina ma ka hale, and “he aha kela?”
Kaea: Oh really?
LKH: They would look at me like, ‘olelo?
Kaea: Yea, yea, now-but, tell us what college you went to.
LKH: So at that time, in 1972, because my dream was to become a school teacher, I went to Windward Community College, I think that was the first year that they opened it yea.
LKH: I remember they used to call it the red roof college.
Kaea: Red roof college!
LKH: Sure enough, it became a college.
LKH: And so, I went the first year that the college opened, and at that time, Pikake Wahilani was one of the teachers for ‘olelo, and then Naomi L., and after that I moved on to University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and Aunty Edith Kanaka‘ole as well as Mr. Kalani… were the ‘olelo there.
Kaea: wow, so, during this time, when you were in college, what were your Tutu folks saying? What was their mana‘o? Did they encourage you to go to school?
LKH: Well, my grandparents, especially and also my father, you know, I was the kind of kid yea, that every Christmas, every birthday, every holiday, my father would buy me a book. And was kinda interesting, nine kids yea, and I’m the only one that got a book. Everybody had like bicycles… and you know, I would open this box and it would be a book. I used to cry a lot… not realizing later on how much I love to read and you know, what an impact it made on my life, but at that time you’re a kid, and somebody got a record player, and… I’m here with this box.
What the hell!
So, you know… I started to read the book, and all of a sudden, here I am writing songs and writing stories because of that and so yea, it played a big role in what was to happen later on.
Jaz: Aha! See, the secret of being a good composer, reading, so buy your kids books.
If you’re just tuning in, you’re listening to the KAPA Cafe with the only and only Kawaikapuokalani Hewett.
Kaea: Now, very important the ‘ohana, very important in your upbringing and-so, do you, I mean this is kinda of a-kind of a big question.
Do you think that um, I think they knew, but do you feel now, you’re sharing that you’re gonna be 60 next month, that they knew-I wanna say it was destiny, but you kind of-you were born into a kuleana.
LKH: You know, I think, that’s the ‘ike yea. The knowing that they had back then. Did I know? No, I didn’t what was going on around me. Actually, they all had a hand in all of this. You know in the old days yea, they would come to the home and everybody would sit in the living room, and of course they would talk, and kukakuka, wala‘au about this and that and, little did we know that a lot of that conversation was about us children, and you know, it’s kind of interesting because they kind of planned yea, what we would end up doing, and they don’t do it by just… they have insight yea? I think we call that ulukau yea. They had this ulukau and for some reason, they know what’s going to happen, and they have to prepare yea?
LKH: And so, I was just there and that’s why I said, I was at many places for many reasons, for a purpose. And back then, I just thought eh, this is kinda interesting, this is kinda fun! Not realizing that wow, they were importing all of these things to me, so when we had family reunions, here in Kane‘ohe, like I said, 2,500 people come, when they need to look for the answers, when they need to look for the ‘ike of our kupuna, I’m the one that they choose to speak up on their behalf because I’m with… yea. I mean, literally, they took me everywhere with them and so, that’s what I mean when I say I was at these places where I got to learn these things. I appreciate it, I truly appreciate it.
Kaea: Well you still young yet though! You still, I mean, 60? Come on!
LKH: I hope I get, I pray every day for another 20 more years.
You know, I had this thought with my grandchildren, to always tell my children, you know ah when you guys was little, I used to chase you guys all over and I used to lick you guys, but now, I get my grandkids yea, so I chase them all over and I lick ‘em too… So I told my grandkids, when you guys start making kids, and I get great-grandkids, yea I hope I can chase ‘em and lick ‘em too.
Kaea: How many mo‘opuna do you have?
Jaz: Now Kumu, out of your mo‘opuna, is there one in particular out of them that you buy a book because you see yourself in them?
LKH: The tradition never transcend. I had too many memories about bikes.
Kaea: You get them all bicycles ah!
LKH: You know, I buy them Kendamas nowadays…
Kaea: Oh! Tutu, you are in the now, look at you. I was like, what is a Kendama?
LKH: And for Christmas, they had 2 things: Kendama and iPad.
I said, what the hell, You gettin’ the Kendama, forget the damn iPad.
Kaea: Aw, too much, if there’s-Jaz I’m sorry, you go ahead, your turn.
Jaz: Well no, back to mele of course because, you’ve had such a significance in hula here for so many years, but at the same time, making your mark as a composer, and being out there with, ah you know, every time we play Hawaiian music, we’re like okay wow, there’s another from Dennis, and there’s another one from Palani, and there’s another one Kawaikapu, yea, there’s-how many mele have you composed in your lifetime?
LKH: Ho, seriously, hundreds of them, cause I write every day, and you know the things that inspire me again, are gonna be my children, and my grandchildren. So you know, because of the way I was taught, you know, what I do is um, I love to read, I research, I also remember stories that they told me, and I take all these things and I incorporate them to my everyday life. So, mele tell ancient stories, but they connect to what I’m doing right here and now, so I use them to talk about my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my mother, my dad, and my children, because-and my grandchildren because they’re the greatest inspiration for me. So when I home babysitting yea, watching the kids, and they so rascal and I’m laughing the whole day yea, just watching them and their antics that inspired me to write music. And I write all kinds of music, you know, it’s like people kind of gravitate to different kinds yea, but me, I love it all.
Slow, fast, medium, whatever…
Kaea: So, do-so when it’s not Hawaiian though, what does Kumu listen to, outside of Hawaiian music?
LKH: I don’t actually.
LKH: I have this thing, and it is that um, I try as much not to listen cause I don’t want anything to impair my music capabilities, so if I listen to music, somehow I might think it was me so I try not to listen to music, in fact, after I write a song I actually don’t listen to that song anymore. Because, you know, I have this keen sense of melody, and so it’s really good for me, I mean to, not listen to-I even try not to watch TV…
Kaea: I was gonna say, do you watch TV? You must not watch TV.
LKH: Yea, not too much. Animal Planet.
Kaea: Dora the Explorer?
LKH: No more too much music on there yea? You know like, I can hear a melody in almost everything, and I let that kinda influence me in the morning yea, and people may think this is a little bit crazy but, I sit down and I drink my coffee, and I listen to nature yea, outside my window. And so, the wind and the rain, there’s the birds, there’s the fricken chickens, hey, but you know what, that’s a big big influence. Those things actually help me cause I hear melodies in that, and you know, people always say how do you come up with all these melodies, well, it’s in the silence that you can hear. And actually there’s too many things going around, you cannot hear.
Kaea: Right. You’re deafened. wow.
LKH: Yea, and so, that’s how I do my-usually I write in silence, I don’t wanna hear nothing, and that’s the best time, so usually, you know, late at night, or early in the morning, and then also when I’m watching my grandkids, like I said earlier, they do something funny, oh my god, I start singing about it.
Kaea: wow! That’s so amazing!
Jaz: Now, amongst your many of hits, a few of your big ones, songs like “Ka Pilina” and just recently “E ‘Ike I Ka Nani A‘o Hopoe,” you’ve worked with Sean Na‘auao, and Sean has-um, I mean really brings your mele to life, they’re already alive but…
Kaea: There’s something about Sean’s voice when he does a mele, when he does your mele. Like he’s done many mele, but when he does your mele, it just seems-it seems, it just captures the listener.
Jaz: How did that relationship between you guys come to be?
LKH: You know, that relationship is one that again, that destiny yea, and in itself brought forth in this lifetime, and in actually, Sean does these mele really really nice.
E ‘IKE I KA NANI A‘O HOPOE
Jaz: That of course is the mele that you’re going to learn this weekend at the ‘Iolani Luahine Hula Festival, here with KAPA, 100.3, 99.1, online at kaparadio.com, with Kawaikapuoakalani Hewett, that was “E ‘Ike I Ka Nani A‘o Hopoe” with Sean Na‘auao.
LKH: If anybody wants a mele, I love to share, you know, I love to write, and what’s good about Sean, he’ll call me and say, Uncle, I need a song, and I say oh really, okay I’ll call you back. I hang up the phone and start writing it. And then I call him back either that afternoon or that evening or the next day, I said okay I got you some…
Kaea: Do many people-artists call you like that?
LKH: Well, oh my goodness…
Kaea: Or are they intimidated?
LKH: No, no, no, because you know, there are-I think, I counted there are over 50 other entertainers in Hawai‘i and around the world that have recorded my music, but the majority have been from Hawai‘i. And they recorded all of this music. I know I counted like Olomana, Aunty Genoa Keawe, Kawai Cockett, Melveen Leed, Loyal Garner, The Lim Family, a lot of people, Peter Moon Band, Three Scoops of Aloha…
Kaea: The list goes on.
LKH: And these people, over the years now, have been recording that music, and you know me, I’m really really happy because I believe that God gave me this gift and with gifts you have to share.
Kaea: Yea, definitely.
Jaz: Thank God we have your phone number now.
LKH: Cause you know, it comes freely, God gave it to you freely, and then you have to malama, take care of it, you have to nurture it, and part of the nurturing and taking care of it, is taking it one step right, and that step is to give it away to somebody. I mean what you going do with all these mele that you just write ‘em and put ‘em in a book? You gotta, you know, give it away. So I’m always more than happy, somebody says I need a mele, you know it’s like at Merrie Monarch um, kumu hula will call me and say can you write a mele, you know, for our kahiko or our could I do something for ‘auana, yea sure, I love it! You know, I get down, and like I say usually that day or the next day I’ll call them back and say, hey, I got your mele. And then you know, that way, not only the connection, but the sharing, the aloha, yea it’s perpetuated, and so I love that when they call me.
Kaea: Is there anything um-well first of all we wanna thank you for spending time with us and as we are very excited to see you this weekend, is there anything that you remember to this day that maybe your Tutu, you continually hear her every day? Is there something that moves you every day from your kupuna that either you speak or you feel or you find yourself saying it to your mo‘opuna, that come from them? Do you have anything?
LKH: Yes, there is something. It’s kinda funny, but it is absolutely true:
She tell me like this: “Kapulu ka poi i kekahi, kapulu kou ‘okole i ka haleo.”
And I laugh because it’s really about everything in life yea?
LKH: And I don’t want to offend anybody with the translation, but my grandparents used to say you cannot clean the poi bowl good, if you cannot wipe your ass good. And you know what that means, when you do anything in life, do it to the best that you can. Always make sure what you do is good and clean, because if not, let your ‘okole “kapulu ‘ia” the haleo cannot clean ‘em good, that’s hilahila. And so, I always tell my grandchildren and my children the same thing, eh, Kapulu ka poi i kekahi, kapulu kou ‘okole i ka haleo. What is that? Yea, yea, yea, you goin’ find out.
Jaz: Now go outside and read a book!
Kaea: Go outside and read that book!
LKH: You know why because, all these years, I trained a lot of people in hula and many things, and I watch them yea, and I always tell them, hey, listen here, you come in my house, and in five minutes I goin tell you if you goin be good or not, by just watching your actions, how you do things, how you take things, how you put them back, where you put them, how you do it, it doesn’t take long, and I goin know, just by what my grandparents taught me.
Either they goin’ be good, if they goin’ be successful, or they goin’ kapulu that thing and not goin’ be successful. Those kinds of things when they talk to us, I really took it deep into my heart, and you know, it worries me when today, our po‘e Hawai‘i, sometimes they forget those things yea? It’s really really important. You know cause, in our day yea, you cannot just go any kine place and kiloi this and kiloi that, and you have to take care your clothes, and you have to take care of so many things, and today, no more that kine ‘ike that’s being given to the younger generation.
LKH: You know, even like when you go to the, you know, ho‘opau pilikia, there’s certain things you have to do if you go to a public place. And you cannot, you know, leave your personal thing here and there, that’s not maika‘i, that’s kapulu and then what goin happen is at the end, if you no take care those things, somebody goin’ get sick. And so, that’s the kind of time, if you can imagine 1954 being raised back then by these old people, that we had to learn, so because it was I guess it appropriate and a good time, that’s when they pass me on to all these people, to receive that learning, that’s why one day I go write one song yea, the title goin be: “Kapulu ka poi i kekahi, kapulu kou ‘okole i ka haleo.”
Jaz: I cannot wait to see the dance for that one too
LKH: It’ll be a good one, I promise you. And so, getting back to Aunty ‘Io, yea very briefly, when they gave me those things, you know, we never have video camera back then, but I tell you, we had to try and remember as closely as possible, exactly the way we learned those things.
So, today I try and in her memory, I try to keep it exactly the way we learned it. Of course you know, everyday yea you grow, and as your grow, as it is with life, you gain and you lose, so you gain… and then some days, you know, now ‘elemakule time yea, you lose a little bit, but thank God for video yea? iPad, iPhone, and everything. I have this memory, go video me, I goin’ do this… You know, lucky thing for us today.
Kaea: Yea, no, lucky, you right. If Tutu could, Tutu would.
LKH: Yes, because you know, it helps. You know, it makes a big difference in our lives today, because, you know, we travel all over the world right, if I forget something, I can the dakine, I face my daughter, eh remember this, yea, how I did this, okay bye hang ‘em up. We looking at each other, I stay in Switzerland, she stay in Kane‘ohe, show me something okay now I remember, okay bye.
Kaea: Aw, well you know, we wanna-we’re just very excited that you took some time today out of your busy schedule and shared with us some of these intimate moments, and just know how much we here at KAPA, Jaz and myself, and our ‘ohana here, really appreciate it cause these are such ah valuable things that we for our mission as a Hawaiian radio station try to do our best to, in the way we can…
Jaz: It’s kinda like how you said Kumu, where you wish you had taken more pictures back then, that’s kind of our mission with KAPA is that we wanna document every time we get to speak to those as yourself.
LKH: Aw, mahalo nui ia ‘olua.
Kaea: So, nui ko maua hau‘oli a ha‘aha‘a a aloha ia ‘oe no kou noho pu ‘ana me maua i keia kakahiaka.
LKH: Oh, mahalo nui ia ‘olua. Me ke aloha na ke Akua ia ‘olua.
Ke aloha na ke akua ia kakou pakahi a pau, a holomua…