Editor’s note: Guest blogger Carol Yotsuda recaps the second performance of E Kanikapila Kakou on Kauai. In its 27th year, the Hawaiian music program is held Monday evenings through March. The gatherings are conducted in the style of backyard musical jam sessions for which Hawaii is known, with many bringing their own ukulele to strum along and hula dancers stepping up to share their gifts. This year’s theme is “The Stories behind the Songs.” The January 25th event featured Hawaiian music legend Eddie Kamae and the father-and-son team of Dennis and David Kamakahi.
Avalanche of Fans
The overused adage “If you build it, they will come” holds true for EKK. In my last wrap for the opening night of EKK with the Kahumoku’s, I wrote that a big plus for transplanting to the Kauai Beach Resort was that I no longer had to scurry around for coolers for folks to sit on. I guess I lied. At the second EKK Monday, I asked everyone to go to their cars to get out their coolers because we were short 200 chairs. The staff first set up 300 chairs and increased it to 400 seats and everyone else stood or sat on the floor. We’ve only just begun…have we already outgrown our new digs?
What this all boils down to is that we experienced an avalanche of music fans for one of Hawaii’s favorite sons – Eddie Kamae of the Sons of Hawaii, a true cultural icon who has mentored countless musicians over his lifetime, and father and son Kamakahi, about whom Eddie says, “I am so proud of Dennis Kamakahi and his son David who are carrying on the tradition of music.”
Eddie shared a song and story that put to rest a long time rumor that Larry Kimura wrote “E Ku’u Morning Dew” about his horse. Eddie said that Larry came to dinner one night. Eddie excused himself halfway through the dinner because he felt a song coming on. He went into another room and wrote the song that was welling up inside him. When he came out he gave it to Larry and told him to put some words to it. Soon after Larry gave Eddie the first verse to the song, an uncle added the second verse...and thus evolved one of the most beautiful songs that many love to sing. After the concert, Eddie tells me, “I keep asking Myrna what she cooked for dinner that night that made me write such a song.”
He also talked about the time his wife Myrna went on a trip to England with her niece leaving Eddie at home. On the fifth day of her absence, he awoke at 4:00 am missing her so much that he poured out verse after verse of words of adoration and loneliness woven together in a sweet melody, a song so personal that it’s not written anywhere or recorded for others to hear. Sighhhhhhh…Oh…to be so adored….with such lyrics of love. We should have invited Eddie to come on Valentine’s Day.
Dennis shared a song that he wrote in 1980 about his favorite place on Kaua’i as a gift to the people of Kaua'i, “Kaua'i O Mano”, named after the great Kaua’i chief Manokalaipo. Two years after he wrote “Koke’e” Dennis was walking along the Kalalau Trail with steep cliffs descending to the white sands of Kalalau on one side and steep cliffs on the other side dropping precariously to the famous Alakai Swamps. As he watched an invisible hand pushing the ocean mist up to the summit, he was moved to write how he felt “...if I could fly and walk on clouds…”
Unlike previous Dennis and David performances at EKK, many of the songs showcased David’s extraordinary ukulele virtuosity which has shown phenomenal growth along with his singing since his first appearance at EKK back in 1999 when he was in still in college and single, not yet a father, and teaching ukulele for the first time. David played songs from his new album “Shine” which has been nominated for the Hawaiian Music Awards. He played a jazzy number by one of his favorite composers, Alfred Alohikea of Kaua’i. The beautiful Mehana Blaich-Vaughan found the fast-paced “Ka Ua Loku“ irresistible and treated everyone to a hula.
Dennis shared stories of his travels to visit the Indian reservation, the Kalama settlement in the northwest, where he shared a song he wrote about their grandfather John Kalama who had traveled as a young lad of age 16 and through his brave act of saving 16 lives from drowning was embraced by the Indians, eventually married the Chief’s daughter and left a lineage of Kalama’s behind him.
While in Santa Rosa, Dennis saw the biggest harvest moon ever. After three weeks of travel, he was homesick for the two things he loved most -- his truck and his wife. Wondering how soldiers and others away from their loved ones felt, he composed a beautiful lilting number titled “Far Away” which he dedicated to anyone celebrating something special.
Of course the crowd would not be satisfied without the composer singing “Koke’e”; shouts of hana hou compelled them to sing the popular hula number inspired by the beauty of Koke’e. Vern Kauanui and Sabra Kauka both stepped on stage to dance the hula. Eddie joined the two for “Koke’e” and “Hawai’I Aloha”, the song that brings an evening rich with music, dance, fun and fellowship to a beautiful end.
In 2006, the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii named Carol Yotsuda a “Living Treasure” for her efforts in preserving the culture of Hawaii. Carol is the executive director of the Garden Island Arts Council, a volunteer position she’s held since 1998. She is also a retired teacher and artist. You can read Carol’s complete account of this event and see the 2010 E Kanikapila Kakou schedule at www.gardenislandarts.org.