Carol Yotsuda. I don’t know what the name means in her native Japanese, but I can give you my definition: A woman with the energy of a hummingbird and the web of connections of a spider—and a happy face spider, at that.
I’ve walked into an art gallery on Oahu, sat next to a Hawaiian woman on the airplane and talked to the musician Makana, and when they learn I live on Kauai, they have all asked me, independently, “Do you know Carol Yotusda?”
I am honored to say I do.
So, when Carol asks you to do something, your response is, “Why, yes, Carol. I will.” As in, “Why, yes, Carol, I will sit on your board of directors for the Garden Island Arts Council. If you want me to, I will.”
For 28 years, Carol has orchestrated Kauai’s weekly E Kanikapila Kakou, a gathering of Hawaii’s most beloved musical and cultural performers set in a backyard musical jam session. This past Monday, the esteemed Kumu Kawaikapuokalani Hewett and his hula halau performed. In the way that has become her signature, Carol wrote her “wrap story” about the event.
Here it is:
Direct from the Composer, Kawaikapuokalani Hewett
When many artists wish to record your songs and when many hula halau want to dance to your songs, there must be some special intangible quality in the melody and the lyrics that inspire others to sing and dance to your songs. “Hawai’i Ku’u Home,” the song he taught to the ukulele circle, expresses his love for Hawai’i as the most beautiful and unique place. “My songs are simple with only two chords so everyone can sing it and I won’t forget it while singing on stage.” His songs, while simple, have a quality of authenticity or realness about them.
Those present at the Kaua’i Beach Resort were privileged to catch a glimpse into the why and how of how a few of his many songs came to be. The evening was filled with stories about Kawaikapu’s life journey. I always thought of him as a serious person but his delivery was filled with humorous anecdotes and spot-on mime action of the major hula influences in his life.
And the hula … watching this stately figure dressed in his characteristic tunic shirt, covered with leis, move gracefully in a trance-like hula reaching high up to the sky and low to the grounds with just a suggestion of a smile that transforms his expression into one of sheer bliss … was a treat for the hushed crowd. It’s hard to take your eyes off his hands, each finger moving independently in its own expressive choreography but being part of hands that visually capture the rich lyrics of the song and accentuate the glottal pauses in the leo, characteristic of some of Kawaikapu’s songs.
He opened his presentation with a chant about family, love and responsibility taught to him by Kahuna Emma Defries delivered in a voice that seem to come from somewhere out of body; it set the tone for the evening. I was struck by the similarity of his intonations with those in Buddhist sutras. The story behind the chant was that Pele and her family was traveling by canoe from from Bora Bora and Tahiti moving East through the Pacific to find a new home. They stopped briefly at Nehoa and then continued their journey to the next island, finally realizing they had forgotten one of the younger brothers on Nehoa. They debated about turning around and observed, “Nehoa is big enough for one person,” but Pele decided they started the journey as a family and will finish as a family. They turned the canoe around and headed back to Nehoa. The stranded brother, upon seeing Pele standing at the bow of the canoe with open arms, was moved to tears and uttered this chant.
Click here to continue reading Carol’s wrap story of Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewitt’s evening performance at E Kanikapila Kakou (EKK) on Kauai.