On my first vacation to Hawaii—my honeymoon—I packed for the beach. Strappy sandals. Swimsuits. Sundresses. I expected to snorkel, soak up the sun’s rays and walk in the sand.
Over the next dozen years that I visited and got to know Hawaii, I toted golf clubs, hiking boots and, even, Rollerblades on my Hawaiian vacations. In Hawaii, I discovered so much more than I’d ever imagined, like mountains, outrigger canoes, a future home and music.
I don’t come from a musical family. Neither one of my brothers play an instrument. When I was young, I’d plunk a few piano keys at a friend’s house, but I never took lessons. But, then, I got involved in sports and, soon, kids toting violin, flute and clarinet cases to and from school and attending band class were considered nerds.
That’s not to say I don’t like music. In my dreams, the shower and a convertible barreling down the highway, I can belt out a tune the likes of Whitney Houston. And I can strut across a stage like Tina Turner—and Mick Jagger. Some songs get stuck in my head, and I go about humming its tune without even realizing it. Like Israel Kamakawiwoole’s Somewhere over the Rainbow. But who hasn’t had that song stuck in their head?
This past Sunday, I flew to Oahu to attend the 33rd annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. This event is the who’s who of music in Hawaii—the Hawaiian version of the GRAMMY awards. And I left Oahu toting an ukulele. I also like birdwatching. Now, who's the nerd?
When it comes to music, there’s a big difference between my upbringing in the Midwest and the one kids in Hawaii experience. Here, plucking an ukulele or strumming a slack key guitar is as natural as the trees turning colors in the fall was for me.
I see teenagers at the beach, walking down the street and sitting at the airport—all with an uke in their hands. I also see aunties doing the same thing. And big men. Really big men with itty-bitty ukuleles in hands. And I see kids and aunties and bruddahs performing together. Music crosses generations. It crosses genders. It crosses cultures.
That’s one of the many things I love about Hawaii—a place so different from my childhood, a place offering experiences at extremes from my own. Musicians are not nerds in Hawaii. And—on another note—thunder and lightening doesn’t follow rain in Hawaii. Not usually. That means, if we want, we can stay outside and sing in the rain. Something my mother surely wouldn’t have let me do in the Tornado Alley of my youth. Living in Hawaii broadens my horizons. It teaches me new ways of living, and, I hope, in doing so, it teaches me to be more tolerant, accepting and—dare say—embracing of others.
In Hawaii, most musicians play for the enjoyment of it. They hold full-time jobs and may play for a hula halau or pick up a side gig here and there. That’s true of many Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners. Only a select few musicians in Hawaii—like anywhere—break out. Two are Daniel Ho and Makana.
We at OutriggerHawaii are partial to these two gifted musicians—so much so that most of our videos are set to one or the other’s music. That’s why it’s high time we produced a video starring each one of these men. And here they are:
Watch our video featuring Daniel Ho and, then, read an interview with Daniel Ho here.
Watch our video featuring Makana and, then, read an interview with Makana here.
I discovered some new music at the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. Maybe one of these artists will follow in the footsteps of Daniel Ho or Makana. If you’re interested, seek out Most Promising Artist of the Year Anuhea Jenkins. Follow Mailani, Female Vocalist of the Year, on Twitter and ask her where she’s performing next. Pick up the Slack Key Album of the Year—Maui on My Mind—by Jeff Peterson. If you get the chance to attend a live Hawaiian music performance, bring your musical instrument of choice along—be it an ukulele, slack key guitar, gourd or nose flute. In Hawaii, all musicians are welcome to sit in with the band.
For a complete listing of Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners, click here.