If you are visiting Hawaii, particularly the island of Oahu, I strongly suggest that you look into taking a hula lesson or an ukulele lesson with the lovely hula dancer and instructor Nalani. Nalani offers both group and private lessons. When I first arrived in Hawaii, I was deeply impressed by Nalani’s unique connection with Hawaiian culture, music & entertainment. One can find more information by contacting Nalani HERE.
I first stepped onto Oahu’s magic sands in 1995. I was drawn to Hawaii and Honolulu in particular because I wanted to get away from the long, frigid winters in the state of Vermont where I lived. I was also dealing with some significant health issues at the time. I thought that because Honolulu was a large city in the tropics it would be good for my health and offer employment opportunities also. I was correct on both counts.
Having lived and worked in Honolulu, I came to know and understand both the climate and the culture. Hawaii offers as perfect a year-round climate as I could imagine. Hawaii is a “feel good” place, and yet for the locals, as people born on the Islands are referred to, and for those of us fortunate enough to spend a full year in Hawaii, one comes to realize that Hawaiian weather does change through the seasons and that variations do occur from place to place. For a visitor, the elements of Hawaiian culture most visible and noteworthy are its music and the hula, which is closely tied to the music.
One of my first experiences with Hawaiian music took pace one evening when my wife and I were walking along Waikiki Beach. We set out in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village and headed “Diamond Head.” On the island of Oahu people do not refer to north, south, east and west when giving directions. Instead you would be told to go mauka, makai, Ewa, or Diamond Head. Going mauka means heading toward the interior mountains. Going makai means toward the ocean. Going Ewa means in the direction of the town of Ewa. And going Diamond Head means toward Oahu’s famous landmark. On our beach walk, my wife and I passed through the poolside area at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel and heard some exceptionally beautiful music being played by the legendary Moe Keale Trio. The hostess and hula dancer that evening was the beautiful and graceful hula dancer Nalani.
Nalani grew up on the Island of Kauai and began dancing at a very early age. One song, “My Sweet Pikake Lei” , written by the great Robert Cazimero, literally brought tears to my eyes because it was so beautiful. During the intermission I went up to tell Moe and the band how beautiful their music was and received a round of hugs and alohas. Not only are Hawaiian musicians virtuoso performers but they are extremely approachable and welcoming.
Hawaiian music is both beautiful and unique. It is unique because many songs follow strict, pure rules of construction. Often a single melody is repeated from beginning to end without a chorus or secondary melody. The theme is usually very simple and having to do with things such as a beautiful place or a deep love. The song is often concluded with the words” Ha’ina ia mai ana ka puana”. These words say “And so my story is told”. For example: And so my story is told about my yellow ginger lei for whom my heart is yearning.” Often the object, yellow ginger lei in this case, stands for the beloved one. I love my yellow ginger lei. My yellow ginger lei stands for my beloved. My beloved is my yellow ginger lei.
There is so much to learn about Hawaiian music and dance . If you have the desire and time start with a fine teacher. I give my highest recommendation to Nalani.
By Paul Gordon