HIFF Review: ‘Seeds of Aloha’
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
The life and times of Hawaiian renaissance man George Kahumoku Jr. — musician, artist, educator, farmer, cultural practitioner, cancer survivor, entrepreneur — are captured with four-star clarity in this fascinating documentary.
Kahumoku is the primary voice, and no one could tell the story better. He describes his immersion in traditional Hawaiian culture as a pre-schooler raised by his great-grandparents and their extended family in South Kona, recalls the significant cultural adjustments involved in moving to Honolulu and attending Kamehameha, and recounts the series of events that led him into his overlapping careers as a musician, an artist, an educator, entertainer, recording artist, farmer, event promoter and Grammy Award-winning record producer.
‘SEEDS OF ALOHA’
Made in Hawaii
Screens at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 and 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 at Consolidated Koko Marina 8
Kahumoku has been sharing these stories with people on a more or less one-on-one basis in recent years. With the release of this film they’ll reach a much larger audience in much less time.
Director David Barry is an excellent conduit for Kahumoku’s stories, his music, snippets of his performances, and the insights of the many people who comments add a kaleidoscope of perspectives. The usual “talking heads” that appear so often in island documentaries about Hawaiian music are conspicuously absent. A fresh set of voices is heard in their place.
The Kahumoku ohana is represented by George’s brother, Moses Kahumoku, and his son, Keoki, and his wife, Nancy. The long list of colleagues includes Dennis Kamakahi, Richard Ho‘opi‘i, Ledward Kaapana, Keli‘i Tau‘a, Luanna McKenney, George Winston, Kawika Kahiapo, Ozzie Kotani, Herb Ohta Jr., Bob Brozman, Brother Noland and Nathan Aweau.
A recurring theme is Kahumoku’s commitment to self-sufficiency and sustainability — traditional Hawaiian values that are being embraced by the larger community. For instance, he uses ducks to both weed and fertilize some of his garden plots. A larger project involves using macadamia nut husks, a waste product from mac nut processing, as ground cover in specially designed pig pens; the material keeps the pigs cleaner and healthier while it becomes mulch material that is easily removed from the pens as needed.
There’s also a story about how he used the same wild-caught feral chickens to teach an art class, a biology class and a cooking class!
Grammy Award-winner Daniel Ho joins the narrative to tell how he met Kahumoku in 1999, and how they recorded the first of two Hoku Award-winning collections of Hawaiian hymns. Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong recall how their desire to see Kahumoku — and other slack key masters — presented in Hawaii as concert acts rather than bar room entertainers resulted in the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar concerts on Maui, and the “live” recordings that became the raw material for four Grammy Award-winning compilation albums. They also explain why they decided to ignore Grammy Award etiquette — and the express rules the Academy set for the award shows — by bringing people on stage with them at the awards shows even though they were not entitled to be on stage.
In another section of the film Kahumoku talks about the importance of sharing what he’s learned with new generations of musicians and cultural practitioners, and we see how his teaching by example is inspiring people outside Hawaii.
Kahumoku has spent most of his life working and teaching on the neighbor islands, and that has kept him somewhat “under the radar” on Oahu until recently. Like a pebble dropped into still water and generating ripples outward, “Seeds of Aloha” will generate much greater awareness — on Oahu and outside Hawaii — of the depth and breath of George Kahumoku’s career accomplishments across several professions, and his contributions to Hawaii.
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