Hula enriches Book & Music Fest lineup
BY LYNN COOK / Special to the Star-Advertiser
The Hawaii Book & Music Festival has stepped up the musical side of its game this year with award-winning songwriters and a full schedule of hula events, including halau who are fresh from the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo.
NINTH ANNUAL HAWAII BOOK & MUSIC FESTIVAL
» Where: Frank F. Fasi Civic Grounds, Honolulu Hale
Festival organizer Roger Jellinek said that beyond publisher, he’s added “song and dance man” to his resume. What started nine years ago as a free two-day event populated by best-selling authors has grown to include Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning musicians and seasoned Merrie Monarch hula halau.
Mainland book festivals are often held in convention centers, charging hefty fees to attend and herding authors in and out with no time for autographs. Honolulu’s festival — a vast gathering of authors, illustrators, poets and publishers in addition to hula, music and art — is user-friendly, outdoors and free.
FOUR 2014 Merrie Monarch halau, just back from their wins in Hilo, will barely have time to unpack their bags before they step out on the main stage.
Tracie and Keawe Lopes’ Ka La ‘Onohi Mai O Ha’eha’e; Mapuana de Silva’s Halau Mohala ‘Ilima; Sonny Ching’s Halau Na Mamo O Pu’uanahulu; and Chinky Mahoe’s Kawaili’ula are consistent award winners.
The Lopes’ wahine placed first in the kahiko (ancient-style) competition and second in auana (modern-style) at this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival. Dancer Ke’alohilani Tara Eliga Serrao was named Miss Aloha Hula and also claimed the Hawaiian-language award.
“This will be our first public performance after Merrie Monarch, so we are very excited,” kumu hula Tracie Lopes said in a message to Jellinek.
De Silva’s wahine placed fourth in kahiko, and dancer Sarah Kapuahelani Sterling took third in the Miss Aloha Hula competition.
Mahoe’s dancers won first place in men’s kahiko, while Ching’s dancers took third in the same competition.
Kumu hula Michael Pili Pang and Vicky Holt Takamine do not compete in the Merrie Monarch Festival; their dancers often participate in the Prince Lot Hula Festival.
Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning musician Kenneth Makuakane has thrown down the gauntlet for his musician pals, challenging them to write and perform a new song that will be put to public vote.
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, Del Beazley, Ernie Cruz, Alden Kaiaokamalie and Makuakane will show their chops for judges including legendary singer Marleen Sai and Derrick Malama, who hosts Hawaii Public Radio’s “Kanikapila Sunday” show. It’s a hana hou for the contest.
Makuakane called it a friendly battle.
“This contest allows musicians to think in song, not in what might get airplay,” Makuakane said.
The main stage will be chock-full of music as well. Jeff Peterson, Alan Akaka & The Islanders, Manu Boyd, Keala Chock and Kihei Nahale, Kamakakehau Fernandez and the Royal Hawaiian Band are scheduled.
Audiences rarely get an inside look into hula instruction and learning. But this weekend, kumu hula Michael Pili Pang will take Mission Memorial Auditorium audiences a step beyond performances.
Hula master Maiki Aiu Lake, who died in 1984, is recognized as the “Mother of the Hula Renaissance” with more than 100 graduates who include kumu, ho’opa’a and olapa — teacher, chanter and dancer.
“In honor of the 30th anniversary of Maiki Aiu Lake’s passing, I invited some hula greats to discuss how their teacher was more than just a teacher of hula, but also a teacher for life,” Pili Pang said.
Pili Pang said he was lucky to stay with Aunty Maiki and learn from her while she was a teacher.
“She taught me the biggest lesson in life. She said, stop and take care of other people,” he said.
The panel discussions on hula will give an insider’s look at the heart of the art form.
At 1 p.m. on Saturday in the Mission Memorial Auditorium, Pili Pang joins Holt Takamine and Lahela Ka’aihue, Marlene Aiu Parpal, Lily Kahoano and Leilani Kaeo to share experiences from the 1960s, when hula was not a household word.
“We will talk story about a time when hula was not understood, was often a form of resistance,” Pili Pang said.
“We will talk story about how Aunty Maiki’s teaching changed the history of hula and how it is viewed today.”
On Sunday at 1 p.m., the discussion continues with a second day of talk story about Lake that will include three former Miss Hawaii title-holders; Kanoe Miller; Debbie Nakanelua-Richards and Jeanne Olivera.
The three dancers will share stories on how hula moved them into the position of cultural ambassadors.
The festival’s events for keiki are totally cool, and include an appearance by Honolulu dramatist Mark Branner, who adapted kids’ book “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip” as a musical.
National PBS star Mr. Steve returns to encourage outrageous behavior. Onlookers young and old will find themselves leaping up, hopping on one foot with their finger in their ear and laughing all the while.
Pili Pang’s popular keiki programs continue with Hawaiian storytellers. Teachers and performers will demonstrate Hawaiian practices with interactive methods.
There also will be sing-along stories, demonstrations of simple hula and Hawaiian games that keiki can share with their parents.
Kumu hula Sam ‘Ohu Gon will tell stories, and Kumu Maile Beamer Loo will teach a hula tale. Actor and dancer Moses Goods will share Hawaiian legends.
Books are available for purchase, but that isn’t really the point. This is a two-day, up-close-and-personal love fest with authors, dancers, musicians and artists of every persuasion.