IÂ’m playing slack key guitar and singing hula music at 3 PM on Sunday, May 1, 2011 at the Puna Music Festival at Kalani Honua Oceanside Retreat on the Big Island. May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii, and IÂ’ll be wearing flowers, for sure. (That’s me in the blue and white mu’u mu’u on the poster.)
Not only do I perform, but, at 1 PM, I’ll be teaching a one-hour slack key guitar class. Admission to the festival is $25 per adult and $10 per child for the whole day (10 AM to 8 PM). If you want the guitar class, that’s an additional $15. Kalani Honua grows its own fruits and veggies organically and their chefs make delicious super-healthful meals. I recommend making a reservation to have dinner at their restaurant. I certainly will.
The festival falls on the day after the grand finale of the annual Merrie Monarch Festival at the Edith KanakaÂ’ole Stadium in nearby Hilo (and, for many years, on KITV. This year itÂ’s televised, plus streaming on the Internet, on KFVE).
I think of the Merrie Monarch as a sort of Hula Olympics, a competition of the best of the best, plus pageantry, floral arrangements and aloha galore.
All of the very uncomfortable cement seats of the stadium are always completely sold out five months in advance for all three nights. The girls in the audience scream like rock fans at the end of each hula. It is HiloÂ’s glory weekend for visitors. But the TV footage, with gorgeous closeups of the dancers, is, IMHO, a better view than the one from the bleachers. So, unless I find myself watching it with friends on their TV, I will watch it on my laptop. I always weep with joy watching hula kahiko; the earthy spirituality of this ancient dance overwhelms me.
However, I’m not a trained in Hawaiian chant; I sing songs, so my hula set with be all hula auana. The hula dancers for my set include Richard Koob, founder/director of Kalani Honua, and Kalani Honua staff members Lynda TuÂ’a and Jonathan Kaleikaukeha Kimo Lopez, plus Robbie McGrath, who teaches hula at University of Hawaii Hilo, and four of her students.
Lynda promises to do a couple of Â“rascal hulas,Â” that is, sexy, naughty and funny interpretations of standard hula choreographies. Â“We gonna kolohe da house,Â” she told me.