Kawika– A Moment Etched in My Memory

Some twelve years ago, I was a beginning ‘ukulele player at a Hawaiian music workshop on the Big Island. One rainy afternoon, I walked into the front foyer of the Pahala Plantation House, where the workshop was taking place,  to find Dennis Kamakahi (on guitar) and his son, David (on ‘ukulele), playing “Kawika.”

Even then I knew this was a moment that would live with me for a long, long time. I just didn’t know how or when it would come back to me.

Why David and Dennis were playing “Kawika” that afternoon, I don’t know. Most of us think of Dennis, who passed away in 2014, in reference to the popular songs he wrote: “Wahine Ilikea,” “Koke‘e,” and “Pua Hone.” But Dennis was, among other things, a gifted scholar of Hawaiian history and culture. And “Kawika,” recorded by Sunday Manoa in 1969, is considered by many to be the spark that ushered in the second Hawaiian Renaissance—a revitalization of the traditions, culture, and language of the Hawaiian people. Maybe it was part of a story Dennis was telling about King David (Kawika) Kalakaua, whom the song was written about. Maybe he just really liked it. It is a powerful piece of music.

Looking around the room on that rainy day in Pahala, I also saw (a very young) Brad Bordessa sitting on the stairs, listening intently to Dennis and David and soaking it all in.  This was where I first met Brad, who was thirteen at the time—a serious musician even then. (A few years later, Brad posted an excellent ‘ukulele tutorial for “Kawika” on his blog, Live ‘Ukulele.)

That rainy afternoon in Pahala, the Kamakahi’s playing “Kawika,” and Brad listening on the stairway. . . . .all that musical magic came rushing back a few weeks ago when Brad suggested creating and teaching an ‘ukulele ensemble for “Kawika” at the 2018 Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, October 14 – 20. And with Kaliko Beamer Trapp also on the staff, to teach Hawaiian percussion, language, and pronunciation, there was no question in my mind that “Kawika” was simply meant to happen. And so it will.

Below is a link to “Kawika,” as recorded by Sunday Manoa. Enjoy. And while you do, imagine taking part in the musical ‘ukulele magic that happens each year in Hawi, at the northern end of the Kohala Coast. Registration is still open and the Kohala Village Inn still has a few rooms available.

If you can’t wait until October, you can get a quick lesson from Brad right here:

Last Few Days for Early Bird Registration

Registration fees for the 2018 Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat  will go up on July 14 so there’s no better time to register than now (and save $30/person!)

Plus, there are still rooms available at the Kohala Village Inn. If you can snag one of those, you’ll be staying very close by and have plenty of ‘ukulele buddies to connect with.  (This year, you are responsible for finding your own accommodations.)

We’ll be announcing the latest additions to the staff shortly. But, in the meantime, take a peak at who we’ve lined up so far and visit this link to learn more about each one of them:

Robyn Mahealani Kneubel

Kaliko Beamer Trapp

Brad Bordessa

Lehua Wilson Ahsam

 

 

 

 

And if you’re still wondering why you and your ‘ukulele should come to Hawai’i for a week and get immersed in the music and the culture, you might enjoy reading Why You Should Come to Hawai’i to Play Your ‘Ukulele. 

Plus, we throw a really great party, no matter where we are!

So, I hope you can join us……and join us soon.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Lehua Wilson AhSam – The Jewel in the Crown

Lehua Wilson AhSam has been an integral part of the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat since we moved to the Kohala Village Hub two years ago. So, we thought it was time to let you all know a little more about her.

O Kaneohe Koolaupoko kuu one hanau

O Hilo Paliku kuu wahi hanai

O Kohala Loko kuu wahi noho 

O Lehua Ah Sam kuu inoa 

Roughly interpreted: Lehua was born in Kaneohe, Oahu; raised in Hilo, Hawai’i; and lives today in “deep” Kohala with her husband’s family.

But there is much more to Lehua Wilson AhSam than all the places she has been, and she continues to astound us all with her resources, talent, skill, and generosity.  She is the “tock” to the “tick” of the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat: consistently sure and steady, relentlessly operating in the background (as the Executive Director of the Kohala Village Hub), and absolutely indispensable.

She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and a Master’s in Hawaiian Studies, is fluent in Hawaiian language, and teaches Hawaiian Studies at the Hawaiian Community College.  She is also trained in Hula and has performed at the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. . . . .and to hear her sing is to take a journey back to the time of the Hawaiian monarchs.

Lehua is also a crew member for Makali’i, Hawai’i Island’s own voyaging canoe.

“He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa” 

“The canoe is our island, and the island is our canoe.”

It is Lehua’s passion for Hawaiian culture and all things wa’a (canoe-related) that will inform and enhance our “extra-curricular” activities, especially our visit to the Maka o Hule Heiau. It is her attention to every detail during our stay at the Kohala Village Inn that will ensure our success, again, at this year’s Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat October 15 – 21, at the Kohala Village Hub in Hawi.

Lehua joins a staff of exemplary talent at this year’s retreat: Gerald Ross (‘Ukulele and Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar); Brad Bordessa (‘Ukulele); Kevin Carroll (‘Ukulele and Uke-estra); Lady Ipo (‘Ukulele and Hula); Kaliko Beamer-Trapp (‘Ukulele and Story-telling); and KonaBob (Slack-key Bass and  Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar.)

It’s not too late to register, but we only have 3 rooms left at the Kohala Village Inn!  So hurry, if you don’t want to miss the most fun you can have with your ‘ukulele on, Hawaiian style!

Click Here for On-line Registration

Introducing Kaliko Beamer Trapp

Kaliko Beamer Trapp will always hold a special place in my heart.  He is the instructor who took this faltering, struggling ‘ukulele beginner with six thumbs on each hand, and got her to the point where she could change chords, strum, and sing (in Hawaiian). . . . .all at the same time. . . . .and with a certain amount of ease!  So Kaliko was a natural choice to teach our beginning ‘ukulele classes at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat last year, and, of course we had to bring him back.

Kaliko’s fun-loving approach to ʻukulele and his ability to make everyone feel at ease as they chart new territory will be a huge benefit to all beginners at this year’s retreat. But what he brings for everyone else is every bit as valuable: a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Hawaiian music, culture, history, language, and tradition . . . . . a very welcome addition and important piece of the puzzle that makes up the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat.

Kaliko, is the hānai (adopted) son of the late Aunty Nona Beamer and brother of famed Hawaiian slack key guitarist, Keola Beamer. He is an avid student of Polynesian culture and language and is a lecturer in Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.

In addition to teaching ‘ukulele for beginners, Kaliko will be teaching a workshop on rhythm (something we all can use) with traditional Hawaiian percussion instruments and another workshop focusing on “Hawai’i Aloha,” the beautiful song that traditionally closes any Hawaiian gathering or ceremony. His students will also  learn the meaning and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian words.  (Imagine if you heard a visitor enthusiastically singing “Tinkle, tinkle, little star!”. . . . .Don’t be that person!)

And he will tell us stories.  Kaliko is a fabulous and gifted story teller who lovingly, and respectfully, recounts the ancient tales of his adopted homeland in the most entertaining manner. (Last year,  Kaliko’s  “story time” was the highlight of the afternoon for many of us.) Time permitting, he may also be our personal guide for an optional visit to Pu’ukoholā Heiau, a temple built by King Kamahameha and dedicated to Kū, the Hawaiian war god, and other local historic sites.

We couldn’t ask for a more informed, compassionate, or entertaining guide as we explore the music, culture, and history of Hawai’i. 

We sincerely hope you can join us.

Register Now

Brad Bordessa: Hometown ‘Ukulele Hero

Brad Bordessa has been with the five-year-old Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat from the beginning. But I have known him much longer than that.

We first met at Keoki Kahamoku’s Hawaiian Lifestyle Workshop in Pahala, back in 2007. Brad was just 14 years old at the time, but even then, he showed amazing promise and a passion for music that went well beyond wanting to “wow” everyone with youthful skill and speed. He was hungry to learn and eager to share what he was learning with everyone around him, but he did it in an unassuming and generous manner. Barely in their teens, Brad and a friend created Live ‘Ukulele,  one of the first on-line blogs devoted exclusively to the instrument. That blog, now more than 10 years old, is still maintained by Brad and is updated regularly with lessons, tabs, and gear reviews. To this day, it is a valuable resource for all students of the ‘ukulele.

Over the years, Brad, who now lives in  Honoka’a, just over the hill from Hawi, has been mentored by the very best:  Chuck Moore, George Kahumoku, Herb Ohta, Jr., and James Hill. And while Brad is an amazing performer and a thoughtful and talented songwriter, he also excels at sharing with his students all he has learned from the masters in an easy-going,  informative manner that is easy for “adult learners” to comprehend.

Brad is always on the look-out for things he thinks we need to learn and ways to teach complex concepts in an understandable fashion. That’s what he brings to the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat each year, That’s why we keep asking him back.

Among other things we can expect from Brad at the retreat this year are some definitive workshops on ‘Ukulele Chord Shapes, since he just wrote the book on that subject. He’ll also be teaching us how to play using our ears–and not our eyes–and how to strum and pick to deliver a cleaner, more polished, sound, over all. For more advanced players, Brad will be teaching a brand new workshop on how to tab out some favorite tunes, so you can create your own arrangements with a little finger picking, alternate chords, and chord melody. And he’s putting together a jam of contemporary Hawaiian tunes.

Brad joins an all star line-up at this year’s retreat in Hawi, October 15 – 21, with Gerald Ross, Kevin Carroll, Kaliko Beamer Trapp, Lady Ipo, and KonaBob and will be adding to an already comprehensive list of classes and workshops for ukulele players of all skill levels and genres.

While the Kohala Village Inn is totally booked, you can still register for this year’s retreat if you can find someplace nearby to stay! (Search Airbnb or VRBO for Hawi–there were still some great options available the last time I checked!) Or, feel free to contact us in case there have been any last minute cancellations.

Here’s a little “freebie:”

Really, you really should take this opportunity to take some classes from Brad now, so you can say, “I knew him when.”

Tchaikovsky comes to Hawai’i!

Tchaikovsky and Irish Fiddle Tunes!

jifkogfiddjpfbbkHave we got a treat for you! ‘Ukulele instructor extraordinaire, Kevin Carroll, will be joining us at the Kohala Village Inn, October 15 – 21, for the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, bringing incredible opportunities to learn and play world music with one of the finest instructors we know.

How about learning a little Celtic ‘Ukulele?  You’d be surprised at how similar in format and spirit an Irish “session” is to an Hawaiian kanikapila and how readily an ‘ukulele can play Celtic fiddle melodies!

Or how about a 5-day class in ‘Ukulele Blues & Soul to experience the gritty, rhythmic tones and textures that unfolded as “the blues” and morphed into “soul.”  Think Bessie Smith. The Four Tops. Vocalists, bass players, baritone and standard ukulele players will all find ample opportunities here to expand their skill sets.

And if you’re a classical music buff (and even if you’re not) you could work on your picking, strumming, timing, and learning to play as an ensemble while learning, practicing and performing Tchaikovsky’s Chanson Triste. . . . .on the ‘ukulele!

And because it is Hawai’i (and because Kevin always goes all out), don’t be surprised if  Kevin also brings us a couple of  arrangements of classic Tin-Pan-Alley “Hawaiian” tunes to play as an Hawaiian band!

Honi kâua wikiwiki!

We love working with Kevin Carroll and his students agree that he is simply one of the best ‘ukulele instructors out there.  We are over the moon that Kevin has agreed to join us in Hawi  and hope you will join us as well!

Registration is open and we still have rooms available in all categories, though all choices (especially with shared bathroom) are in increasingly short supply. Register soon for the most options.

Click here for more information.

New “Special Events” for 2017

As we wait for confirmation from some of our staff members, I thought you might like to see some of the “special events” we’ll be hosting at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, October 15 – 21. (These are in addition to our usual round-up of ongoing ‘ukulele, bass, lap steel, and hula classes and individual workshops.) We’ve gt a little bit of everything: star gazing with a pwo navigator, hikes to ancient temples, an ‘ukulele beach party, outrigger canoeing, and more.

Maka o Hule Navigation Heiau 

Those hoping to absorb some local history can join us for a short (1.8 mile) early-morning hike and photo opportunity along the lovely Kohala coast, strolling past inviting crystal clear coves before  a very short scramble up to Maka o Hule Navigation Heiau, an ancient  temple of upright stones that point, with remarkable accuracy, to ancient seafaring destinations thousands of miles away, a testament to the unsurpassed navigational skills of the ancient Polynesians.

At least a century before the Europeans made landfall in the Americas, Polynesians were actively engaged in trade with various peoples in South America and North America, introducing the locals to chicken and returning to Polynesia with sweet potatoes. They voyaged out of sight of land for weeks at a time, navigating thousands and thousands of miles of open ocean without a compass or chronometer, using their encyclopedic knowledge of the sun, the moon, the and the stars, tides, winds, currents, clouds, and ocean swells, animal migration,  weather patterns, and changes in the color of the sea. It is said that a Polynesian navigator could tell by the shape of a mid-ocean wave whether or not it had crested an island in the past 2 weeks.

A brotherhood of experts,  trained to have acute powers of observation and memory, the Polynesian navigators were also priests responsible for conducting the rituals of their profession, invoking spiritual help in their voyages, and passing their profound skill and knowledge on to the next generation.  This they did with songs or chants, repeated until mastered and memorized, at temples such as Maka o Hule, where we will have opportunity to view and appreciate the sacred stones pointing across the vast and tempestuous Pacific Ocean to the islands of Tahiti, the Marquesas and the other Southern Islands.

Optional Outrigger Canoeing

While you wan’t be paddling across vast stretches of the Pacific, through a special arrangement with the local canoe club, we can offer hour-plus rides and paddling instruction down at Kawaihae to retreat attendees for a $100 surcharge.   What a great way to experience Hawai’i as the Hawaiians do and to kick-off our annual Beach Party BBQ and KaniKaPila, held this year at Spencer Beach State Park.

Pu’ukoholā Heiau

But if outrigger canoeing doesn’t float your boat, you can join us for a short walk along the Ala Kahakai, a National Historic Trail, followed by a ranger-led tour of Pu’ukoholā Heiau, one of the best-preserved and most significant temple sites in Hawai’i, built by Kamahameha the Great and dedicated to the war god, Kū.

This is just a smattering of the Hawaiian history to be learned  here…..all within a few steps of Spencer Beach, one of the few white-sand beaches on the Big Island, where, after our tour, we will eat and swim and snorkel and kanikapila until they toss us out.

But wait!  There’s more……

Star Gazing at Kawaihae

“If there are conflicts, the navigator must resolve them; if there is sickness, the navigator’s responsibility is to heal; if there is damage, the navigator must repair it.  His kuleana is to sail and bring back gifts to his home island.”

Remember the Polynesian navigators we were just talking about?  Well, before we head home for the evening, we will be joined by Chadd ‘Ōnohi Paishon, pwo navigator and captain of Hawai’i Island’s own voyaging canoe, Makali’i, and the voyaging organization  Nā Kālai Wa‘a.  As the star begin to fill the sky, Chadd will guide us on a fascinating star gazing voyage through the darkness, a perfect way to cap an extraordinary day at Kawaihae.

How did we ever get so lucky?

And all of this is in addition to daily classes and workshops in ‘ukulele, lap steel guitar, bass, and hula, not to mention ongoing evening entertainment in one of the lovliest locations on the island, the Kohala Village Hub.

Wouldn’t you like to join us?  Registration is now open and we still have rooms available  in all categories.  But hurry, they won’t last.

Register Now