Like Admiral Stockdale at the Vice-Presidential debate years ago, I sometimes ask: “Who am I? Why am I here?”
With this newspaper, as is the case with many of my Hawaiian activities in the region, I’m an odd man out – well, not necessarily out, but certainly odd. I was neither born nor raised in Hawai`i. I often tell people I’m from the land-locked island of Ee-oh-vah, sort of a Hawaiian way of saying “Iowa.” I came to Seattle in 1984, after eight years at a public radio station in Cedar Rapids, to work at the U-Dub’s KUOW-FM. During eleven years there, I was an on-air host; the director of all station operations, studios, productions and satellite facilities; and producer of live broadcasts, such as the Northwest Folklife Festival and the nationally-syndicated “Potluck” show.
My knowledge of Hawaiian music didn’t extend much further than “Hawai`i Calls” and other hapa-haole material before coming to the Northwest, where slack-key entered my ears. (In fact, I produced the slack-key recordings at Folklife in 1993, which ended up providing most of the material for the Festival's most successful CD.) Falling in love with a woman from Kane`ohe was the real turning point, however, as all the visits to her family back home gave me the opportunity to discover the huge range of Island music. As she’s fond of saying, no one has more zeal than the convert – and that zealot is me.
Coming home from a trip to O`ahu years ago, I started speculating about what it might be like to study hula – which was a weird thought for me, as I had a fear of dancing (undoubtedly due to my high-school years coinciding with the disco boom.) A few days later, there was a newspaper story about Gloria Napualani Fujii, a kumu hula I had met years before on a radio show. Taking this as a smack in the head from an all-knowing (and somewhat smart-assed) universe, I began attending classes. This led to beginning `ukulele lessons later that year, a skill that I developed much faster than dancing (or “slightly coordinated flailing,” in my case.)
After that came an invitation from Stephen Gomes to join the `ohana for “Hawai`i Radio Connection” – a move that I learned later was a huge risk on his part, but I knew radio and I now knew Hawaiian music pretty well. I also program Hawaiian music for Muzak, which plays all over the Islands , and I joined HARA (the folks who present the Hoku Awards.) The radio shows led to meeting Rochelle, and talking with her and Stephen about their dream to launch a community paper. I had done music reviewing for several publications over the years, so I was willing to give it a try for this new project. You’ve seen the result over the past year, I hope.
I’m grateful to folks like Gloria, Stephen, Rochelle, Bill Nahalea, Danny Kaopuiki, and many others, for putting their faith in a mainland haole who professes a love for the culture they grew up with. I’m constantly humbled by the acceptance that the Hawaiian community in this area has shown me, in the guidance they have provided, the trust they have given, and the openness with which they have embraced me. I can think of no better example of “aloha spirit.”
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