“As in the past when times were wrong, the common folks come together in song … They can’t take away our music.” — Eric Burdon and War from the 1970 single “They Can’t Take Away Our Music”
With showrooms, nightclubs, lounges and bars closed due to the coronavirus crisis, Hawaii-resident musicians are sharing their music and their aloha online. Some artists are posting video clips of single songs, others are presenting concert-length performances from their homes or their yards.
“It’s been keeping us sane as musicians and I think keeping the public sane, too,” Lehua Kalima said last week via social media. Kalima, a founding member of Na Leo Pilimehana as well as a solo artist, has been posting a new song on Facebook each day (facebook.com/lehuakalima). “I’ve been gravitating towards classic oldies songs from the 1940s through the 1970s ‘cause they’re just sweet and nostalgic.”
“Shawn (Pimental) and I also started a live show weekly in which we take requests online and have been giving out prizes to the viewers and listeners from local vendors to try and promote all the local businesses which need extra love during this time.”
Maui guitarist Kawika Ortiz shares Kalima’s view that posting performances online keeps people connected. “I perform at the hotels, so many of my consistent audiences are on the mainland, so it’s a great way of staying connected to them. I post some original music like ‘Heart of Maui,’ but I also do stuff that is outside of the realm of ‘tourist music.’ ”
The online performances have also resonated within the musical community. Jake Shimabukuro says it was “pretty cool seeing a lot of my local musician friends doing these online concerts together, and it gave me some inspiration to do an online concert just by myself. It felt really good to just play some music and connect with people, and just to have some contact with the outside world. It was really healing in some ways.”
Shimabukuro has been performing on Facebook Live, go to facebook.com/jakeshimabukuromusic for upcoming shows.
Other island entertainers have also been making good use of online platforms. Kristian Lei posted a Na Hoku Hanohano Award-worthy reworking of Keith Whitley’s 1986 hit, “Ten Feet Away,” as the COVID-19 themed “Six Feet Away” on Facebook. Ukulele virtuoso Bryan Tolentino previewed his next album on Facebook with a beautiful instrumental arrangement of David Kupele’s classic, “Jungle Rain.” Slack key guitarist Stephen Inglis is “sharing songs new and old” on his website.
Multi-instrumentalist Rocky Holmes (clarinet, flute and sax) is taking requests, his choice of instrument depending on the song. Selections to date include “Georgia on My Mind,” “E Maliu Mai” and “Stranger on the Shore.” Holmes stacks them on his Facebook page so they play automatically and provide a cheery soundtrack for time spent in isolation.
Violinist Duane Padilla used split-screen technology to create a four-violin arrangement of the Two Steps From Hell album track, “Flight of the Silverbird” on YouTube.
Hung Tsun-Hui, Hawaii’s resident virtuoso on the erhu — a Chinese two-string fiddle — is working long-distance with a guitarist in Michigan, Robert Lunn. The duo’s arrangements of “Abana in Heaven,” “The Godfather Theme” and “Amazing Grace” are beautiful cross-cultural creations; they are posted on Lunn’s YouTube channel.
Multifaceted musician Jeff Peterson has pivoted from touring to teaching online (jeffpetersonguitar.com). He’s filming lessons for his upcoming ukulele book and lessons for his online ukulele and slack key courses; he’s also posting music videos for the public, and doing weekly seminars on Zoom.
And while most island entertainers accompany themselves with a guitar or ukulele, acoustic “stand-up bass” was Po‘ai Lincoln’s instrument of choice for her video performance of “Pane Mai” on Facebook.
“The song is all about loving your lover,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “But we gotta practice social distancing, so make it a phone call or a video date!”
Kelly “Kelly Boy” DeLima, founder and leader of Kapena, and Grant “Lanai” Tabura — known simply as Lanai — have been leaders in producing full-length concerts online.
“Kelly Boy and I thought we would do something nice for the community,” Lanai said, of Facebook Live videos. “The whole concept is to get people together like the way we do when we sit at home and have a beer and kanikapila (play music). Last month I was at his house and he said, ‘We go do ‘em at my house.’ We’re not trying to make this a radio station thing or a television thing. What we’re trying to do is make this a community thing.”
Other resident entertainers have had the same idea. Kamuela Kahoano presented a self-produced an hour-and-a half-long “kitchen session” show on Facebook during which he played fan favorites, took requests and introduced his response to COVID-19, a song titled “Corona, One Seat Away.” Veteran bar band entertainer and recording artist Sunway Sunwei got her band together for a full-length concert they recorded outdoors, with each performer more than 6 feet away from the others (cameraman Devon Nekoba wore a mask).
“As suddenly unemployed professional musicians, we wanted to find a way to keep the music alive, and show our appreciation and aloha,” Sunwei said via Facebook Messenger. “Someone set up a PayPal account for us while we were performing and we are sharing the funds donated equally between us.”
Bruddah Wade Faildo, founder and content creator/talent of an online radio station, Hawaiian Music Live (hawaiianmusiclive.xyz), has expanded the format to include real-time audio broadcasts of the livestream concerts. Faildo said the quality of the performances has increased exponentially.
“It’s not ‘Oh, I’ll just go live’ in front of their iPhone,” he said. “They’re putting on an aloha shirt, throwing on a lei and making sure that the surroundings where they’re shooting are decent, and hooking up to an actual sound system so that the audio quality is actually pretty good.”
For instance, Hoku Zuttermeister, who has been posting Facebook Live videos, wore an aloha shirt on when he played classic Hawaiian and hapa-haole songs Wednesday in his backyard for a little over an hour (facebook.com/hoku.zuttermeister.1). Kapena — DeLima, his son, Kapena DeLima, and daughters, Kalena and Lilo — also has been broadcasting live on Facebook from a neatly furnished living room (facebook.com/kapenamusic).
Entertainers have also been collaborating remotely. For the third episode of the Haku Collective’s weekly “Live! Mele in the Hale” series (hakuhawaii.com/meleinthehale), recording artist Kimie Miner and celebrity host Malika Dudley welcomed Kapena and Amy Hanaiali‘i for a show themed “Share Your TP Share Your Aloha.”
“We’re all in this together.” Miner said in an email. “We hope you’re inspired to rise above and encouraged to continue sharing your aloha with your community as much as we are.”
Vocalist Natalie Ai Kamauu and her husband, Io Kamauu, shared an uplifting message.
“We are realizing that this is helping us get through as much or even more as those who receive it,” she said. “Though we have lost income, what we are gaining at this time is priceless. I’m sure when we look back at this time, we will do so with some measure of gratitude.”