GK Reflection: Heritage Tour 2014

What was this last weekend like while on the Heritage Tour 2014?


photo: Scott Hillman Photography

I usually opened up the show with my chant E Ho Mai Ka Ike, then did about 22 minutes of songs with a hula by Nani Edgar, our Hanai niece from Ventura, who danced Hi’ilawe for me while Nancy manned the CD & Merchandise table. I told a few stories and sang a few more songs, then Stephen Inglis came up and we did a duet of Dennis Kamakahi’s Wahine Ili kea about the mist of Molokai while Nani danced.

Then Stephen played his solo set starting with Slackkey #1 from Sonny Chillingsworth taught to him by Ozzie Kotani. He then promoted his Molokai Album by singing a medley of songs he co-composed with Dennis Kamakahi and a few of his originals about Kalaupapa and the leper colony there.

We took a break , sold CDs met with and greeted people…

And then Waipuna commanded the stage with Dennis Kamakahi’s song about the winds of Molokai. What is unique about Waipuna is their blend of voices with Kale Hannah‘s baritone bass voice and bass ukulele, Matt Sproat’s falsesetto and guitar rhythm, and the lead pickings on ukulele and tenor voice of David Kamakahi.

It’s kind of neat to see all three performing sons of my childhood classmates from Kamehameha Schools, Neil & Mariann( Holu) Hannah’s whom I’ve known since 12-13 years old and Matts mom Zelda Zoller who was my Kamehameha classmate since Kindergarten since 4-5 years old and then of course, David’s dad, Dennis Kamakahi class of 1972.

What’s touring like when we’re not onstage? Being younger, the boys Matt and Kale hit the casinos at every opportunity and Kale did quite well on Blackjack. We share quite a few meals at the venues and the hotels together and all have a love and weakness for In-N-Out Burger. David tends to stay more to himself, like his dad Dennis does whenever I travelled with Dennis in the past.

The boys and Nani spent late nights around the pool taking story into the wee hours of the night while Nancy and I settled the CD receipts and printed out schedules and boarding passes for the next days flights. In LA the boys passed on an afternoon of chicken feet and dim sum before heading for the hotel to rest from the late night at the casino. Nani was a virgin chicken feet eater and I peeled out the bones for her so she wouldn’t choke! Being older Nancy and I got up early every morning to take advantage of the free breakfasts and hotel buffets. The “kids” were nowhere to be seen that early in the am between 6am-9 am. I also got to enjoy afternoon swims at the hotel pools.

Actually, I get to spend more time with Nancy on the road than when we’re home, which she loves! On the farm, there’s an endless array of farm work and mulching! I’m usually up by 3am and doing paper work or emailing until 6am. I make my own high protein shake with eggs, bananas, papayas from my garden plus frozen peaches and berries all mixed in with my homemade POG (juice mixture of PassionFruit, Orange, Guava).

On the road, somehow I get into hoarder mode and I start stashing packets of Best Foods Mayo, ketch soup [sic –ketchup] and shoyu.  I’m also into snacks from the Hawaiian Airlines premier lounge and all kinds of fruits, water and assorted snacks from our venues. So by the time we get back to OGG (Kahului, Maui) I got a big bag of goodies we never ate that I feed to my ducks, cookies, nuts, crackers, just to name a few.

It seems that the next generation is wired different from me with their carefree lifestyle of go sleep late and wake up late. I always like to be at the airport 2-3 hours early , while they like cruising in last minute, by the hair of their chinny chin chin! Also they aren’t as obsessed about food like I am! Whenever I go into an area, if I’m not performing or promoting, I want to experience the food from that area and I look forward to the food as much as the actual gig(s) that I’ve been booked to do in an area. For instance, in Tacoma, Nancy and I went shopping at Albertsons for snacks for our hula Dancers. I also brought Kimchee-style poke fish and Spam musubi from home. Kale’s Ohana brought a platter of Sushi. We added roasted chicken, fruits, cheeses, cold cuts, tomatoes, grapes, tangerines, oranges, tangelos and even Kings Hawaiian Sweet bread rolls we found at Albertsons. We tried to find Whole Foods Market in Tacoma but got side tracked and discovered it was a whole foods vitamin store not the market we were used to, here on Maui!

I know I’m getting older because I’m starting to think and act like how I remember my Dad and great grandfather would think and act. Except that I’m keeping up-to-date and toe-to-toe with social networking with the next generation. Whenever we had a break, each and everyone of us were in our own little worlds texting and emailing on our mobile devices.

On tour, it’s great to see and re-acquaint ourselves with friends and Ohana wherever we go. At least a third of these audiences have been to our show on Maui. We have increased or updated our mailing by at least 1000 people from our show survey forms and drawing for free CDs, DVDs and books!  (thank you Patti & Mort)

MIM Tour -photo from WaipunaMusic FaceBook

MIM Tour -photo from WaipunaMusic FaceBook

We also got a private tour of about an eighth of the collection of the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) where we played in Scottsdale AZ. It was here that we bonded with other musicians of the world seeing all the diverse cultures without boundaries with one thing in common: sharing music and celebrating rites of passage such as birth, marriage, death, house warmings, anniversaries, birthdays and so on, all using music!

All in all, the Tour was a blast and I see and get to experience how Stephen Inglis and the boys are attracting a new generation to Hawaiian Music.  And guess what? I’m keeping up and standing toe-to-toe with them. Lucky Me!

Pics to follow
GK -Sent from my iPhone


Hawaiian Heritage Tour 2014

Aloha from the Road (Hawaiian Heritage Tour April 2014)… George and troupe’s first stop was at the Rialto Theatre, Tacoma, Washington and then will continue on to Irvine, CA and then Phoenix, AZ.

Appearing along with George is slack key guitarist Stephen Inglis and, representing the next generation of Hawaiian music, Waipuna, with David Kamakahi. Featured dancer Nani Edgar, hanai niece from Ventura, along with assorted talent from local halaus round out the celebration at each venue.

Rialto in Tacoma, WA

Hana Hou!

First stop, Tacoma, Washington at the majestic Rialto Theatre. Mahalos to Drew Martin for providing these fresh images above from Tacoma.

Then on to Irvine, California…
Mahalos to Scott Hillman for sharing this photo below…


L-R: Stephen Inglis, Waipuna and George in Irvine, California

The Irvine appearance brought in crowds of old friends, ohana and new friends -what a wonderful turn out. Old friend Bradley Burnham was able to attend.  You might recall that Bradley blogged an article a couple of years ago about George and experiencing the Grammy Awards ceremony in 2011.  

Brad provided the shots below with the header, “Amazing night my friend! Warmest mahalo!
Mahalos to you Bradley for sharing…

And rounding out the tour… the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) Music Theater, Phoenix Arizona

Stephen was great playing Sonny Chillingsworth SK #1 that he learned from Ozzie Kotani.

Again an overwhelming turnout of friends and family:

Robert Lee sent a snapshot and wrote, “Great time, great to see you!“.

Mike & Olga Tarro brought us [sic] dessert teas with dessert flowers and herbs to try.

George met with his hanai nephew JJ Pritcher (Melaannas Son), his wife and in-laws.


Wende Stitt: passion for Hawaiian kapa cloth making

KQED – Public Media for Northern California just published a great online article with an accompanying YouTube video of great friend Wende Stitt of Santa Cruz and her passion for Hawaiian Kapa cloth making.

Santa Cruz Quilter Helps Piece Together the Lost Art of Hawaiian Kapa
By Cynthia Stone | Apr 10, 2014

George’s music was used for the video and he makes a cameo appearance modeling the kihei that Wende made for him. BTW, a kihei is a traditional cloak-like garment most often tied at the shoulder and George plans to use his when he officiates weddings.


Wendeanne Ke`aka Stitt is an unusual name for a nice Hungarian-Irish girl. In Hawaiian, it means “the mischievous laugh,” a name given to Stitt by her Hawaiian language teacher, Kau`i Peralto, at Stanford University. Anyone who spends time with Stitt soon knows how well the name suits her.  Though not Hawaiian by blood, Stitt is Hawaiian at heart she says.

Stitt has embarked on an artistic and cultural journey into the world of traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth making, a cultural tradition that was once lost and is still little understood. Today Stitt’s work in kapa is on exhibit in museums and galleries around and world. And her pieces are worn in important protocol ceremonies and performances in Hawaii, like the Merrie Monarch Festival.

Stitt is honored to be part of a culture she so admires. “The Hawaiians were artists,” she says. “Their tools were beautiful, you know their cloth was beautiful, their tattoos, their music is beautiful.” And their way of thinking and being is as well. “You have to stay within a Hawaiian mindset when you pound kapa,” she maintains. “Which is one of humility — of being humble and of being grateful for what you’re doing. Only then,” she says, “can you pound beautiful kapa.”

Last October, the SFGate published an article on Wende Stitt if you want to read more about her…
SFGate: Santa Cruz quilter imbues aloha into kapa cloth
by Beth Hughes | Oct 5, 2013


A Review by John Burger

 Here is a review by John Burger the original version can be read here.   These CD’s and DVD’s can be purchased in our CD section.

“‘From Paradise’

Norton Buffalo and George Kahumoku Jr. (Moon Valley Music)

From Paradise CD CoverAn eight-minute rendition of “Amazing Grace,” sung in Hawaiian and English, is one of the musical gems in this amazing collaboration by slack key master George Kahumoku Jr., and harmonica wizard Norton Buffalo. Slack key guitar and country/blues harmonica, English lyrics and Hawaiian, are blended beautifully through a random selection of Hawaiian classics, hapa-haole standards and songs of more recent vintage. The two friends’ voices mix and match nicely as well.

Buffalo’s harmonica adds a pleasent retro feel to “Waikiki Hula.” Slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson joins in on a imaginative arrangement of “Waipahe‘e” that redefines the song as acoustic blues. Herb Ohta Jr., Dennis Kamakahi and Keoki Kahumoku sit in on others.

Buffalo died in 2009. This beautifully produced album is an excellent retrospective on one facet of his work.

‘The Best of The Slack Key Show Volume 1?

George Kahumoku Jr., Da Ukulele Boys and Sterling Seaton

Best of SK Show Vol 1 CD CoverGeorge Kahumoku’s long-running series weekly slack key concerts on Maui — they’re currently known as “The Slack Key Show – Masters of Hawaiian Music” — have showcased many of Hawaii’s slack key guitar masters and their peers in other genres of traditional Hawaiian music. The shows have also been a platform for his young protégés — slack key guitarist Sterling Seaton, and Garrett Probst and Peter deAquino who perform as Da Ukulele Boys. All three earn their place in this DVD anthology of recent performances.

Kahumoku is the narrator as well as one of the featured performers. He opens the DVD with a brief history of the concert series and introduces each of the performance clips with information about the songs. The “boys” talk about their experiences as his students and as performers.

The camera work is simple but effective. The interaction between deAquino and guest artist Herb Ohta Jr., on “Body Surfing,” an instrumental written by his father, Herb “Ohta-san Ohta, makes the number one of the highlight performances. The three “boys” talk several times about the experience of playing with master musicians but “Body Surfing” shows it happening as Ohta and deAquino trade off on lead and respond to each other.”

“The Best of The Slack Key Show Volume 1” is available on our website

George Kahumoku Jr. documentary ‘A Hawaiian Life’ in production

Here is a piece on Uncle George by the Lahaina news.  You can read the original version Here.

“WEST MAUI – “George Kahumoku Jr. is so much more than just a musician – he’s a way of life. In truth, I was wrong when I wrote that. He is so much more. He’s an inspiration,” noted Jamie O’Brien, Celtic musician and music reviewer.

There’s a reason he’s been called “Hawaii’s Renaissance Man.” George Kahumoku Jr. is a multiple Grammy Award and Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning master slack key guitarist, songwriter, world-traveling performer, high school teacher and college professor, artist and sculptor, storyteller and writer, farmer and entrepreneur.

His music, teaching, art and influence have reached across the ocean from Hawaii to the Mainland USA, and all the way to Europe and Japan.  

To tell Kahumoku’s story in a 90-minute movie, Maui producer Dave Berry is beginning a documentary on Uncle George entitled “A Hawaiian Life.”

Similar to his book, this feature-length film will focus on the three main areas of Kahumoku’s public life – teaching, farming and music – and it will show how aloha and ohana connect them all. 

Funds are being raised to produce this documentary, which can then be aired on national and local Hawaiian networks, film festivals and schools in Hawaii.

The goal of $30,000 has almost been reached. Supporters are asked to go to Kickstarter.com, George Kahumoku Jr. A Hawaiian Life and make a pledge. The $25 donation includes an autographed copy of the DVD when it’s completed.

“George, in my opinion, is the absolute soul of Hawaiian traditional music. He has given his life to helping kids at risk and opening many searching souls to the wonders of playing Hawaiian slack key music, starting when these tunings were kept secret. George was one of the people who helped open up this wonderful tradition to the world,” remarked Sandy Miranda Robinett, a broadcaster in the San Francisco Bay area.

Kahumoku hosts Hawaii music legends at his four-time Grammy Award-winning “Slack Key Show – Masters of Hawaiian Music” concerts held at the Napili Kai Beach Resort Pavilion each Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.”

A Review of George’s “Soulful Tribute” From Paradise

Here is a review by Jon Woodhouse.  The original can be viewed Here.

 “George Kahumoku Jr. first met blues harmonica virtuoso Norton Buffalo back in the early 1990s. The two musicians struck up a friendship that blossomed into playing the occasional gig together, collaborating on workshops and over the years, recording a bunch of songs.

As a tribute to the late harmonica great, who died in 2009, George has just released “From Paradise,” a wonderful CD that seamlessly blends the talents of two masters of their instruments.

“I met him through Jesse Colin Young,” George recalls. “I performed for Jesse’s wedding in the ’80s and helped him plant about 20 acres of mac nuts (on the Big Island). Eventually he had kids and they went to the Waldorf School I taught at in Kona. He would do fundraisers and Jesse would bring Norton over. We jammed and recorded ‘Lei Pikake’ for Dancing Cat in the ’90s (on “Hawaiian Love Songs” CD). Then we did the “Hawaiian War” chant on our (‘The Spirit of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar”) album in 2008.

“We recorded together over 15 years,” George continues. “We wanted to do some originals by each of us. I had to learn his songs and he had to learn mine. His were easy because they were in English, but he had to learn Hawaiian. He practiced ’til he got it perfect. His pronunciation was impeccable. He was really a musician’s musician. He was known for the blues, but he can play anything.”

One of the most versatile harmonica players of our time, the acclaimed harpist is best known for his work recording and touring for decades with the Steve Miller Band. Over the years he also recorded with Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Loggins, the Doobie Brothers (including the Grammy Award-winning “Minute By Minute”) Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers and Elvin Bishop.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 2009.

“He had a hard time breathing and found he had lung cancer,” George reports. “In less than a month he was gone. He didn’t smoke, but he played in a lot of bars in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, so a lot of smoking, and as a harmonica player he was breathing extra.”

One might not expect to hear the harmonica in the context of Hawaiian slack key guitar, but Norton’s warm tone, expressive ability and empathy for the material makes this a remarkable collaboration.

“A lot of people don’t realize Hawaiians did everything,” says George. “Like the song ‘Hi’ilawe’ was actually composed on the violin, not the guitar. My grandfather played harmonica and accordion, we had a lot of influences from different cultures.”

Opening in paniolo territory with the country calypso of Norton’s “Another Day,” the album flows into George’s “Ku’u ‘Aina Aloha o Kahakuloa” moving tribute to his home land and winds through songs by the Rev. Dennis Kamakahi, Kui Lee, the Makaha Sons’ ‘Moon’ Kauakahi and Queen Lili’uokalani.

Besides Norton’s wife, Lisa Flores-Buffalo, a gifted guitarist who plays on many of the songs, guests on the album include Dennis Kamakahi, Jeff Peterson, Herb Ohta Jr., and Keoki Kahumoku.

“We all jammed together at my workshops,” George notes. “But we didn’t have anything recorded together, so when they found out he passed on they all wanted to participate in some way.”

Among the jewels on the album, the duo delivers a sublime, 8-minute version of “Amazing Grace,” sung in Hawaiian and English. Other songs range from the funky blues shuffle of “Waipahe’e” and Kamakahi’s beautiful love song “Kou Aloha Mau a Mau,” to the retro /jazzy “Waikiki Hula” and the closing, classic Neopolitan song “Torna a Surriento,” performed as an instrumental by Norton and his wife.

“We had about 60s songs,” George says. “We tried to do stuff that gave the most soul, as a tribute.”

Besides releasing the new CD, George is currently involved in a new documentary on his life, directed by filmmaker Dave Barry. “He’s been filming me for about the last year and half,” George explains. “Any time we did a show he would put it on YouTube and now we get about 300,000 hits a day on our web site. We’ve got to do a lot of editing, so we were trying to raise some money.”

Funding is being sought through a KickStarter campaign to produce a 90-minute documentary. So far they’ve raised about two thirds of the funds needed.


George Kahumoku Jr. hosts the weekly Masters of Hawaiian Music shows at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on Wednesday evenings. Led Kaapana next performs at 7:30 p.m. on July 11.”

An Article Written About Uncle George by Jeff Kaliss

Here is a piece written about Uncle George the original can be read on http://www.guitarplayer.com/article/how-to-play/oct-05/14342.  It was written by Jeff Kaliss.  His website can be seen here.

“Even when I’m in the studio, I’m imagining my whole ohana or family playing with me,” he says. “I look on myself as being the leftover—the DNA—of all the culture.”

As a small boy in the 1950s, Kahumoku listened to his great grandfather and other relatives vocalizing on the back porch to the accompaniment of guitars tuned to D-Wahine [D, A, D, F, A, C, low to high]. Such open tunings are a foundation of the slack key style, but for many years every ohana guarded its own tuning closely, effectively keeping  much of the music private. Nonetheless, the legendary Gabby Pahinui released the first commercial recordings of slack key guitar in the mid ’40s, and, earlier in the century, a few aspects of Island musical culture had been successfully exported—including pop tunes, the hula, the ukulele, and the use of slides on ukuleles and guitars.

Of course, slack key guitar is no longer esoteric, and, for the past ten years, Kahumoku has disseminated slack key tunings, techniques, and other aspects of the culture at his slack key guitar Workshops on Maui, as well as producing instructional DVDs with his son Keoki Kahumoku. Instructional materials are also available from Keola Beamer, Ledward Kaapana, and elder veteran Ray Kane, who, along with a host of others, have released albums of traditional and original slack key material on the Santa Cruz-based Dancing Cat label. Mixed into the track lists are hymns, ragtime novelties from the ukulele-crazy ’20s, lounge numbers from the ’50s and ’60s, and an occasional rock reference—all of which reflect the range of the players’ influences and career experiences.

On Maui, the guitarists are showcased in a weekly Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Series at the Ritz-Carlton at Kapalua and the nearby Napili Kai Beach Resort. Kahumoku’s genial sets as host are interspersed with his tales of island life—his “talking story”—and with hula danced by his buoyant wife, Nancy. Compilations from this series, assembled by Kahumoku and fellow guitarist and ukulele player Daniel Ho, have garnered Grammys for Best Hawaiian Music Album two years in a row.

Manifest in these performances and recordings are approximately 20 open tunings (each chosen to match the vocal range of the singer), varieties of instrumentation (though many players work solo), and the varying tonal and dynamic demands of the repertoire. When playing with an ensemble, Kahumoku favors the Taro Patch F tuning [C, F, C, F, A, C, low to high] that is suggestive of the traditional role of the vegetable taro in Hawaiian creation myths, and also of Kahumoku’s second career as a farmer.


The primal theme of creation is also evoked by the i’i (or vibrato) in traditional Hawaiian singing, and by the manner in which the Islanders retrofitted guitars that were left behind in the mid-19th Century by Mexican vaqueros who had been brought in to help manage imported cattle. In short, the Islanders slackened the standard tunings, setting open chords to the harmonically simple but vibrant pre-European melodies, including chants celebrating the creation and proliferation of the natural world.

Some of the techniques of slack key fingering are thought to mirror the traditional ornamentations of Hawaiian vocalists. They include hammer-ons, pull-offs, sliding on a single string or two strings—often in parallel thirds, fifths, or octaves—and slurring, which Kahumoku describes as an “oscillating slide.” Players combine these ingredients to create the most recognizable of slack-key flavors: arpeggiated vamps or turnarounds played on the upper strings, most often over a V7-I or II-V7-I cadence. Additionally, chiming harmonic overtones achieved by gently touching the 5th, 7th, or 12th frets are an evocation of traditional falsetto or leo ki’eki’esinging.

But what Kahumoku hears as special in the slack key style are its strong foundational bass lines—alternating octaves or fifths on the sixth, fifth, and/or fourth strings that support the harmonies and melodies played simultaneously on the higher strings. Using a ProPik on his thumb and a John Pearse on his index finger, Kahumoku rounds out the satisfying fullness of slack key with rhythm fills, often on the fourth and third strings. Most players work this multi-timbral magic on 6-string instruments, but it sounds even more impressive on Kahumoku’s 12-string guitars, which include a black graphite RainSong WS3000 (customized with a wider neck to fit his sturdy fingers), an A. Davis J12MCS jumbo (customized with engraved hibiscus fret markers and koa and abalone trim), and a Taylor 855ce Jumbo. Kahumoku plays the RainSong when composing and teaching, but the A. Davis is his main performance instrument.

“It has a full sound, as well as the thumping bass I love,” he says. “Also, its string pairs are set far enough apart for easier picking.”

Both instruments have been fitted with L.R. Baggs pickups (the RainSong also has a second pickup taken from a Larivée), and are strung with light- or extra-light-gauge Elixir Strings. Kahumoku strings the Taylor with D’Addarios. The Taylor is fitted with the company’s Expression System pickups.

Over the past few decades, slack key guitar music has served as the soundtrack to a resurgence of pride in island heritage, including the musically sophisticated legacy of Liliuokalani, reigning queen of Hawaii until the U.S. placed her under military house arrest in 1895. Kahumoku’s lovely and virtuosic slack key recording of the Queen’s most famous composition, “Aloha ’Oe,” is an effective summons to other musicians willing to explore beyond stereotypes and assumptions in search of a subtle and satisfying tradition.

Wao Akua – Forest of the Gods Now Nominated for a Hoku Award


We are pleased to announce that George’s album

WAO AKUA – FOREST OF THE GODS (Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Instrumentals)


WaoAkua George's Grammy and Hoku nominated album

Has been nominated for a Na Hoku Hanaohano Award in the Slack Key Album of the Year? category.  The other 4 nominees are

  • Dennis Kamakahi and Stephen Inglis
  • James Kimo West
  • Patrick Landeza
  • Doug and Sandy McMaster

Congratulations to all the nominees.  Dennis & Stephen have presented their beautiful compositions at our weekly Slack Key Show-Masters of Hawaiian Music series here on Maui.  Kimo West will be appearing at our show again this fall.

The Hokus will be held May 27, 2012.

George’s Wao Akua was also honored to be nominated in the new “Regional Roots” category of the 54th Grammy Awards held in February 2012.

Dryland Kalo Growing [Taro] In South Kona

 This is another essay written by George in the seventies on growing Taro.  Keep in mind that when he wrote this he lived on the Big Island, today he lives on Maui.

“During the 1920′s to the 1950′s according to my Uncle Willie
Kahumoku, kalo was grown by our family mostly for home use.
In Honaunau my uncle Charlie Mokuohai and Aunty Anna farmed

about forty acres of taro for commercial poi use and owned Royal Poi. Anyone with extra taro would sell to Royal Hawaiian
Poi. The varieties we grew in Kealia, where I now reside, forpoi were mainly lehua maoli, lehua ula ula, poni, palali’i,
nauea, o’opu kai and several varieties of piko taro such as
piko lehua and piko keokea. The table-eating varieties we grew

were mostly mana ulu, mana keokea and mana ‘ele’ele. Mana
‘opelu, kumu and lauloa varieties and one called “pake taro”(but not the bunlong variety) we grew for pig feed and ‘opelu
(mackerel fish) chum, as these had less favorable
characteristics. They were too itchy to eat, made poi “hu”,
(rise and overflow), or were huge and/or with lots of keikis.

We fished and planted by the moon. We found that the three
nights before the full moon called Po ‘Akua, Po Hoku and Po Mahealani were best for planting taro. We sometimes planted taro on Hilo or new moon. Other moon phases were used to plant
ulu (breadfruit), ko (sugar cane), maila (bananas) and uala
(sweet potatoe). Like my ancestors, I still use the 0’0 or
digging stick for planting, exept my
10’0 was made of spring
steel instead of wood. Taro was planted by softening the earth
with the
’010 and planted maka lua (two eyes or two huli) in a hole twenty four inches wide in rows four feet apart. It was lonely and would grow better side by side with a friend.

Before planting the land was prepared by clearing, slashing and burning. The huli was Holo makaukau (made ready before
hand). All taro was planted at a slanted 45° angle in a Ku or Hina fashion. The ku style of planting slanted the huli 90° perpendicular toward the sun’s path across the sky. The
hina style of planting taro placed the huli 90° away from the
sun’s path across the sky. “Ku” was used for making big corms
with little or no keikisi “Hina” was used for building up huli
and making lots if keikis.

During the early 1900′s mango, hau and kukui trees were
planted near the stone walled edges of the fields. Along with
ama’u ferns the young leaves of these trees were used to pori

or mulch from six to twelve inches deep around the newly planted
taro once that taro had taken and was standing up (about six

to eight weeks after planting). It was the job of the youngsters
ages twelve to seventeen to climb the trees and break off the
young branches. Even today if you go into the South Kona
uplands, one can find huge groves of mango, hau and kukui planted
on the edges of the taro and the leaves were also used for
fertilizer and mulching. Before the taro began to cover and
canopy the entire ground, around three months old, it was weeded one last time and left alone until harvest. No one was allowed
to play or make noise near the kalo patch as it was a sacred

The taro grew to six, seven and even eight feet tall. When
the leaves would start to shrink and drop the corms would begin
to form.
When the leaves were three to four feet in height or between six to twelve months old, depending on the variety,
the taro
was harvested. If not harvested in time certain
varieties like lehua would begin to loli-loli or rot. You were
considered a good taro farmer if four to fi
ve maka lua (or holes)
harvested filled a one hundred ten pound coffee bag. The taro
was then taken home where it was steamed in the imu or on an
open fire in a fifty-five gallon drum. The taro was then pounded

into pari ‘ai with a stone poi pounder by two folks sitting
across from each other straddling one long poi board. It was fun to hear the kupunas’ poi pounders “talk” to each other while
pounding poi.

Pari ‘ai was really stiff pounding taro with little or no
water added. The pari ‘ai was placed in thirty gallon kela
mania (earthen crocks) for storage. Poi was then made by putting

into smaller bowls of about two gallons each and fermented
according to individual taste. My great-grandmother liked her
poi three to four weeks old, white and bubbl
y, as does my older
brother who grew up with our great-grandparents.

Today we still grow taro much like our kupunas did, except
we use commercial fertilizer, pig manure and macadamia nut and
coffee husks for mulch along with the mango, ti and banana

Thank you for this opportunity to share.


To this day you still can't take five steps in George's garden without finding some taro.


A Hawaiian Perspective on Taro Growing by George Kahumoku Jr.

This is an essay of George’s I found while scanning his songs from his old song book to his iPad for him.  He wrote it in 1978, enjoy.

A Hawaiian Perspective on Taro Growing by George Kahumoku Jr.

“Taro has been documented in Chinese history 100 B.C. and
Egyptian history 1000 B.C. According to Hawaiian oral history
as passed on by Kupuna Aunty Edith Kanaka’ole and shared with
those like myself, the Hawaiian genesis of mankind began when
Wakea the god of the sky, vibrated with Papa, the earth goddess.
The result of this first union was a keiki ‘alu alu or
flabby-fetus born-dead. This fetus was buried near the south
end of the house where sprung forth the Kalo or taro plant,
called Haloa-naka or long-stalk-trembling. Those of us who
have been around taro, with a light wind blowing, may have
noticed this long stalk trembling behavior first observed by
the Gods.

A second union between Wake a and Papa produced man.

Henceforth, according to Hawaiian oral tradition, the Kalo or
taro plant is the eldest brother of man. Like the old time
Japanese samurai, who believed that the spiritual energy or
“mana” was passed on best by the first-born of the first-born
of the subsequent generations, the Hawaiians believed that the
taro or kalo was spiritually superior to man who was second
born. This belief was so strong that only men (not women,
because of their monthly cycles) were allowed to work in the
taro patch and do the food preparation, including poi pounding.
Post missionary contact and new belief systems gave women more
freedom in relationship to food growing and the preparaticn
and eating of taro.

Today many of the links between taro and man have survived
via the Hawaiian language. The word for family, ohana, comes
directly from the word “oha”, or young shoots of the taro, and “na”, the Hawaiian word denoting plurality, or many young shoots.
The huli or “keiki” refer to the children in the family.


taro that is mature and ready to harvest is called makua, the
Hawaiian word’for parent. The taro that has long been harvested
and eaten is called Kupuna, the Hawaiian word for grandparent.

One of my favorite reasons for planting taro (besides
eating) is for the spiritual link to my ancestral older brother,
the Kalo. It reminds me of where I came from and where I’m
going. Taro also needs the inter-relationship with man in order
to survive and do well. This show of affection.”