Archive for April, 2014

  • Aloha-Mahalo Dennis Kamakahi

    photo: Steve Hillman

    Last night, while attending a University of Hawaii Maui College workshop on soil enhancement using Indigenous Micro Organisms (IMO), I got a call from Robin Kamakahi, Dennis’ wife.  She let me know that Dennis had passed away at about 4:30 pm that afternoon [April 28, 2014]…

    To me, Dennis Kamakahi was Hawaii’s greatest song composer since Queen Lili’uokalani. Dennis wrote about the simple things in life and was a great observer of nature. He wrote love songs,(Pua Hone) and songs about the Hihiwai (fresh water escargot) and Ka Opae (river shrimp). He wrote Wahi Pana– (place name) songs like Koke’e. He wrote songs about our Chiefs, songs about our Winds, our Waterfalls (Wahine Ili Kea), and those dear to us (Luther Makekau). He wrote in the “real” old style, simple catchy tunes that we could keep beat to with our feet, and his poetry was such that his words will be remembered for generations, yet unborn. Hula dancers around the world dance to Dennis’ compositions.

    In my family alone, we span five generations who sang or danced hula to Dennis’ songs.  He was schooled by the school of hard knocks and learned from Hawaiian Masters such as Eddie Kamae, and studied Hawaiian language and Hawaiian poetry with Tutu Kawena Pukui and played music for Aunty Iolani Luahine. He was a great friend and we traveled the world together with Richard Hoopii sharing our Hawaiian culture, Hawaiian stories and Hawaiian music. All Hawaii, and the world, mourn his death and today, the skies cry in Kahakuloa Maui where we live, blessing his passing. Last night I saw a great Hoailona (sign) of white light amongst the clouds of the Wahine IliKea (mist) of where we live in Kahakuloa. I believe it was our ancestors parting the clouds revealing the heavens and creating a pathway for my brother in music, Dennis Kamakahi! Dennis will continue to live through us through his songs! E Ola Dennis! Blessings to his family from Kahakuloa Maui.

    DGRpresskit-smlLast Friday, Uncle Richard Hoopii and I went over to Queens Hospital in Honolulu to share time and space with Dennis and his wife Robin . We sang songs and played Hawaiian hymns and played Dennis’ compositions and prayed and once in a while, from his bed, Dennis would keep beat with his feet or head and play air guitar with us. As in the past Dennis would take a solo Pa’ani just like when we toured all over the world together. This time playing his air guitar, fingers moving, holding his Slackkey cords in his C or taro patch G tuning.

    Dennis’ Aloha Spirit will live on through his legacy of songs. When we used to travel together, touring, I was often the driver and Dennis would navigate using his computer and later his iPhone. Mahalo nui Dennis for helping many of us navigate not just on the road but all through this life! It has been an honor to share time and space during my lifetime with such a talented and great poet and songwriter.

    The other night our friends Ed and Kim Tyler invited us to see Bob Dylan, noted as being one of America’s greatest poet and song composer. Unlike Dennis, Bob Dylan couldn’t sing worth a damn but his poetry and songs were often written in questions such as: How many times? as in …Blowin in the Wind!

    Thinking about Dennis and seeing Bob Dylan made me yearn to take more time to write more songs about our observances of life on this earth. Think about it! Imagine writing more songs?  Thanks Dennis.  Thanks Bob. Just my 2 cents for today!

    -Uncle George
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Mahalo to Scott Hillman who graciously has posted a gallery of Uncle Dennis.
    “All of the photos are downloadable from the site.  When I first heard about Dennis’s diagnosis, I was hoping that I would never have to do this, but now, I am grateful that I have these memories to remind me of the friendship that we shared, and that I can share these images with others.”
    -Mahalo,  Scott Hillman

    KITV4’s Brenton Awa remembers the Hawai’i music legend with this video from the April 28, 2014 Newscast:

    Another video courtesy of and Hawaii News Now:
    Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL


    [UPDATE: May 1, 2014, 11:46 am] Elaine Woo published a very nice obituary in the online Los Angeles Times [,0,3434368.story]  in part she wrote…

    Dennis Kamakahi dies at 61; guitarist was ‘ambassador of aloha’
    Dennis Kamakahi, a prolific songwriter and master of slack key guitar whose music helped propel a renaissance of traditional Hawaiian culture in the 1970s and 1980s, died of lung cancer Monday in Honolulu. He was 61.

    His death was confirmed by his close friend, George Kahumoku Jr.

    Dennis Kamakahi (Matthew Thayer / February 27, 2008)Dennis wrote more than 500 songs, including many that have become standards. He was particularly known for soulful compositions inspired by nature.
    (photo: Matthew Thayer / February 27, 2008)








    [UPDATE: May 1, 2014] Nate Chinen published a great tribute in the online New York Times []  in part he wrote…

    Dennis Kamakahi, Hawaiian Renaissance Songwriter, Dies at 61
    Mr. Kamakahi, a Grammy Award-winning virtuoso of the slack-key guitar tradition, composed roughly 500 songs, many of which have become beloved standards in Honolulu…

    Dennis David Kahekilimamaoikalanikeha Kamakahi was born on March 31, 1953, in Honolulu. (His Hawaiian middle name means “the distant thunder in the highest heavens.”)

    Dennis Kamakahi in Honolulu in 2006. Ronen Zilberman/Associated Press

    His paternal grandfather played guitar in the slack-key style, and so did his father, Kenneth Franklyn Kamakahi, a first-chair trombonist in the Royal Hawaiian Band. Mr. Kamakahi’s first instrument was the ukulele, which he picked up at age 3. He switched to guitar at 10 and played trombone in middle school.

    … “When people talk about sovereignty,” he said in 2009, “our music is our sovereignty. Because nobody tells us how to play our music. We know how to play our music because we learned from our kupuna, our teachers. Our music has always been here, our dance has always been here. But it just had to awaken.”

    photo: Dennis Kamakahi in Honolulu in 2006.   credit:Ronen Zilberman/Associated Press



    [UPDATE: May 8, 2014] Lahaina News | See more at:

    Hawaii loses one of its greatest composers
    Rev Dennis Kamakahi

    West Sider George Kahumoku Jr. and Maui’s music community are mourning the loss of Rev. Dennis David Kamakahi, who lost his battle with cancer last week Monday.

    Kamakahi was a dear friend to Kahumoku and a regular guest performer at his weekly Slack Key Shows in Napili. They also played together on tours, at concerts and on music recordings.

    A special Dennis Kamakahi Tribute Concert is in the works. Check for the announcement.




  • Connections and the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project

    In Hawaiian Culture connections are very, very important. That is: Hawaiians want to know whom you are related to and your connections and relationships with us as well as with each other. We gather for common purposes: love of the land and sea, and the creatures in and around it! Hawaiians love sharing and celebrating time, stories, space, food, and music. Sharing men and women power- it’s an old Hawaiian concept: Laulima – many hands working together. It is a very Hawaiian and a very good thing! Especially for a farmer like me!

    I first became aware of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery project at the California World Festival in Grass Valley, CA where I was playing music.

    I met Hanna Mounce and her family over 5 years ago. We talked story and Hanna said she lived on Maui and wanted to start a garden so we started a relationship and for years she came up to our Kahakuloa farm and brought an entourage of Maui Forest Bird people and her friends to help us weed out invasive species on our farm and plant Kalo (taro), Maia (bananas) and U’ala (sweet potatoes).

    Hanna Mounce -Photo by Francis Longhurst/Minnow FilmsThrough the years Hanna has become sort of like a hanai niece (adopted, extended family), as well as a blessing to me. She then went to New Zealand where she was studying for her Master’s degree where she met, fell in love with and married a Maori native, Jaime Davidson who also got indoctrinated as farm help for weekend workouts on our farm. This past year I’ve become a grand Uncle from Hanna and Jaime and as is traditional in our family, we are raising a pig for my grandnephew Nolan Te Kahurangi‘s first year birthday baby luau (first born son of Hanna and Jaime.)

    At one of our farm help weekends, I met Laura Berthold who also became one of my hanai nieces and is also extra great at weeding! We shared time, space, weeding, planting, food, and music with Laura and many others.

    We also did some fundraisers for Hanna’s Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. Hanna then started setting up a booth at our Napili Kai Slack Key show to let visitors know about the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project as well as catch the various artists at our weekly show in Napili Kai. Laura Berthold took over Hanna’s place setting up the “Bird Booth” once my baby grandnephew Nolan was born. Here’s a shot of Laura Berthold at our Wednesday Napili Show.

    Laura & JohnLaura brought her boyfriend John Comcowich, who works for the West Maui Watershed Project, to the show! Great!. So now our Ohana (extended family) has grown even bigger and we will have another person John, to help out on the farm as well as at the show!  The great thing about this union of sorts with Laura and John is that Laura says, “she’ll take care of the birds and John will take care of the forests!”

    With these two love birds (Laura & John) in mind , at our Napili Show we sang two of Frank Kawaikapu Hewitt’s love songs, “Kapilina” -( about the forest I’iwi birds) and  “Ka Wai Lehua A’ala Ka Honua” – a song about the fragrance of the forest after a great rain.  We dedicated these two songs to Laura & John.

    So please support our friends who support us! Go to the Maui Forest Bird Recovery website (, driven by science and dedicated to the conservation of Hawaii’s native forest ecosystems. It’s the Hawaiian way and a Hawaiian thing to do!

    P.S. -Come visit our farm! Saturday, Monday and Tuesday mornings are best!  

  • GK Reflection: Heritage Tour 2014

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

    Let me tell you…

    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.


    photo: Scott Hillman Photography

    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 falsetto 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, housewarmings, 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 continues 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.


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

    Rialto in Tacoma, WAHana Hou!

    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…
    burnham_photo5_sml burnham_photo1_sml

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

    Stephen_MIM_smlStephen 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.

    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.


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


    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