Archive for June, 2014

  • Danny Carvalho: student to artist

    I first met Danny Carvalho through Ozzie Kotani. Danny was Ozzie’s student for 6 years. At the time Danny was about 10 years old and very enthusiastic. He was always first to be seated in the front of the class and he was a great slack key guitar student. Even at that young age Danny was a great observer who clearly had talent.  He could exactly mimic Ledward Kaapana’s Radio Hula, note for note, by just watching Led and Bob Brozmans DVD over and over.

    Despite being young and an exceptional player, Danny was aggressive, to the point of being intimidating. He was always up front, in close proximity, most times in your face, looking for attention. During jam sessions he played the loudest and even when others were taking a turn singing or performing a lead riff, there would be Danny Carvalho, trying to outdo everyone and needing the limelight all the time.

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    10yr old Danny w/Ozzie Kotani -Maui Slack Key Festival 2000

    Young Danny was a handful, seemingly irreverent and a perfectionist. Once he and I jammed a song together for about 15 minutes, taking turns. He was really great and I thought the jam was great! However, when we finished playing, Danny informed me that my second string was out of tune, that it was flat the whole time! Thing is, I’m partially deaf from feeding 1200 squealing pigs for over 20 years so he was probably correct but I wasn’t sure how I felt that he had let me play flat for 15 minutes, waiting until the end to let me know that my guitar was out of tune.

    His intense behavior evoked my telling of this story…

    “It was the early 80’s and my brother Moses and I worked summer mornings in construction, before our nightly music gigs. Every day a flock of 11 Nene, the Hawaiian goose, flew overhead, going makai (towards the ocean) at about 7 am and like clockwork at about 2 pm, they flew overhead returning mauka (towards the mountain). After a while we could recognize each Nene goose individually by the different banding and coloring on their legs and their age and feathers. We observed things about the “V formation” they flew in. The leader at the apex appeared to be flapping the hardest, and each successive pair in the “V” flapped less hard, until the last two that weren’t even flapping at all, gliding on the draft stream created by the other 9 birds. It’s a great phenomenon to watch. At first we assumed that there’s only one leader and that the pecking order of the V shape would be always the same. Instead, we learned that they took turns at each position, all sharing the load of the “family” by taking turns at the various positions.”

    Fast forward to May this year, 2014.
    We had heard about grown up Danny’s great playing and saw a video of him produced by Jon Yamasato’s HI Sessions. We wanted him as a guest artist for our Slack Key Show but were already booked almost a year out.  As fate would have it, Chino Montero suddenly and sadly passed way opening a performing slot in our show schedule. Danny was available for the May dates!

    It is great to see how Danny has progressed and matured at age 23. He has moved beyond mimicking others and his current performances is uniquely Danny, coming into his own with his own persona and stories. The performances both nights included jam sessions with Da Ukulele boys that turned out to be historical as well as hysterical! Danny has matured into a great next generation Hawaiian artist, worthy to carry the torch of enlightenment of Hawaiian music and culture.


    Beyond the show performances, we got to share personal time, space and food on the farm. Danny reminded me that he still remembers the Nene story I told him 13 years ago; that he has out grown his wiseass-ness that sparked the tuning incident with me and that he is a much more giving artist.

    Thanks Danny for coming back to Maui to share your music and help us perpetuate our Hawaiian culture! I’m so proud of you! Thanks for helping out on the farm too!

    And thanks for bringing Mom!

    –Uncle George


  • Families Entwined -Aunty Edna Pualani Farden Bekeart (1918-2013)

    I was nine years old and in the 4th grade at Kamehameha Schools –the original campus in Bishop Hall next to the Bishop Museum. That’s where I first met Aunty Edna Pualani Farden Bekeart and I didn’t know it then but it was of the first pockets of light towards the resurgence of Hawaiian culture, Hawaiian protocol and Hawaiian language. These classes served as stepping-stones towards what became known as the Hawaiian Renaissance 10-12 years later in the beginning 1970’s.

    Fast forward to 1997-98 where I became the Artist in Residence to the Mauian Hotel in Napili, which was owned by the Aluli Ohana, one of the last native Hawaiian families who still owned beachfront property, let alone a hotel on Maui. The Alulis are related to the Fardens through marriage.  Aunty Irmgard Farden married an Aluli so that’s how I became hihia (entwined & tangled) with the Alulis.  Aunty Irmgard’s son Nane Aluli still heads the Mauian hotel today. Aunty Edna is the younger sister of Aunty Irmagard Farden Aluli (1912-2001) and Aunty Emma Farden Sharpe (1904-1991).

    At the time, The Mauian was barely scraping by financially and every June, the 44-room hotel was a ghost town. I had to help. With the financial backing and suggestion of friends Ed & Helen Bigelow, we started a Hawaiian Slackkey Workshop and Sing Along and I brought in my friend Dennis Kamakahi and other artists to help teach.  It was our way to help fill the Mauian hotel and keep it in business! The first workshops were slow with less than 10 students and the workshop lost money but thankfully, Uncle Ed & Helen Bigelow believed in us and supported us into the black by covering any shortfalls for the first 5 years.

    As fortune would have it, it was at this time that I got reintroduced to Aunty Edna again! I was making about a thousand pounds of poi a week, so I would stop by to drop off five one-pound bags of poi at Aunty Edna’s! Sometimes Aunty would make Hawaiian stew with string beans in it, and we would share a meal together with her husband Robert Bekeart when he was still alive. She was living at Aunty Emma’s old place in Kahana called Koaniani on lower Honoapiilani Road. Aunty would have me pick a basket of mangoes, give me some and then sell the rest to tourist! She called it their “ice cream money”.

    She became our regular mentor and kupuna at our yearly June workshops in Napili from 1999 to 2009, where she composed songs for us. Her first makana (gift), to us was the song Ka Beauty O Napili. Then in 2006, when we won our first Grammy, she gifted us with another song Lanakila – Victory!

    In 2003 the next-door resort was having jack hammer work done right during our workshop so we retreated to the serene calmness of Aunty’s Kahana home to continue our workshop. Aunty would bless us with her presence teaching our youth about song composing, and demonstrating augmented and diminished chords on the Ukulele that no one ever heard of or saw before. Her composing and playing style represented the romantic era of days gone by, such as her original Ginger Memories, that she wrote for her husband Uncle Robert. She was a magnet to the Keiki at our workshops and everyone would gather to hear her stories and share in her music. Everyone looked forward to our Saturday night workshop luau where we would cook, share and eat Hawaiian food: kalua pig, poi, sweet potatoe, squid luau, chicken long rice, laulau, lomi salmon, opihi, poke fish, fried fish, kulolo and haupia made by Aunty Nani. Aunty Edna always joined us, leading us in song during our jam sessions after we shared prayer and food. When Aunty reached her 90’s she went to live with her daughter in Waimea on the Big Island and then she moved to Pohainani in Kailua Oahu.

    My son Keoki and I played for my nephew’s wedding near Haula on Oahu so we brought Aunty Edna on an adventurous outing to our family Haula wedding and ate her favorite Hawaiian and Chinese foods. We were able to play music for her and her friends at Pohainani luncheons on several visits after that! Here’s a video of her nephews Paahana, a classic Hawaiian trio, performing her beautiful song Ginger Memories.

    Aunty Edna we all miss you! Mahalo for sharing your music and Hawaiian culture with all of us! Mahalo for keeping our Hawaiian culture Alive for us to share with others! Mahalo Nui loa!
    -Uncle GK