Archive for August, 2014

  • Edmonton Folk Festival -Travelmates

    You get a glimpse of the true nature of folks when you travel with them.  For one thing, you spend awfully long days with them in unfamiliar surroundings and out of the comfort of personal routines…




    Uncle Richard Hoopii and his wife Ululani
    Traveling with uncle Richard Hoopii and Aunty Ululani definitely has it’s perks. For one, we always give thanks before our journey, during our Journey, after our Gigs and on our journey way home, so we feel it’s a blessing to be with Richard & Ululani and that God is watching over us as well.  Uncle Richard has knee problems making walking difficult, which brings up perk # 2. When we travel with the Hoopiis we get to board flights first, even before the First Class passengers. Perk # 3 is that Uncle is always smiling and on time and he is a team player, always not only thinking ahead but doing what’s best for everyone! His music is familiar and consistent and we can count on him and Ululani to come through with the sometimes tough decisions we have to face on the road (such as a 7-hour layover in San Francisco or Seattle  to save $350 per person on both flights to and from our destinations!)


    Led & Sharon Kaapana
    “Solid” is the word that describes our long running relationship with Led and Sharon. Because they are seasoned travelers, there are no surprises, no egos, just friendship, appreciation of each other, observed boundaries and met expectations… and fun on the road! Led is an asset because of his “can do” and “no scared ‘em” attitude! He just listens to what’s being played by other World musicians and takes his cues from that, be it from South Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Ireland, England, whereever! He listens first, then he just charge ‘em and add his 2 cents to help the music sound better.  Led is pure music with no barriers between countries, continents, race, religion, color or creed! He is the true ambassador of Music! He can play with anybody!


    G&N_SCNancy Kahumoku
    Nancy does everything to make my life better — on the road as well as at home. At home, she works with our Masters of Hawaiian Music team, serves as our booking agent and publicist for the newspapers, media and concierges. She is our bookkeeper and oversees printers and the rack card distributors, and books travel writers and our venues so everything works smoothly.

    Oh yeah, and on a personal level… she coordinates dentist and doctor appointments, makes the food runs, and oversees dog shampoo and nail trimming, cat vet stuff, horse worming and hoof trimming, massages. And then there’s visits from family and friends both at home and when on the road. She also points my head and heart in directions I’m not paying attention to; such as maintaining our lifestyle, our equipment, buildings and supplies, long term planning, paperwork, taxes, lawyers and estate planning, the layers of bills, various insurance… all of it and more that I can’t even remember!

    She’s my best friend and sometimes my worst enemy because she knows my weaknesses as a hoarder: of food, cardboard, mulch, manure, recyclables and boxes. A hoarder of just plain junk and throwaways that I’m sure I’ll use someday. And my propensity for dumpster diving and my Best Food mayonnaise addiction. Nancy knows what makes me tick and I feel most vulnerable to her!

    For the road, she packs all the bags, music and business equipment, coordinates and schedules and calendars everything. Being on the road, touring on music gigs is hard work but it often like a honeymoon and vacation all put into one. Nancy gets 100% of all my attention and there are no farm chores to do. We actually get to relax more, get some swimming and exercise in and actually catch up on some sleep, reading and writing. It doesn’t get any better than this.

    -Uncle George


  • Edmonton Folk Festival with Jake Shimabukuro

    Meeting up with Jake Shimabukuro in Edmonton was a pleasant surprise. Dave Jacquin his soundman and tour manager and Alex Ferrari his film and videographer accompanied him.

    I first met Jake in the late 1990’s when he played ukulele and Hawaiian music with Pure Heart, a musical group made up of John Yamasato on vocals and guitar and Lopaka Colon on congas drums. They came to entertain us at a Lahainaluna High School special assembly. I remember Jake as being this small Japanese kid jumping all over the stage playing his Ukulele really fast. Next time I met him was at a University of Hawaii Manoa concert on Oahu again in mid 2006, he was still jumping around this time playing solo Ukulele. Over the years I got to share the stage doing my own set with him doing his own thing. However, it was in Edmonton that I got to sit right next to him and watch him work his Ukulele magic on stage. We played a set called “the Pineapple and the Potatoe” where we shared the stage with Donal Lunny and Andy Levine from Ireland, and other Celtic and Irish bands, as well as with Uncle Richard Hoopii and Led Kaapana. Jake played a few bars from his version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a tune performed in Jake’s “Ukulele Weeps” YouTube video went viral 7 years ago! Then he accompanied us on “Hiilawe” and did a couple of solo riffs. We talked about playing “Akaka Falls” and “Kawika“, but never had a chance as there were 17 of us on stage taking turns during this 120 minute set.

    Later that night, we shared a meal at the Westin and Jake treated all of us including his 2 roadies to dinner. We had a great talk-story session while waiting for our food. He talked about his wife and showed us pictures of his son Chase. We shared a great fellowship with him and his boys. And boy, as slender as he appears, Jake can grind! He put away a giant burger with fries and shared a bowl of Mac & Cheese with all of us! During Dinner, he even talked about his startup humble, younger, beginning days working at the Ala Moana House of Music with Aunty Lydia and Lea Uehara. Watching us Masters play the Ala Moana Shopping Center center stage and signing autographs at the House of Music with the thought and wish that he too might join us on that same arena one day! Well that day arrived in Edmonton!

    The next day we both had our own solo performances on various different stages. Jake watched our set, and we got to watch his set. During his set, there was no more of the old Jake jumping around trying to play super fast! What we, Richard, Ululani, Led and Sharon Kaapana, Nancy and I, all witnessed was the seasoned, sophisticated Jake who has been playing 6-7 months on the road all year round for the past 7 years. He was very gracious and humble and thanked us Masters of Hawaiian Music, Richard, Led and myself for leading the way and mentoring him over the years. His set was well diversified between his solos and covers of other top 40 hit songs (all instrumental) done on his Kamaka ukulele. His introductions to his songs were meaningful and his playing soulful, interesting and deliberate! He had both us “masters” as well as the entire audience mesmerized and eating from the tips of his Uke fingers . I thought to myself: here is a son of Hawaii, passing on the Aloha Spirit though his fingers, sharing local style Hawaiian values and thoughts and here is a true master of the Hawaiian Ukulele; a true ambassador of Hawaii and of our Hawaiian music. Except that it had his slant, Jake’s slant to it! His gestures and face expressions had meaning and added to his musicality, and his stories were really close to the heart and memorable. His music was beautiful as well as astonishing. Slow or fast, he played with intention to wow us. After his set he even offered to carry Ululani’s Eke (Bag) and Uncle Richard’s Ukulele. We were all charmed by Jake.

    During his set, Jake told a childhood story about the Shirley Temple drink that he drank as a youngster. That tale introduced and flowed into his original “Me and Shirley T” evidently written about being a kid and drinking one-too-many (at the Pearl City Tavern). He also performed his own solo rendition of the classic “Hiilawe” and talked about this beautiful waterfall in Waipio Valley on the Island of Hawaii. Jake also used his 4 string ukulele to imitate the sounds of a 13 String Japanese Koto with “Sakura Sakura (Cherry Blossom)” that tied him to his Japanese heritage. His version of Brother IZ’s- “Somewhere over the Rainbow” medley proved that less is more when playing the uke and linked him back to his Oahu roots in Hawaii. He also did a song by Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” as well as a few more of his originals and he did his entire version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  He even used a few electronic toys to demonstrate the versatility of the Ukulele through looping, various synthesizer effects and he even some heavy effects rock ‘n’ roll without denting the integrity of the Ukulele. He gave credit to the Kamaka family who made his Ukulele.

    Jake was fantastic on stage as well as off stage! This prompted Nancy and I to talk about him, his family and the possibility of bringing him to Napili for a two day Wednesday/Thursday show with his family and hosting them at the farm. We’ll see!

    -Uncle George


  • Edmonton Folk Festival, Canada 2014

    My latest trip with the Masters of Hawaiian Music (Uncle Richard Hoopii, Ledward Kaapana and I) was to the Edmonton Folk Festival in Canada, which inspired this and the next couple of blog posts…


    At the festival, we were scheduled for 4 performances. We left Maui on a Wednesday night getting out just before an anticipated tropical storm, arrived Thursday morning, did a concert on Friday, two shows (afternoon and evening performances) on Saturday, and a Sunday afternoon show for a total of 8 hours of music performance in 5 days and 4 nights. The rest of the time we just soaked in the festival, listened to other musicians, ate or rested.

    Photo by LarryWong, Edmonton Journal

    There were seven to nine stages active at any time with a capacity to grass seat 25-30,000 people on ski slopes at Gallager Park. Edmonton Folk festival is so huge they sell out the entire weekend of shows within hours so they have a lottery system in place just for seats. [Ticket selling volume overwhelmed and crashed their website so the producers decided to turn over online sales to Ticketmaster.] They also feed about 2000 volunteers and about 1000 musicians every day from August 7 until August 10.

    We stayed at the Westin Edmonton 5-star Hotel and got to swim every morning, use the exercise and weight room, steam in the hot sauna and eat the best fruits, veggies and Edmonton-grown beef that the Westin had to offer.

    Speaking of beef; my beef connection to Edmonton…

    On Saturday night, we ate at Ruth Chris’ Steak House and even they were serving Edmonton’s famous beef petite fillets, which were huge and not very petite.

    In the early 80’s I was ranching and farming on the Big Island of Hawaii in North Kohala. The land we leased spread from the Upolu airport all the way to the Mo’okini Heiau – including a good 3 miles of frontage road that extended 5 miles Mauka in the Ahupua’a called Pu’uepa (Hill of tears) that was a one time battle ground for battling Hawaiians. We were leasing about 4000 acres of land and planted about 1200 acres of alfalfa and guinea grass hay on the flats and raising a herd of 500 cow/calf beef in the gulches. At the time we were shipping about a hundred tons of hay a month to Honolulu for the dairies. Once a year, we were shipping our weaned calves through Jewish cattle buyer Elmer Rabin. We co-opted and shipped our cattle along with Parker Ranch’s to, of all places, Edmonton Canada. (Because of the Jones Act, there’s all these taxes on shipping goods from a US port to another US port, so to reduce costs, we had to ship our cattle to a foreign port, either Mexico or Canada.) Anyway, we shipped our weaned cattle to Edmonton Canada to be finished off. Later, we would buy them back and sell our finished beef to Times Super Market in Honolulu and also to all the carpenter and AFL-CIO and UPW Union members who worked construction or at the hotels.

    Fast forward to 2012, Uncle Richard Hoopii, Ledward Kaapana and I were booked to perform in Canada with an old timer Edmonton cowboy musician named Ian Tyson. When we met I found out that our 1980’s young weaned-off beef cattle was shipped to him and his ranch near Edmonton. He said our Hawaii cattle were the wildest cattle he ever came across. I explained the reason: they never had contact with man before we rounded them up. And the day when we did round them up, we castrated them, burned off their horns (Polled them) vaccinated and wormed them and weaned them from their mothers. The next day they were shipped to Edmonton Canada. These young calves we’re between 6-8 months old, weighing between 450-600 pounds. At the time beef buyer Elmer Rabin paid ranchers $.34 a pound on the hoof for the (female) heifers and $.42 a pound on the hoof for the steers (castrated males). Later these young calves reached a finished weight of 1000 to 1400 pounds depending on the breed. Our females were a Brown Swiss Dairy crossed with Santa Gertrudis and a Red Hereford/Black Angus cross. We wanted the Brown Swiss breed in there for their milking ability to produce heavier weaned off calves. Our bulls were a pure breed Limousin or a Brangus -(a Brahman/Angus crossbred for overall hardiness, outstanding maternal instincts and superior carcass qualities such as leather and meat.)

    That was my beef cattle connection to Edmonton Canada.

    -Uncle George