If you are not familiar with opihi, they are a Hawaiian delicacy. A type of limpet, they cling to rocks. They are made up of a very hard shell, inside of which, is a creature with a big sucker foot. Here is an article on preparing the opihi. https://onolicioushawaii.com/opihi/.
Harvesting opihi is done by opihi pickers or opihi men. It’s a dangerous job as it requires getting out on rocks in the surf with a knife to pry the little suckers loose. Pickers occasionally lose their lives picking. Thus the warning in the song: “Keep your eye on the wave, don’t ever turn your back.” A good lesson for all of us.
Election season in Texas means we are bombarded by political ads telling us that crime is on the rise, that our borders are porous, and that, whether stated explicitly or by implication, the two are related.
Is crime really on the rise? The violent crime rate in the US reached an historic high in 1991 (758/100,000) and has declined precipitously since. By 2014, the rate had been cut in half (370/100,000—51%). Since that year it has increased slightly to where, in 2021, it was 47% of the peak (400/100,000). So yes, it is on the rise, but not as political ads would have us believe.
Is unauthorized immigration on the rise? In 1990, an estimated 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States. That number reached a peak of 12.2 million in 2007 and has declined to 11.4 million in 2018. So, during the same period that crime decreased by roughly 50%, unauthorized immigration rose by 71%.
Is there a relationship between crime and unauthorized immigration? It has long been known that the crime rate among immigrants is about half the rate of crime among native born citizens, only reaching parity in the third generation. But what about unauthorized immigrants? Are they rapists, murderers, and drug dealers as Trump asserted? No. That was an egregious lie. A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the crime rate in Texas among native-born citizens, legal immigrants, and undocumented immigrants during the years 2012 to 2018. (https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2014704117).
The authors summarize: “Contrary to public perception, we observe considerably lower felony arrest rates among undocumented immigrants compared to legal immigrants and native-born US citizens and find no evidence that undocumented criminality has increased in recent years. Our findings help us understand why the most aggressive immigrant removal programs have not delivered on their crime reduction promises and are unlikely to do so in the future.”(emphasis mine.)More specifically, “Relative to undocumented immigrants, US-born citizens are over 2 times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and over 4 times more likely to be arrested for property crimes. In addition, the proportion of arrests involving undocumented immigrants in Texas was relatively stable or decreasing over this period.”
While crime was rising, the rate of crime remained flat among immigrants. It was among the native-born US citizens in Texas that a rise in crime was observed. Texas has spent billions on border security programs ostensibly to reduce crime, to no effect because the migrants that the programs target are not criminals.
Here we are, another ‘Ukulele Wednesday. Today happens to be Mary Fran’s birthday, so I have two songs for today. Listen to them here. The first is Las Mañanitas. This is a birthday song that is popular in Mexico and Central America. Here are the lyrics:
Estas son las mañanitas
Que cantaba el rey David
Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños
Te las cantamos a ti
Despierta mi bien despierta
Mira que ya amanecio
Ya los pajarillos cantan
La luna ya se metio
The second song is He Wahine U‘i
The song was written by Johnny Almeida, one of the greatest Hawaiian composers and performers. During Almeida’s career spanning more than 70 years, he composed over 300 songs, many of which are classics in the Hawaiian genre. His mother gave birth to him while gathering maile vines to make leis. She was not able to clean her hands of the toxic maile sap before birthing him. The sap affected his eyesight and he was totally blind from the age of ten. Almeida was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
Almeida loved flowers and women. In He Wahina U‘i, he simply says over and over, here are some beautiful flowers for you, beautiful lady. He names the lokelani (rose), the mokihana (the official flower of Kaua‘i), the kukui or candlenut flower, and the ilima. He promises to make leis of each of them for the beautiful lady.
For today’s ‘Ukulele Wednesday, we go to the island of O‘ahu to the majestic crater of Diamond Head, also known as Kaimana Hila. The island of O‘ahu is about 3.5 million years old. Diamond Head is believed to have last erupted about 200,000 years ago. The Hawaiians called the crater Leahi, which means the brow of the tuna, because that’s what it looks like in profile. This view is looking east from our condo in the Colony Surf. In the lower center of the photo you can see Dillingham Fountain. To the left you can see part of Kapiolani Park. Not seen in this photo is Waikiki, which is behind us.
Diamond Head, or Diamond Hill, got its name when British sailors found what they thought were diamonds on the slope. In fact, what they found was volcanic glass called olivine. The Hawaiians were unable to pronounce Diamond Hill. The Hawaiian language has few hard consonants like ‘D’ so most hard consonants are heard and pronounced as ‘K.’ Another feature of Hawaiian is that all syllables end in a vowel. Thus, the ‘d’ becomes ‘k’ and ‘a’ is affixed to the end, so ‘diamond’ is pronounced ‘kaimana.’ The same applies to the word ‘hill.’ The ‘i’ is pronounced ‘ee’ and ’a’ is added at the end. Kaimana Hila.
So here is the song, Kaimana Hila, written by Charles E. King and Andrew Cummings.
I am performing this on Mary Fran’s Kamaka Standard ‘ukulele, which she won as a door prize at a concert by the group NUE at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in June.
Edith Kanaka‘ole, a dancer, composer, teacher, and kumu hula, was one of the leading lights of the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970’s. She will be featured on U.S. quarters next year as part of the Treasury Department’s American Women Quarters Program. You can see more designs here:
Edith was born in Honomu, Hawai‘i on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island, in 1913. She was taught hula from an early age and began to compose traditional Hawaiian music in 1946. She choreographed hula to accompany her chants and founded the hula halau, Halau o Kekuhi, in 1953. She taught Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies at Hawai‘i Community College and the University of Hawai‘i, Hilo from 1970 until her death in 1979. Her legacy continues to be felt today through the foundation that bears her name. It’s mission is stated on the website:
Established on the vibrant traditions and rich cultural heritage of the Kanakaʻole family, it is the Foundation’s mission to elevate Hawaiian intelligence through cultural education founded on the teachings and traditional practices of Edith and Luka Kanakaʻole.
Of her songs, my favorite is Ka Uluwehe o Ke Kai (The Plants of the Sea), which tells of a task common to Hawaiians who live near the sea—the gathering of seaweeds for eating. She wrote it in 1978 in the studio when the producer told her there was running time left on her record.
Eleven days ago we arrived in Maui for the 24th George Kahumoku Jr. Ki Ho ‘Alu and ‘Ukulele workshop. The workshop was held at the Napili Kai resort, as it was last year. Just leaving the airport felt like we were arriving back home. We were met at the airport by Destiny Aponte, whom we had met last year while touring George’s farm. Destiny is a remarkable woman. Originally from San Antonio, she has worked as a chef, as a farmer, as a student of agriculture, and as an entrepreneur. It was great to see her again.
Napili Kai is beautiful. It is situated on a crescent shaped beach, whose soft golden sands slope down to beautiful blue waters. Across the bay, the islands of Moloka’i and Lana’i are clearly visible. Our first two days, Maui was under a high surf advisory. The waves were huge, bigger than we’d even seen on Oahu in May. I ventured out into them for a brief swim but thought better of it after one crashed over me. For the remaining days of the workshop, however, calm waters returned.
Beautiful as Napili Kai is, its beauty is not what makes the workshop magical. George and Nancy Kahumoku are the spirit of the workshop. I would say they are the driving force, but driving does not describe the workshop. “Aloha,” “ohana,” “kanikapila,” “hang loose.” are the best descriptors. As soon as we arrived, we renewed friendships we’d formed last year with participants and instructors alike. The music began immediately and didn’t end until eight days later. Nobody was too busy to talk story or to teach you a chord. or a riff, or a song. Everybody encouraged you to try and nobody criticized you for failing.
There is a strong feeling of community or ohana among slack key guitar and ‘ukulele players. Even though we play different instruments employing different techniques (some musicians play both) the music and the history unite us. That feeling of unity is felt no more strongly than at the kanikapilas (let’s play music). I might be sitting between such masters as Ledward Ka’apana on guitar and Bryan Tolentino on ‘ukulele and we’re all playing the same song. No judgement. When I screwed up on a song, Bryan jumped in to get me back on track.
Every morning about 5:30, Led Ka’apana would set up and start playing in the pavilion or under one of the tents. Other instructors would soon join him and they’d all play until breakfast. You can’t get better performances than that. I showed up with my phone (like a lot of other participants) and captured more than an hour of videos of uke players—mostly their hands—so I can study them later. Each evening after dinner, instructors and students would get together for more kanikapila.
Speaking of ohana, or at least ‘ukulele ohana, Bryan Tolentino, whom I already mentioned, and Herb Ohta, Jr., another great musician and instructor, left the workshop a day early to attend a memorial service for Sam Kamaka, Jr. who passed away in March at age 99. Sam was the patriarch of the Kamaka family (yes, Kamaka ‘Ukuleles) and Bryan and Herb are close to the family. Sam Kamaka Jr. ran the ‘ukulele business for many years before turning it over to other family members. It is still a family owned business. Sam Jr. and his brother, Fred Kamaka, inherited the business from their father, Sam Kamaka, Sr., who started the company down in Kaka’ako in 1916. Kamaka introduced the pineapple shape about 1920. That was the first significant change to the ‘ukulele since its arrival in 1879. Prior to starting his own company, Sam Kamaka had apprenticed with Manuel Nunez, who is generally credited with inventing the ‘ukulele. So how’s that for ohana and six-degrees of separation?
So what did I get out of the workshop? First, I gained some insights into how Hawaiian music is structured. Last year, I had the songbook, with the chords and lyrics, vitually glued to my hand. Still, I was always a few beats behind on every song. This year, I was able to anticipate the chord changes and rely more on my ear than the book. I still missed chord changes, but I know where I made mistakes. I also learned to play on more of the fretboard instead of only the first four. After all, I paid for all the frets so why not use them? Our workshop songs were “Sweet By and By” by Dennis Kamakahi, and Kauanoeanuhea by Keali’i Reichel. I also learned Ulupalakua and, before the workshop, Kaimana Hila. Ulupalakua is a paniolo (cowboy) song and Kaimana Hila is about Diamond Head.
I’ll do more reflections on the the workshop in the coming days. We’ve already decided we’ll be back next year.
I can’t believe we have been here almost a month. Last evening I swam in the water off our condo and watched the sunset between my feet as I floated on my back. It felt both familiar and new at the same time. Tuesday we head to Maui for the ukulele workshop. I’m looking forward to that, but i’ll miss Oahu.
Update on the Mai Tais. Two more stops on the Mai Tai trail: The Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian and the Beach Bar at the Moana Surfrider. The Mai Tais were great at both. The Bar at the Royal Hawaiian serves two versions: the more common version with fruit juices and rum; and the Vic’s ’44—the original recipe created by Vic Bergeron in the 1940’s. The Vic ’44 is based on lime juice and two kinds of rum. I kind of like the ’44 better because it is not as sweet. The setting at the Royal Hawaiian was great. The drinks were great, the music was nothing special. The Moana Mai Tais were the fruit juice kind. They were good. The setting was great, but the music, again, was nothing special. Overall, the Mai Tais at the House Without A Key are my favorite because of flavor, setting, and music. Our friends Marilyn and Ernie joined us on the last stops on the Mai Tai trail.
Speaking of music, we caught a performance at The Blue Note, featuring Henry Kapono and Ledward Kaapana, two legends of Hawaiian Music. The concert was fabulous. Ledward makes magic with his guitar and ukulele. He’ll be one of the workshop instructors on Maui. We also caught a performance of the Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace. We’ve been trying to catch them, but without luck until yesterday. A previous try was rained out.
I’ve been taking uke lessons, while here. The instructor is Jody Kamisato, who performs for Disney on cruises and at resorts. Jody is a contemporary and friend of Jake Shimabukuro. He’s also taught performers such as Honoka Takiyama.
From Jody, I learned the song ”Kaimana Hila” about Diamond Head. Kaimana Hila are not Hawaiian words. they are the Hawaiian pronunciation of Diamond Hill, another name for Diamond Head. Hawaiians do not have hard consonants such as D or T in their language, so those already sound like K. Hawaiians also end all syllables in a vowel. Thus Diamond becomes Kaimana. The hotel next to ours is Kaimana as is the beach next to the hotel, all in the proximity of Diamond Head.
Speaking of Diamond Head, I climbed it with my friend Ernie. We also hiked Manoa Falls Trail and Kaena Point.
Wednesday night we made another stop on the Mai Tai Tour, this time at the House Without a Key in the Halekulani Hotel. I don’t think there was ever any doubt that this would be the top spot on the tour. The setting can’t be beat. The House Without a Key is on the spot where a beach house used to sit a hundred years ago. Earl Derr Biggers stayed there and made it the setting for the first Charlie Chan story, The House Without a Key. It is now part of the Halekulani Hotel, which is absolutely gorgeous. The Halekulani was remodeled during the pandemic and was still undergoing renovations in August when we visited. The best place for sunset cocktails is the outdoor lanai where you can find a musical group performing every evening under the 100-year old kiawe tree. We heard Pa’ahuna. the bass player, Pakala Fernandes, is a member of the Farden family of muscians, the most famous of which is his cousin, ”Auntie” Irmgard Farden Aulili. Pa’ahana has performed there for many years. The performance always includes some numbers performed by a dancer. On this evening, the dancer was Miss Hawai’i 2021, Allison Chu. She was gorgeous. We arrived before the band opened their first set and stayed until closing. You can’t beat listening to Hawaiian music under a tropical moon near the ocean. The Mai Tais were the best. Made of two kinds of Baccardi with Lemon Hart 151 floating on top and garnished with lime and sugar cane.
For flavor, ambience, and music, the House Without A Key Mai Tai surpasses all the others.
We did four tours this week. The first was to the Hawaiian Plantation Village which showcases how Hawaiians lived during the plantation era. We were guided by a gentleman named Take. He’s Japanese and grew up on a plantation. The Plantation Village houses replicas and restorations of the homes that Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese, and Puerto Rican immigrants lived in as laborers in the sugar cane fields. Sugar was one of the canoe plants, along with taro and sweet potato, that Polynesian voyagers carried during their colonization of the Pacific. By the time Cook arrived in 1788, it was growing on all the islands, and he noted it in his journal. Around 1840, some missionaries started a sugar plantation, but the sugar industry got its real start during the California Gold Rush when Hawaiian beef and sugar fed the Forty-niners. American and European businessmen were quick to see the potential for Hawaiian sugar. During the Civil War, the Northern states were cut off from Southern sugar so they turned to Hawai’i. In 1873, King David Kalakaua entered a Reciprocal Agreement with the United States, under which the US eliminated tariffs on Hawaiian sugar in exchange for access to Pearl Harbor as a naval base.
Sugar is a very labor intensive industry. The Hawaiian population, which numbered between 250,000 and 1 million at Cook’s arrival, had been decimated by imported diseases so that, by 1850, they numbered around 25,000. Those that survived had little interest in working on plantations. They continued their lifestyle of subsistence farming and fishing. Planters looked to other countries for labor. Growing sugar is hard work and conditions are terrible. In order to reduce labor strife, the planters adopted a divide and conquer strategy of bringing in people from different cultures, different nations, speaking different languages in the belief that laborers would stick with their own kind, and that, without a common language, would be unable to communicate grievances and organize for better conditions. The plan didn’t last long. In 1879, the Portuguese arrived and brought the ukulele. Soon it was the national instrument. The uke is a laborer’s instrument, made by laborers for laborers. It was played on the porch of the plantation store and under the mango tree by the sugar mill. Music attracts people and soon people were getting together and sharing their meals. In time they developed a common language—Hawaiian Pidgin—which defeated the planters’ plot. Pidgin can still be heard all through the islands along with Hawaiian music. The third legacy of these gatherings is Hawaiian cuisine known as ”mix plate” which can be had at many local eateries. Mix plate might be kalbi from Korea, or katsu from Japan, or Chinese short ribs, or chicken adobo from the Philippines, or other combos of meat and fish along with rice, mac salad, and maybe kim chi or musubi. It’s become a metaphor for the mix of cultures in Hawai’i.
We took three other tours this week. We spent the better part of a day at the Bishop Museum. They have a fascinating exhibit of Samoan tattoo designs and culture. We also caught a movie in the planetarium called ”The Wayfinders” about Polynesian voyaging and navigation, and especially, the voyages of the Hokuleia. The Hokuleia is currently in Tahiti, having arrived there last week. The director of the planetarium gave an overview of the Hokuleia’s celestial navigation. You can get more of it here. I’ve been getting up late at night to look for the stars used by the navigators.
We visited Iolani Palace, which has been undergoing restoration in the last 20 years. Iolani was the home of the last two monarchs—David Kalakaua, who had it constructed, and Lilioukalani who lived in it as queen and was imprisoned in it when the monarchy was overthrown. It’s an impressive symbol of Hawai’i as a nation, but also a sad and sobering reminder of American imperialism.
The third place we visited was Shangri La, the home of Doris Duke, tobacco heiress, who amassed a huge collection of Islamic art to fill her Diamond Head home. The art is beautiful and inspiring. She clearly had great knowledge and taste for Islamic art. But as you wander through it, you can’t help but wish that it was presented in a context that told about the creators of the art and their lives. Who made these tiles and tapestries? Why and how did they create such beauty? What did it signify to the people who viewed them? Without that context, I’m sorry to say, you see only what one person, with an excess of money acquired through a monopolistic, rapacious capitalist enterprise can accumulate.
Tonight, we are going to the Hawai’i Theatre in downtown Honolulu to hear Raiatea Helm, a great Hawaiian songstress..
We celebrated Mother’s Day at the Blue Note. They had a brunch and a performance by comedian Frank DeLima. We started off Bloody Marys. Mary Fran had a kalua pork burrito and I had the musubi sampler. Musubi is a Japanese rice cake often served with Spam and wrapped in seaweed. The sample had three: one spam, egg, avocado, and fish (I think mahi mahi); one Spam and egg; and one Spam, egg, and bacon. The dipping sauces were soy and a cheese sauce. They were delicious, but more than we could eat.
Frank DeLima’s show was hilarious. He is a long-standing comedian in Hawai’i. We first heard him in 1974 on a stopover going back to Thailand. He was performing at a place called The Noodle Shop and was just starting out. He is a genius at ethnic humor, particularly the type of humor he calls plantation humor, in which he makes fun of the different ethnic groups in Hawai’i. It’s hugely popular in Hawai’i because the locals like making fun of themselves and each other. However, if you are new to Hawai’i you probably would not get most of it. We did not get any of it that first time. It was only after being in Hawai’i awhile that we caught on.
We finished up with mai tais of course. The Blue Note’s are not as sweet as the others, which I like. Flavorwise, Blue Note’s is one of the best.
Yesterday we hit the Mai Tai trail again in search of that elusive best concoction of light rum, dark rum, and fruit juices. The first stop was Duke’s in the Outrigger. Duke’s, of course is named after the legendary Duke Kahanumoku, the ambassador of surfing and aloha. First off, Duke’s is always crowded. If you plan on lunch or dinner, you can expect to wait a long time. If you just want drinks, you can go directly to the bar and hope to find an open table or one where folks are leaving. We got lucky. Just as we got into the bar, the TV was showing the final leg of the Kentucky Derby. We watched long-shot, Rich Strike win, and then got our own long shot. A table opened on the edge of the lanai. We were close enough to hear the performer, Steven Iglesias, who did some contemporary and Hawaiian music on his acoustic guitar. He was good. We hadn’t heard him before, so we were glad to hear him.
The mai tais were good, though I thought they could have been stronger.. Better than SKY bar, slightly below Cuckoo Coconuts. The view from Duke’s is great. You have a clear view to Diamond Head and you’re right on the beach. Surfers off shore, other beach activity right in front of you. We had Duke’s nachos with kalua pork, which was more than enough for two. I’m ranking Duke’s mai tais on a par with Coconuts. They both have ambience—one is a good beach bar and the other is a classic tiki. They both have music. I like the performer at Coconuts better than Iglesias, but on a different day, I might have a different opinion. Duke’s brings in a lot of performers with several shows a day. More on that below.
Another disappointment on the tour. As with the Royal Hawaiian Band, we had looked up the dates for Jerry Santos and marked them on the calendar before leaving Texas. As with the Royal Hawaiian Band, we learned when we got there that he wasn’t performing. He was supposed to be at the Paradise Lounge in the Hilton Hawaiian Village. However, we discovered that the Hilton hadn’t fully returned from covid. They weren’t doing weekend fireworks yet and the hostess didn’t expect Santos to return until the fireworks returned. Why are they linked? I don’t know. The hostess said a lot of people have been disappointed that he was not performing.
Always flexible when it comes to music and mai tais, we went to the Tapa Bar in the Hilton. It, too, was crowded, but we lucked out with two seats at the bar. The mai tais were good. They were stronger than Duke’s mai tais, The performers were a brother/sister duo backed by some other musicians. They call themselves Kaiona. They did a mix of classics, contemporary and Hawaiian, including some hulas. We thought they were great. i would definitely hear them again.
I looked up Kaiona. They are often on the schedule at Duke’s. If you’re visiting Duke’s it will be worth your while to catch them. Another regular at Duke’s is Henry Kapono. He is more rock and blues (think Stevie Ray Vaughn) than Hawaiian. We heard him this afternoon after leaving the Blue Note.
Mai Tai Ranking
So far, I’m putting the Blue Note mai tai at the top for flavor. The entertainment, although not music per say (DeLima did some song parodies) was hilarious and superb. It’s hard choose between Cuckoo Coconuts, Duke’s, and Tapa Bar. CC and TB are about equal in flavor and music, but CC has better atmosphere. CC and Duke’s both have atmosphere and music, but CC’s mai tai was stronger than Duke’s. SKY, in my opinion, was mediocre in flavor, had no music, and the view wasn’t much..