In 1995 I was living in San Francisco. I had been gone from Hawaii and my culture for many years. My mom was dying of cancer and some friends thought it would be healing for me to go and listen to some Hawaiian music. We went to see Keali'i Reichel in concert with "Kawaipunahele". That night was a turning point in my life. Sitting in my chair I was overwhelmed with the spirit and the beauty of the music.
After that night I asked some musician friends to record a few Hawaiian songs to send to my mom who was living on the mainland- and missed Hawaii so much. The music brought comfort and peace to her- and she told me that I should be singing Hawaiian music- the music that I truly loved. I promised her I would. Four years later I released my first CD, "Maunahele", dedicated in loving memory to my mom.
When Keali'i invited me to be a part of "Kukahi" I could not believe it. The whole experience was simply magical and dreamlike: the music so 'ono, the hula so stunningly beautiful. And the true highlight of the weekend was to sing with and befriend Uncle Bill Kaiwa. To create beautiful music with two legendary singers that I admire so much was a moment I will never forget. Talk about chicken skin! My hope is that my music will touch people's hearts in the way that Keali'i's music has touched mine: the true gift of aloha.
Uncle Bill Kaiwa had this to say about me:
"Leokane was such a gentleman. His voice, his lyrics and his music are a beautiful example of how aloha comes through all who love Hawaii. I so enjoyed performing with Leokane and cannot wait to sing with him on stage again!"
Our trip to Kaua'i to share our music at the E Kanikapila Kakou series was
the highlight of my month! We mahalo Aunty Carol Yotsuda for inviting us to
be part of such a wonderful program! I also Mahalo Aunty Maria and Uncle Bob
Hickling for hosting us in such a grand way!
I thought Aunty Carol's recap of our night summed it up perfectly. Enjoy!
A hui hou,
Musical Paradise Discovered:
From my vantage point at EKK I face the front row music addicts who show up at
5 pm (even before me) and kapu their choice front row seats, valued at $498
each, and sit there for four hours of music and dance and wala'au...last night
they sat there with idiot grins etched on their happy faces taking it all in
as the gang from Hana, Maui, dished it out; song after song poured out from
these talented musicians...it was like being in church. From the first
strains of the full-on robust falsetto harmonies, they had the audience in
their hands ...you could see these instant fans enamored by these singing
giants as they clapped and cheered for more. I, too, found my jaws hanging
open and from time to time had to snap them shut or look like an idiot, too.
But happy idiots all were we as we felt that we were wallowing in a musical
Hana Hou for Hana Boys:
As the EKK gang stream out of the Island School main hall, comments fly my way
as always, "Bring them back!" " Leokane is sooooo infectious!" "One of the
best ever!" "This is the highlight of my trip to Kaua'i!" "Thank
you...mahalo...this is very special!" "Ya dun' it ag'in!" From long time EKK
fans to first time attendees, the natural high from the music is the shared
experience that bonds everyone.
The sharing of music between musicians and audience is a two-way nurturing
experience as the four musicians from Hana -- Leokane Pryor, Glenwood
Tolentino, Christopher "CJ" Helekahi and Matthew-John "Kuhina" Helekahi --
expressed their appreciation for an audience that truly embraced Hawaiian
music. Apprehensive and shy at first, they quickly got caught up in the
applause and flew with it, delivering Hana-style kanikapila
Leokane Pryor, surprised everyone for his last song as he jumped off the stage
and started to dance to "Waikaloa"; it had everyone on their feet screaming
"hana hou!" "hana hou!" He came back with "Papa Lina Lahi Lahi", which other
dancers could not resist so several joined Leokane, shamelessly swinging their
naughty hula hips in moves that everyone could tell was a "come on!" -- Ihi
Kaneali'i (that flirtatious Auntie...that!), Vern Kauanui (that flirtatious
Uncle..that!), Amy Franklin, Polei Palmeira and Mehana Blaich Vaughan --
brought the cheering audience to their feet with delight.
photo by Anne E. O'Malley
The evening was a musical tour of Maui island as Leokane shared songs and
stories that captured memorable experiences at each special place. The zesty
"Na Ka Pu'eo" and "Haleakala" delivered with delicious harmony gave the
impression that these four performed as a bona fide musical group that sang
together all the time, so it was surprising to hear later that although each
of them had sung with each other at various times, this was the first time
they were singing all together. I guess the family harmony with three of them
being related really helps, but Leokane's beautiful AND powerful voice even in
the high octaves plus his lively gift of gab and animated personality is the
glue that holds it all together.
His first visit to Kaua'i in ten years and fresh from a whirlwind tour of the
natural highlights of the Garden Island with Auntie Maria and Bob Hinkling
gave Leokane so much more meaning to the songs of Kaua'i which they shared
next. Glenwood sang "Hanalei Moon" and Auntie Ihi stood up to dance; what
fascinated me is that she never moved her feet but the rest of her body
brought to life the images captured in the song (gives me hope that maybe I
can hula, too). Leokane sang "Hula Makee" and CJ sang "Aloha Mokihana" a
traditional number that he is recording in his upcoming CD. Uncle Vern could
not resist showing his hula moves.
Leokane acknowledged the KKCR announcers who were present for their big part
in talking up and sharing Hawaiian music - Auntie Maria, Linda Lester,
Kilipaki Vaughan, Colett Welch. Jerry Brocklehurst, station manager, was not
present but he plays a big part in making this all happen.
Leokane pointed out that his CD is one big story about his life beginning with
a medley of old Honolulu songs from the time when there were only three big
hotels -- Halekulani, Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider -- silhouetting the
Waikiki skyline, a sight he could see from his home in Manoa. Indescribable
harmony takes us back to old Waikiki as Glenwood sang "Honolulu I'm Coming
Back Again" and Leokane sang "Kaimana Hila". It was hard to believe that
angelic voice was coming out of Glenwood; I kept peering to see if it was
indeed him singing...it was.
From O'ahu to a place called Kipahulu on Maui where precious memories and a
song is all that remains of their family place. The poignant strains of
"Haleakala Hula" brought up the lovely Mehana Vaughan whose dancing is a
vision of loveliness that is always a treat.
Leokane spent college years away from Hawai'i but Cal Berkley was an exciting
place where he was exposed to jazz, R&B, Do-wop, a cappella where he
discovered his own fascination for vocals and harmonies (dat why he so damn
good at it). In 1995 he went with his friend to a Hawaiian concert featuring
Keali'i Reichel and Uluwehi Guerrero, names that were new to him. When he told
his friend he never heard of them, his friend thought he was in a time warp.
That concert did it for him. The Hawaiian music came at a time when healing
was a priority for his Mom; he began to record Hawaiian music to help his Mom
... the music played a major part in that healing.
1997 was a milestone year for him as he met the Puna Keli'iho'omalu 'Ohana
and stuck to them like an opihi for two years. Puna was his mentor and taught
him the song "Koula" which he sang ever so exquisitely. So important was
their influence on his development in Hawaiian music that he wrote a song
about Puna and the Keli'iho'omalu family home in Kaimu where the beautiful
black sand beach is found. The song speaks of the coconut trees along the
road and the candles that they floated on the still pond.
Another important influence on his music was meeting Kaliko Trapp at his first
hula competition in L.A. As Hawaiian language judge, Kaliko diplomatically
and politely shared with him wise word of advice, suggesting that Leokane
should tighten up his pronunciation a bit so he is not singing "about the
armpits instead of the embrace". Since their meeting, Leokane and Kaliko have
collaborated on a number of songs including "Kaimu," "Ke Ho'olono Nei",
"Aloha no 'o Hana", and "Nani Malia". For "Malaekahana", Kaliko wrote a poem
describing the swaying images of the 'ohana wahine walking down to the beach,
the sand dunes, the swaying coconut trees and asked Leokane to write the
music. Leokane's melancholy musical interpretation of the lyrics were conjured
up by the swaying images of women, beach, and trees.
Another song that he wrote was for a poignant poem by Suzanne Case about the
loss of Hawaiian birds -- the last O'o bird who could not find its mate, the
Po'ouli bird, and the I'o Hawaiian hawk which has been making a comeback due
to the conservation efforts on behalf of endangered species. More than a song
about birds, "Ke Ho'olono Nei" is a song about hope.
CJ Helekahi brought the true flavor of the Hana-style sound with his zesty
upbeat rendition of "Hana no ka 'Oi" by John P Watkins and interpreted by
Kaliko Trapp. Glenwood sang "Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha," a song about the winds
in Kipahulu which was a metaphor for the love magic that brought broken
hearted lovers back together. There is something to be said about great big
Hawaiian men who sing with such pure high voices...oo la la! Everyone joined
in the song "Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha" which they learned during the ukulele
hour. Auntie Ihi and Vern were joined by Annie Punohu on this hula.
From Kipahulu we moved up the coast of Maui to Kaupo. The cutting of trees
turned this once thriving community into an area of desolation, but the song
is joyful as they sang and swayed with a country swagger and hit the highest
falsetto notes so far. Our musical journey went from the uplands of Maui down
to the heavily populated Wailuku area. "Nahiku" composed by Matthew Kalalau,
'ohana to all the Hana guys, speaks about the heady fragrance of the yellow
ginger flowers that grow so plentifully in this area. CJ's falsetto is as
heady as the fragrance of ginger blossoms.
In 2000 the San Francisco groups were invited to Hana to play music for Aloha
Week and for the senior center. Out of this emotional visit came the song
"Aloha no 'o Hana" which he dedicated to his classmate Mary Friend Williamson.
Young Kuhina complemented the nahenahe style singing with a particularly
beautiful Pa'ani on his guitar.
A song to honor his family was written for his niece. "Nani Malia" was
completed at his favorite Kaimana Beach following a call to co-writer Kaliko
Trapp. When he finished the song, he swam in the ocean to be in spirit with
A request from the audience for "Kaua'i Waltz" fell in Glenwood's lap as he
knew the song; the others played along on their instruments while the audience
swayed from side to side with the waltz beat. Hard to imagine such an angelic
voice belonging to such a hefty Hawaiian.
"Waikaloa" was the first song that Leokane taught us and when he asked for a
review of the song, the audience sang their hearts out, the ukuleles strummed
and Leokane surprised us all with his animated and expressive hula -- surely
this party could have gone on all night but the clock hit the curfew hour as
"Papalina Lahi Lahi" and "Hawai'i Aloha" brought the fun Hana-style party to a
photo by Anne E. O'Malley
2009 has been off to a wild start for me. It all started with our exciting trip to DC to experience the Inauguration of my schoolmate Barack Obama! These boys from Hana were in for a big (and freezing cold) adventure. Chris' blog tells the tale better than I could. Enjoy! A hou hou! Leokane
...Leokane and I headed out our 20 hour trip across the country with great enthusiasm, tuxedos and his 'ukulele. planning on a memorable trip. We stayed with a former schoolmate of his (Brad Case and his wife Leigh). They left town to ski and gave us their house to use. Brad’s brother Ed Case and his wife Audrey were also there. Fortunately, Ed is a former US Congressman and knows the city well, so they turned out to be great hosts and very helpful.
Arriving in DC was a shock of cold weather and crowds. It was nuts. It felt like a beehive with all the drones buzzing around the Obama queen bee. Just waiting for our bags in the airport, we saw countless celebrities from American Idol contestants from last year’s show, to Christopher Lloyd looking for his baggage to Wanda Sykes and her girlfriend. There were lots more. The great thing was that the energy was explosive and everyone was friendly. There was definitely an air of excitement in the crowd, even if it was buried under layers of coats, furry hats and gloves.
Sunday night was our main event. It was a party hosted by Steve and Jean Case (he created AOL) at their posh Dupont Circle home, which apparently used to be an embassy. It was also hosted by Leokane’s Alma Mater, Punahou School and attended by many of Obama’s past and current friends. As many of you know, Leokane was three years behind Obama at Punahou school and some of our friends remain close friends of the Obamas. Since we had been asked for Social Security numbers and told to bring our IDs and since the party had secret service-like security, we were very optimistic that Obama would show up. He was scheduled to and that excitement was in the air. Since Leokane had been asked to perform at the event, along with a DC based group of Hawaiian musicians named the Aloha Boys, we were convinced that he would be playing for the President and I worked with his record company in order to be all ready to send out the press release the next morning along with, hopefully, pictures of him and Obama (a little press couldn’t hurt).
When the President’s sister Maya showed up (also a graduate of the school), the excitement whipped up to a frenzy. I happened to be stuck in the back of the house (near the food and alcohol) and couldn’t make my way to see her. However, I was determined and so I got crafty and took the stairs down to the basement and then took the elevator up to the third floor and ended up right above her on the stairway where she was speaking. As soon as she said, “I know my brother really wanted to be here…” I could hear the gasp of disappointment in the crowd and practically see the slump of shoulders like a reverse group wave at a baseball game. Oh well, it was disappointing, but still a pretty incredible event. After her speech, I ended up standing next to a man who looked to be part of her entourage and starting chatting with him. I soon found out that he was Maya’s husband Conrad Ng and so, when she came up to him, I got a photo with her, him and my friend Kiki who had planned the event. Leokane was in the other room singing and missed the photo op. At the end of the evening, we found out that Obama had sent a car to pick up some of his friends who were at the party for a private dinner at Blair House. We realized that it was a lot easier to bring his friends to him than for him to travel around by motorcade closing off streets and traffic.
For Leokane the whole week was a reunion with lots of old classmates. The Alumni of Punahou have always seemed to remain close throughout life (something I find amazing, since I know very few people from high school). I always say they are like a cult. Now, with a president under their belt, they are going to pretty much be a nightmare of pride, but rightly so….
Tuesday we braved the Mall and joined in with the masses. We definitely felt part of history, but it was about all I could feel in the freakish cold. The crowd booing when Bush came out was embarrassing, but kind of funny. The overwhelming cheer when Obama came to the stage shook the earth. Once the oath was taken, everyone was hugging and crying and giving each other high fives. I think the most indelible memory for me was the unity in the diverse crowd. There was so much talk on the news about how people would remember where they were at that moment in history and it’s pretty incredible to me that I can say we were there (along with about 2 million others). I was jumping up and down with a woman who was crying and shouting.
Leaving was a nightmare. There was very little organization and most of the red-capped DC volunteers were being bombarded with questions they couldn’t seem to answer. We realized that thousands of people were, like us, trying to figure out which Metro stations were open. Every time Leokane would open his map to try to figure out where we were, a swarm of people would gather asking us for help. They all wanted the Metro and It started to sink in that it would take us hours to get back to where we were staying. It did.
Fortunately, our housemates had hired a driver for the evening and offered us a ride into town so that we could get to the Hawaii State Society Ball. Since Leokane had been invited to sing at it, we felt relieved that we would not have to worry about taking the metro or finding a cab and on top of it, we got to ride in a swanky stretch limo. We felt pretty stylish in Tuxes, a limo and riding with a former Congressman who may soon be running for the Senate or Governor of Hawaii. We left the house hours before the event to make sure we could get there in time. Unfortunately it took four hours to negotiate DC traffic. Each time our driver tried to take a street that would lead us to our destination, we would discover it had been closed. He, and we, were beyond frustrated. It wasn’t until Leokane saw the car in front of us pull over and realized that the elderly lady in her jewels and fur was getting out with her walker, obviously deciding to walk, that we should do the same. We had 10 very long cold blocks to walk, but eventually we made it to the ball, though he was too late to perform. That was a big disappointment, which I apparently decided to overcome with too many glasses of white wine. Ooops. However, we did have a lot of fun and I can always say I have been to an inaugural ball. And though I can’t give many details, we did find out the current Congressman Neil Abercrombie is a big fan of Leokane’s music and he posed for a picture with us. The rest is a bit of a blur....
Even though not all of our plans happened as we had hoped, being in DC for the event was something I will tuck away among the great experiences of my life. DC was a mass of diversity that I am confident no other inauguration has seen. It was incredible that everyone was so friendly and polite. In Hana, you are considered stinky if you do not wave at passersby and say Aloha to everyone you see each day. In DC the feeling, at least for that moment in time, was pretty much the same. When we got up at 4AM to take the Metro line to the swearing in ceremony, we were on an overcrowded train with a group of sleepy-eyed strangers. Unfortunately, I found myself having to use the bathroom and realizing it wasn’t going to wait the 8 more stops to the Mall. Leokane was on the other side of the train and I had to call over to him to tell him to get off at the next stop. People looked at me like I was crazy. An older black lady with a thick Southern accent asked me why we were getting off. I told her. She said, “Child, I am so sorry and I hope to God you make it. I’ll be praying for you.” That’s the kind of spirit that everyone had and it was incredibly inspiring. By the way, I did make it and I will forever credit her prayer to that...
To view photos of our trip, check out my photo gallery.
Mahalo and a hui hou!
Aloha kākou and hau'oli Lā Ho'omaika'i (Happy Thanksgiving)!
The last several months have been so fast-paced and adventure filled I have not had time to update my journal! Since the release of “Home Malanai” in August, we have been very busy traveling and promoting the CD. I would like to extend a heartfelt mahalo to all the musicians who have accompanied me on this grand adventure-especially CJ "Boom" Helekahi, Hanohano Yung, Kuhina Helekahi, Glenwood Tolentino, Darin Leong, Lyle Hosoda and Lee-Ann Paman. I would also like to mahalo Leina'ala Park for joining our hui and sharing the magic of her hula. All of these wonderful friends have given generously of their time and contributed their talent and I am so very grateful.
Our adventures have included numerous television and radio show appearances, as well as many other performances on O'ahu and Maui. A big mahalo also goes out to Leah, Lisa, Shelley, Lou, Jessie, Francis, Monica, Janet and Pat and all the other folks at the Mountain Apple Company who have worked so hard to promote our music. Thank you for believing in me!
It is an honor and a privilege to sing Hawaiian music and to share the underlying Hawaiian culture and values. Every day, my passion for the message of the music grows in me. Over the past several months we have been asked to contribute our music to many events promoting environmental conservation — many in celebration of the "International Year of the Reef". A special mahalo goes out to Pauline Sato, Suzanne Case, and Kuhea Paracuelles for their hard work and dedication to this vital work.
Whether on stage or on the beach, my commitment is to continue to mālama-to care for-the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, the land of my birth that nourishes me everyday. Here in Hāna, our Hāna Trash Club continues to grow in members and has worked hard to further our goals to care for this special place we call home. We have successfully raised funds through our t-shirt sales and other donations, and we are now supplying our local non-profits with biodegradable serving ware! Our thought is that it is not congruent to have events that help people that end up harming the environment with plastic trash going into the landfill! If you would like more information on our club or would like to buy a t-shirt or make a donation please email me!
As the year comes to an end, I look forward to some exciting future possibilities. First, our CD "Home Malanai" is an entry for the 2009 Hawaiian Grammy Award! If you are a Grammy voting member-we would appreciate your consideration and vote! Also, I have been invited to sing at an Inauguration Event in DC! I will also be attending the Hawai'i Ball the night of the Inauguration and am hopeful to meet my schoolmate and the President Elect!
This Thanksgiving I am so grateful for all that I have been blessed with: good health, wonderful friends and family and three awesome rascally dogs! I am especially grateful to call Hāna home and wake up every morning in this magical paradise.
Mahalo and a hui hou!
Iulai (July) 2008
Mahalo for visiting my website! July has been an exciting month so far!
The Mountain Apple Company, who will be representing and distributing my new CD, "Home Malanai", has announced that it will officially release the CD on August 5, 2008. Please spread the word and look for it in music stores near you! Click here to read the press release.
Also, after several years of being “out of print”, we have re-printed my first CD release, “Maunahele” which is now available for purchase through my website and at my live performances.
Fun upcoming concerts include our performance on August 7, 2008 from
6:00–8:30 pm at the Chase Palm Park “Summer in the Park” Concert Series in
Santa Barbara! The concert is free, outdoors, and great fun for the entire family. Bring your blankets and picnic supplies and enjoy a relaxing evening of nahenahe music and the beautiful hula dancers of “Ka Hale Hula O Pilialohaokalani O Hilo”. For more info visit www.sbparksandrecreation.com.
Finally, I would like to mahalo all of my listeners, supporters and friends for your continued encouragement and kōkua. Please check out our website as we calendar our upcoming performances - and please come find us!
Mahalo a nui loa and a hui hou!
Iune (June) 2008
Long time no see and mahalo for visiting my website! We have had an
exciting and busy year so far- so busy that I have been neglect in updating
my journal! Here are some of the highlights of 2008.
In April, we were invited to bring the Hana Sound to the newly opened Edye
Second Space Theater at the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center in Los
Angeles. A big mahalo to our sponsor, Dale Franzen for inviting us! We
performed two shows and both were special. The audience truly felt the
aloha spirit that we shared through our song and dance. A special mahalo to
Kumu Pilialoha and her haumana from Ka Hale Hula O Pilialohaokalani 'O Hilo
for the special hula they shared. I also mahalo my fellow musicians: Boom
"CJ" Helekahi from Hana, and Nohealani, Lamaku and Erik from California. My
heartfelt gratitude goes out to all the folks who hosted us in LA,
especially to Bill Topolinski, Lynne Hayashi and the Rodriguez 'ohana.
I am very excited to announce that I have partnered with The Mountain Apple
Company who will be representing and distributing my new CD, "Home Malanai"
throughout the world! We plan to officially release the CD later this
summer. Please spread the word and look for it in a music store near you!
We invite you to visit our website for further details and news of where I
will be appearing to promote the CD. I would like to mahalo all the folks
who worked so hard to make this partnership possible- especially Bill Meyer,
Jodi Borges, Leah Bernstein, Darin Leong and Lyle Hosoda.
Due to popular demand, we are also pleased to announce that we are now
re-printing my first CD, "Maunahele", and anticipate having our new
inventory by August. For now, the CD will be available for purchase only
through my website and at my live performances.
Finally, I would like to mahalo all my listeners, supporters and friends for
your continued encouragement and kokua. Please check out our website as we
calendar our upcoming performances - and please come find us!
Mahalo a nui loa and a hui hou!
Ianuali (January) 2008
Aloha kākou! Happy New Year and welcome to my website! We are very excited to have our newly constructed website back up and running! Mahalo to my listeners, supporters and friends for your patience and continued support while I have been rejuvenating and settling into my new home and life in beautiful Hāna, Maui!
The exciting news of the New Year is the release of my second CD, Home Malanai. We celebrated the kick-off of the CD with a tour of California- beginning in Grass Valley then on to San Francisco and ending in Ventura. All three performances were magical, and it was so heart-warming to see so many familiar faces and friends in the audience. (Great to see you Iris, Janice, Toni, Uncle Rod, Jim and Ruth and everybody else!) It was truly a family reunion of sorts!
We were blessed to partner with Kumu Pilialoha, her alaka‘i Ku‘umomialoha and Auntie Debbie and the dancers from Ka Hale Hula O Pilialohaokalani ‘O Hilo who did such a wonderful job producing the concerts- and danced so beautifully at both concerts. Mahalo to all for your hard work, generosity and adding such beautiful hula to the music! Big mahalos to Mariel Banducci, Heidi Schroeder, Paul and Sandy Varacalli, Uncle Don Jenkins and Dr. Kalani for your generous contributions!
I would like to give a special mahalo to Auntie Elvin Spencer for your kind and gracious hospitality, to Auntie Barbara and Uncle Don for your kōkua with CD sales and videography, to Michael Keene for your kōkua with promoting the concerts and the CD- and for all you do to support all Hawaiian music, and to John Stricklin for hosting such a fun CD release party at San Francisco’s hottest new restaurant “Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant.” My heartfelt mahalo goes out to Pōhai Kealoha (Nohealani, Danny and Erik!) and CJ “Boom” Helekahi for accompanying me on this special journey and for your loyalty, dedication and aloha.
Home Malanai is truly the creation of so many people. I am deeply grateful to all the musicians, singers, composers, engineers, artists and producers who contributed their talents to the work. It took me a while to finish (okay- a really long while!) - but it was well worth the wait! We are setting up formal distribution now- so the music should be on the shelves and airwaves soon!
As we begin the New Year, I ask that everyone reflect on the true source and inspiration of Hawaiian music and culture: the beautiful lands, forests, birds and plants, reefs and oceans of Hawai‘i nei. We must remember that without our precious and fragile native Hawaiian environment, our native Hawaiian culture will cease to exist. The two go hand in hand. No matter where we live, we must all mālama –or care for- our lands, forests, oceans and all living creatures.
|E ō mai e nā kini a lehu
E lohe `ia nō i ka pakapaka ua
`O ka hana ia
E mālama `ia a mau loa aku
|So answer all you people
And heed the message sent
In the blessing of raindrops
Our work is to protect, evermore
Me ke aloha pumehana,