Saturday, January 24, 2009

Genoa Keawe

PO’OKELA (Excellence)

"Ahuwale ka po’okela I kāu hana iā ha’i."
Hawaiian Saying

It is through the way you serve others that your greatness will be felt.

"Hele me kahau ‘oli"

Go with Joy

"The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Aunty Genoa Keawe and son #11 (bottom picture)

. . . Boats are lovely things, dancing at the end of their lines. The Ala Wai Harbor is a special neighborhood WITHIN a special neighborhood. Our neighbors mean a lot to us, especially the good folks like Captain Dave Silvey, who’s always available to help anyone who needs it. Over 200 folks gathered recently at the Hawaii Yacht Club to wish him a happy 85th Birthday. Papa Al, played his guitar and sang a few of his own compositions. They tell me that I played my flute with the jazz band – but I was having such a good time that I don’t really remember it. What a blow out! Hope I get a cool party like that when I turn 85! Happy Birthday Dave ;-). . . . Which puts me in mind of legend, Aunty Genoa Keawe. Seems to me that the great lady has been passed for about a year. I feel to lucky to have been present at one of her last gigs. We were celebrating her 89th birthday all the month of her last October, leading up to her birthday on the 31st. As I recall, it was one of those free “Na Mele No Na Pua – Music for the Generations” concerts at Embassy Suites Hotel on Beach Walk. Over half the audience were locals, and it turned into a real back yard luau as aunty was joined by her sons, grandchildren, friends, and spontaneous hula dancers from the audience. Even co-host Brickwood’s mom got up and sang, what a talented lady she is! Now we see where her popular son “gets it from!” It was an amazing experience! Just don’t call Aunty’s style “falsetto.” She sings her full range. Proper Hawaiian Falsetto singing (which some say underlies today’s distinctive country music lonesome “twang.”) is the exclusive province of the men, and stems from a cultural time when Hawaiian women didn’t sing in public – so men sang the high wahine parts (like Japanese Kabuki, or Shakespearean Theater). There was good falsetto singing by New Jersey native Bill Wynn who won a recent Falsetto competition and told us that he’s selling his house back east and moving “home” real soon. Of course Mz. Keawe sang her classic hit “Alika” (Alaska) with it’s unbelievably long, long, LONG, held notes. Host Kimo Kahuano told us about when he was just starting out in music, and how “this lady sitting here always treated me, a kid, with true respect. I never forgot that, and if we can’t treat our kids and each other with that kind of Aloha, we aint never going to get anywhere good.” This veteran performer and MC had tears in his eyes and his voice as he said this. You could have heard a lei drop to the floor. Then Aunty sang for us the first song she ever recorded (on 49th State Records), “My Hawaiian Souvenirs: A photograph, a calabash, a paper lei – these are my Hawaiian souvenirs. . . When I’m old and gray. . . “ Now there wasn’t a dry eye in the house; and no one wanted it to end, even Aunty Genoa at the curtain call of a two hour show; so we spontaneously sang “Hawaii Aloha” all holding hands, then “God Bless America,” and finally “Happy Birthday.” I noticed a white dove fluttering in place just above the party, just like the Holy Spirit in a stained glass window. At the end, Aunty shouted out happily: “I’m proud to be 89!” What a special day for us all! Just the sort of magic that can be found around most any corner. . . when you’re walking in Waikiki. . . Aloha! Cloudia