Kalani Honua Blog - ukulele

Monday, March 9, 2009

David Groth

kavaA recent `Ohana night, our weekly-ish get-together, was the eagerly anticipated kava ceremony hosted by our dear Auntie Lynda and her husband Ama. Lynda is a wonderfully sweet and sexy lady who teaches us lauhala weaving (google it!) and Hawaiian culture. She's very knowledgeable and extremely passionate, and always lots of fun!

Kava, or awa, is a root that is ground up and added to water, filtered out and then shared as a beverage. Traditionally, is tastes like muddy water, especially if you drink the last sip, and ya gotta drink that last sip. It's mildly intoxicating - you get a little giggly, wobbly and a bit numb around the lips, but you stay aware and alert and pleasant. As Lynda says, "it makes the men rough and the women soft".

It was good for meetings amongst the nobles, because you could relax and negotiate without declaring war on everybody all the time.

After getting the kava ready in a large wooden bowl carved out of a single piece of wood by Ama's brother in Tahiti, the task of serving it out in coconut-shell bowls hit a snag - where to find a virgin at Kalani? Or anywhere in the surrounding district? Virgins traditionally serve out the kava, I guess as their own personal offering, whenever people clap their hands together. Later, when I was playing ukulele, I encouraged people to continue clapping for the kava - I need all the applause I can get!!

After designating "serving virgins" (who changed through the evening so that different people could recapture their innocence, and so that we didn't exhaust any individual virgin), we shared laughs and kava and songs and dances. Lynda and Ama performed some traditional dances, Wailana (who teaches us Hawaiian Studies on Monday evenings) danced some hula with Lynda and played my uke a bit, and I played for a while and taught everyone to sing haole songs like "Tiny Bubbles", "Blue Hawaii" and the famous "Hukilau song", which is related to the famous "shaka" symbol (google it!!).

The kava was great for singing. It's mild on the throat, relaxing both physically and emotionally so there was no anxiety about performing, and I think it also made it easier for everyone to relax and sing along.

cliffside ukuleleOur lovely Missy got up and danced hula with Lynda to a Hawaiian song I've learned to play and sing, and even taught to our singing Charlie (see Oct 17, '08 entry). It's called "Holei" and tells about the beauty of Kalapana, the town down the road that once held the most magnificent black sand beach but is now covered in rolling waves of hardened lava. In fact, lava still actively flows to the sea in Kalapana - we can see the plume of steam rising in the distance, and sometimes it glows red with the reflection of the molten earth. Very beautiful and dramatic.

I learned the song from our hula master Kimo and received the music and words from our front desk man, Tim, who not only takes people out on excursions to see the lava but plays Hawaiian music on the ukulele almost exclusively (and quite beautifully). The song is fun and challenging, especially to keep playing it slowly enough for Missy to dance. Charlie sang with me and it felt like a very genuine Hawaiian moment, though none of us are actually Hawaiian by birth (except Kimo, but he wasn't there).

This was one of my most favorite `Ohana nights. It gaves us a chance to experience something cultural together where we shared our talents and our friendship. It was wonderful to see so many members of our Kalani family, from the youngest to the oldest, from under 20 to over 70, laughing and playing and enjoying being together, and doing something that brought us all to the same level of ability - though some of us kept the kava flowing faster than others!

Thanks to Lynda and Ama for the kind hospitality and wonderful memories. I gotta get back into the weaving classes. Lynda is so much fun.

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