Sometimes in life, we are blessed with meeting those rare people in life who immediately "ring true." Craig and his lovely Annie are two of those people. Craig is`ili puakea [fair-skinned] with distinctive `umi`umi `ula`ula [red whiskers], but the rest of him is Hawaiian all the way. "Hawaiian-at-heart" exactly describes him.
Craig shares our enthusiasm fornâ mea Hawai`i [things Hawaiian] , but these days, he has a particularly consuming passion. His passion was kindled the weekend we met at Kûkahi, `96, ostensibly to meet our Comp`Ohana, a motley group of folks who happened to surf into Compuserve's Hawai`i Forum and became friends in cyberspace. Sharing our lives and interests, we "cliqued" and coalesced into a Cyber-`Ohana [family], which found its own hale in cyberspace, Hawai`i Link, to nurture, explore, and expand our friendships.
One of our cyber `ohana members, Keali`i Reichel, was performing, and a number of us who were passionate about his music had come from afar to attend his concert. At the time, neither Craig, nor we suspected that we would also be meeting up with our future passions that weekend, the`ukulele [Lit., "jumping flea", Hawaiian stringed instrument] for Craig, the `ôlelo [language] for me and both the `ukulele and the `ôlelo for Uncle, who is, at this very moment, playing IZ's song Ka Inoa [The Name] on the `ukulele.
I'll let Craig tell youhis own story about how he got bitten by the `uku `ukulele [`ukulele flea] while in Hawai`i that weekend.
After that fateful weekend, we became fast friends with Craig and Annie. In the ensuing months, we met at Keali`i's concerts "down here, up there, and over there." During that time, IZ had found the door to our cyber-hale and a cozy group of "Cuzzes, Aunties and Uncles, and Braddahs and Titas" who hadhânai'd (adopted) each other in cyberspace. Brahdah IZ (his spelling and capitalization, as always, uniquely IZ) already had the perfect `ohana-kine [family kind of] name and fit into the Comp`Ohana with ease.
Craig enthusiastically shared his new-found passion for the`ukulele with others, IZ included. Craig wanted to learn IZ's `ukulele tuning, and IZ generously shared it with him. Later, BU would shareIZ's tuning with others at news:alt.music.hawaiian, just as IZ had shared so willingly with him.
Across the Internet ether, Craig and IZ "connected". Before our very eyes in front of our computer screens, an abiding friendship was blossoming. You could just feel their Aloha for each other.
Brahdah IZ dubbed Craig, "Brahdah BU". When it came to communicating aloha, IZ had a natural eloquence that didn't require fancy words. Nicknaming Craig may have been IZ's expression of brotherly feelings for Craig. The name stuckpa`a [solid] !
One day, out of the proverbial blue, BU called to invite us to come and stay with them to attend IZ's concert up there. Knowing that IZ was to be performing down here later in the year and in the midst of a busy time at work, I politely demurred. BU cajoled. I demurred again. He convincingly iterated the reasons why we must go, including, "We can all go together again when IZ performs down here," and "Da POI BOYZ gotta practice." (POI BOYZ is Uncle's and BU's group, and includes any one who happens to be around tokanikapila [play music] with them.) BU was persuasive, without being insistent, and we said, "`kay den, we coming." Knock three times... "`
It was a weekend to be forever cherished.
BU and Annie treated us likeali`i [royalty]. Generous and gracious, they went ALL OUT. The day of the concert, we arrived at their warm and charming home to an elegant brunch awaiting us. The night before BU and another Comp`Ohana buddy, RK, had been invited by IZ to a private party given in his honor at the home of the president of the hosting organization, PICA. Just as BU was regaling us with the details of the party, the phone rang.
BU handed me the phone; it was IZ, "Jes' checking up an' mekking shuah Aunty wen come."
Talking to IZ is like going home to mykua`âina [country] roots in a split second. Full on pidgin. Some folks purposefully and studiously lose their pidgin when they move away. Not us. Uncle an' me, we talk pidgin to each adda all da time, `cuz we no laik lose `em. Bumby, da folks at home t'eenk we laik mek mainlan' kine. IZ, he talk Wai`anae pidgin; litto' diffren' den Beeg Islan' kine, but almos' same. Easy fo' undahstan' each adda. We wen talk story, jah laik we steh home, Hawai`i."
IZ was excitedly elated. This would be the first concert for him up here in awhile, and he was feelingmaika`i [good].
His call was much appreciated. Constantly surrounded by people seeking his attention, IZ's time and energy were at a premium. Yet, in the midst of a hectic day, he called to touch bases with Bu, Annie, Aunty and Uncle. So sweet, yeah? So IZ. Our hearts warm even now.
After a leisurely nap and bath, we dressed up in our IZ t-shirts and drove a few miles away to the concert site in Marin. There, at the door, we met the gracious Auntie Maria of who is a staunch supporter, generous sharer, and enthusiastic fan of Hawaiian music. The place was teeming with IZ fans. The excitement was at a feverish pitch, and the Aloha was reeeal t'ick.
IZ's concert was beyond words for me. ButBU and Robin describe it well. "Akaka Falls, da maka [Fig., The tears flowed like waters of Akaka Falls on the Big Island]" sums it up. IZ gave it his heart, mind, and soul, his ALL that night.
That performance must have been draining, and just when it seemed there could not be more to give, the PICA President (who, small world (!), turns out to be my long-lost school friend, a sweetheart of a man who was proud of his Hawaiian roots then, as he is now) announced that IZ would be signing autographs for his fans. We waited in an seemingly endless, serpentine line. I've never before sought an autograph. I don't quite "get" the significance of autographs; long autograph lines, it seems to me, are a tedious bother. But, hey, this was Brahdah Iz that we were waiting to see, and we were patient.
Seeing IZ's surprised reaction when BU introduced us, "Aunty and Uncle," was sheer delight, and his smile that followed was preciously sweet. He was expecting a couple of real oldpalalî [broken wind]. (We old, but not DAT OLD!)
During intermission, we had bought an IZ cap for Annie, and it seemed a good idea to have it signed since we were, after all, in the autograph line. Waiting in line was worth it, as what we witnessed next will always be one of our most touching memories of IZ:
IZ could have simply scrawled "IZ" on the hat and be done with it. Instead, he carefully flattened the brim of the hat, and at its base, with a meticulously neat, diminutive, and disciplined script, IZ signed his name in its twenty-lettered entirety:
Hô, the pride I felt for IZ and the pride he had in hisinoa [name]:
Kamakawiwo`ole.The fearless eye...the bold face.
The next day, just when it seemed life could not be kinder, IZ and BU were on the phone. Justwala`au -ing (talking story), so we thought. Instead, they were arranging for an impromptu gathering at IZ's hotel room, which was to include his beautiful wife, Marlene, and his pride and joy, his daughter, Wehe.
Some memories are best kept in a private place in one's heart, and such were these. But this IZ gesture can be shared: Just as we were ready to take our leave, IZ gifted each of us with a bag of Kaua`i poi.
So IZ.Hawai`i wale nô [So Hawaiian].
The symbolism was not lost on us, and we humbly accepted his pû`olo [bundle] of poi.
We shall always be indebted to Braddah BU for his intuitive persuasiveness, as IZ was never to return again, at least, not in body. He continues to return often in spirit, withhis songs and its messages.
Mahalo to Brahdahs BU and IZ , who are forever brothers, for bringing us all together, even if it was for a brief, but essential, time in our lives.
Brahdah BU is a member of a `ukulele group that practices every week and performs at Hawaiian events. He also actively contributes to the Hawaiian Music newsgroup:news: alt.music.hawaiian. He is a prime example that you don't have to be from Hawai`i to have a heart full of Aloha.
Here are a couple of newsgroup examples of BU'sAloha :
Subject: Re: Ukulele Survey
(BU replies to SBís `ukulele questions)
SB:This thread has reminded me of a few questions I have: 1) When I got my first uke, my little Mel Bay Method book used a D tuning. As I've found more & more music, I've noticed that the C tuning seems to be more common. Should I switch?
Bu:I believe Mel Bay uses the tuning that was used back in the 20's here on the mainland and is not for Hawaiian songs. Normal Hawiian tuning for a standard, concert and tenor uke is GCEA (top string down).
SB:Because there is less tension in the strings, a C tuning should beeasier to play, right? I suppose I can "tune down" even more, but eventually, the sound would suffer. Is there a definite point where this happens, or does is it different for each individual instrument?
BU: For your tenor uke, do the Brahdah IZ' (Kamakawiwo`ole) method and it will be a lot easier to play. Again, this is (for GCEA):
1) put the C string where the G string goes,
2) put the G string where the E string goes,
3) put the E string where the C string goes,
4) leave the A where it is.
So you have the top string (the G) a metal wound string and the others nylon. This 'slacks' the strings (except the A) and makes the instrument much easier to strum, IMHO. This is especially true of ukes like Kamaka, which seem to have tighter strings then the Martins, for some strange reason.
Q:I'm concerned about this because I recently acquired a tenor uke. I can't play it very well because of the tension problem. I love its sound, so I want to make it easier to play. I also want to make sure my soprano & my tenor are tuned the same. Any ideas?
BU:The above method might not work for a soprano, but tune your soprano GCEA (with the high G) and see how that works.
SB:Thanks a lot.
Subject: Ukes and uke books for Gary
Gary, my reply to your Email got returned, so I have to post this publically. You asked about how to learn the uke. Well, my first uke was a T..., a cheapo uke made in the Orient I bought in Waikiki (I'd recommend maybe a Kamaka concert as your first uke, don't buy a T whatever you do). Then I bought a Mel Bey uke chord book, Mel Bey's book, 'Fun With the Ukulele' and several Hawaiian songbooks. You can get many of these at Auntie Maria's web site, www.mele.com, and at your local music store (if it's a good one). There are also some other books by a fellow named Hide(I think that's his name) that teach you technique.
You can also find choke Hawaiian songs on the Net, with chords. Again, go towww.mele.com and go to the links page. There are three or four good sources of Hawaiian music there.
As far as a first uke, the above-mentioned Kamaka concert is a great uke to start out with. I wouldn't get a standard size, as they tend to be quite small for a man's hands and sound kind of plinkety-plinky (oooh, am I gonna get roasted for THAT!). You can also check out different tenors, which seem to be the uke of choice among most of us who play regularly. There are several good ones; Kamaka, Kâwika, Pegasus, Maui Music, Nahenahe (which are mostly made in the Phillipines, but are nice ukes and fairly inexpensive) and of course Martin (who stopped making ukes years ago) to name a few. You can see many of these at the Bounty Music uke site,www.ukes.com. But you really gotta try them out before you buy them as even ukes from the same company can sound a little different.
Hope this helps!
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