We’ve heard of San Francisco-based Kumu Patrick Makuakane’s Hare Krishna hula, and now the famously playful kumu and his halau, Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu (the many feathered wreaths at the summit, held in high esteem), bring us their newspaper hula. The production, Ka Leo Kanaka (voice of the people), showcases Makuakane’s signature hybrid of traditional and contemporary dance and song, and though he’ll still incorporate lighthearted elements, the foundation of this particular show is profoundly meaningful to Makuakane and his halau.
Na Lei Hulu participated in an ambitious project, Ike Kuokoa, which gathered thousands of volunteers to transcribe Hawaiian newspapers not yet introduced into the public domain. Makuakane’s halau was the largest contributor from among fellow halau and civic clubs, transcribing more than 1,000 out of a total of 125,000 pages.
“Over the course of around 1834 to 1948, there were 100 different Hawaiian language newspapers that were printed and distributed throughout Hawaii,” explains the Hawaii-born-and-raised kumu. “More than 100 Hawaiian language newspapers! How many people know that?
“What blew my mind, in recognizing how important this project is, was that … we all know those books that make up the canon of Hawaiian history from people like (Samuel) Kamakau and (David) Malo. They have been regurgitated throughout the century and cited in academic papers. But those books all came from the Hawaiian language newspapers, and they represent only 2 percent of the information found in that cache of work. When I heard that I said, wow, that means there’s 98 percent of information from those newspapers that we haven’t discovered yet?”
Contributing to such a significant initiative inspired the 20 new dance numbers Makuakane and his 30 dancers are bringing to Hawaii Theatre May 9 and 10. Ka Leo Kanaka incorporates legendary material recounting the escapades of Hiiaka, sister of Pele, along with a mix of elements reflecting the political climate of the times and issues of Hawaiian sovereignty still relevant today. There also is some Louis Armstrong, some electronic tracks and, not least, a dance done with newspaper.
Makuakane says that at the base of his work is the hula he learned from none other than Robert Cazimero, and to that he adds modern music and choreography, which gives his traditional movements a modern flair. If the establishment turns a quizzical eye in his direction, Makuakane doesn’t seem to notice.
Laughter and passion take turns ushering from the warm timbre of his voice as he describes his Hawaii home-land and its people. Na Lei Hulu last performed in Hawaii three years ago, but Makuakane manages to visit several times a year.
“Whether studying, getting material for hula or doing research, I’m here constantly,” he says, adding, “For us to come back to Hawaii to perform is really important. We perform all over, but no place is as special as Hawaii.”
the TICKET stub
Ka Leo Kanaka
When: May 9 and 10
Where: Hawaii Theatre
More Info: 528-0506, hawaiitheatre.com