The Music of Kalaupapa
The rich history of music written at Kalaupapa was celebrated by some of Hawai`i’s most well-known musicians in a virtual concert, “The Music of Kalaupapa,” which originally aired on October 17 -- and is still available for viewing on Facebook and YouTube through Sunday, October 25. The event is sponsored by Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa.
The concert serves as a fundraiser for The Kalaupapa Memorial which will list the names of the nearly 8,000 men, women and children who were taken from their families and forcibly isolated at Kalaupapa between 1866 and 1969 because of government policies regarding leprosy.
“The music of Kalaupapa is one of the most inspiring parts of this history, showing how people could overcome the sadness and separation,” said Valerie Monson, Executive Director of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa. “We believe the music helped people to heal and to find hope.”
From the earliest days of the settlement, choirs and bands were assembled. The people of Kalaupapa always welcomed ali`i arriving by ship with rousing music at the pier. Later, ensembles of Kalaupapa musicians and singers entertained at community events. Throughout the entire history, individuals were composing songs, chants and kanikau.
Because all the composers of Kalaupapa have died, their songs were performed by artists who knew them or who have a connection to Kalaupapa. These musicians were brought together by slack key guitarist Stephen Inglis who has known many of the people of Kalaupapa since childhood, including the prolific songwriter and human rights activist Bernard K. Punikai`a. Inglis later recorded an album of Kalaupapa songs with his mentor, the late slack key legend Dennis Kamakahi.
The concert features performances by Brother Noland, Melveen Leed, Makana, Kevin Brown and Lopaka Ho`opi`i. They played songs written by Kalaupapa residents The ‘Aikala Brothers, Ernest Kala, Helen Keao, Samson Kuahine, George McLane, Bernard Punikai`a and the Boys of Kalawao.
The current musicians recorded their own video of songs and memories of Kalaupapa. The videos were coordinated by musician and producer Chris Lau. Veteran radio and TV broadcaster Billy V served as Master of Ceremonies, introducing the musicians and weaving together stories of the Kalaupapa composers who made the music come to life. Valerie Monson wrote the script from her 30-plus years of interviewing the residents of Kalaupapa and doing additional research.
**To produce this concert, Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa received assistance from CARES Act funding made possible by the Hawai`i Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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