Aunty Irene flashed a wide, genteel smile as I arrived for the Ho’okipa Cultural Program offered by the Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i. Seated on a sofa in the lobby of The Lodge at Ko’ele, her red flowered mumu draped to the floor and the large yellow flower tucked behind her left ear perfectly complimented her wavy silver hair, pulled back in a prim bun. On the coffee table in front of her lay all the accoutrements of her lesson: Plumeria blossoms for lei making, ti leaves for weaving bracelets, and two gleaming wood ukeleles. Great, I thought, I’m finally going to learn a little bit more about traditional Hawaiian culture. What I had not anticipated was the “price” attached to the lesson. Aunty Irene and her cousin, Aunty Sandra were not there to demonstrate; they were there to teach.
Aunty Irene and Aunty Sandra (left to right) display the most important accoutrements of Hawaiian culture
She handed ukeleles to me and my sister, Nancy, and, balancing the diminutive instrument against her ample body, began demonstrating how to hold it and where to place our fingers for certain chords. I must digress here to explain that I have not one whit of musical talent. I have tried to play the organ, piano, flute and guitar, all with disastrous results. My one and only modicum of success has been with the tambourine, and even then I can barely hold a beat. Unsurprisingly, the ukelele was no different. On the rare occasions I got my fingers in the proper places for the chords, my forefinger kept getting tangled up in the strings when I strummed. And doing both things at once? Impossible. I left the learning to my more talented sister and did what I do best, filmed. Continue reading