Last year I pointed to Kenneth Makuak?ne’s weblog and speculated who his anonymous collaborator at UH-Hilo was. Well, Kenneth’s let the cat out of the bag, and I don’t mind – it’s me.
It has been an amazing process, and hard to believe we’ve been at it for over a year. Sometimes I write lyrics to his music, sometimes he sets music to my mele, but there is always a lot of give and take. I always run the mele by my colleagues at UHH, a process called paka, to make sure that there isn’t anything in there that could lead to misinterpretation. He’s done multiple demos of most of the mele, and the process is almost like an out-of-body experience. I let the songs go, and they come back stronger and better. One of the most amazing aspects is the fact that it’s all being done online, by email, iChat, and swapping audio files. I sent him a new mele once, and had a full demo – guitar, bass, ‘ukulele and vocal (with harmonies) back within an hour. For another song, I left the office immediately after emailing him the mele, and came back to the office to find a live demo of it on my voicemail. I digitized that, and keep threatening Kenneth that I’m going to put it on the web.
It’s very interesting to try to compose lyrics to music that is a bit different than traditional Hawaiian music. Every language has a rhythm, and Hawaiian music has evolved to reflect those rhythms. When I was transcribing the music of John Kameaaloha Almeida for my MA thesis, I was able to identify some of those language patterns and find ways to fit them over different musical styles. Of course it’s not all analytical; mele have to come from the na‘au, otherwise you are simply working on a word puzzle.
The challenge now is for him to pick the songs that he’ll use on his CD. We agree on most of them, though I have a couple of favorites that aren’t on his list. I’ll lobby for my favorites, of course, but defer to his knowledge and expertise as one of Hawai‘i’s ace producers. Last time I counted we had 30, and that was a few mele ago. The beauty is that there are so many other amazing artists out there, perhaps some of them will be interested in recording them.
Stay tuned for news on his CD and the amazing journey that lead to its making.