Taking over for Uncle Nathan

Shane Maka Herrod has done stand-up comedy, but hula is his true calling

Shane Maka Herrod was handpicked by Uncle Nathan Kalama to oversee the Kaua‘i Mokihana Festival, which begins this weekend at various venues around the Island

Shane Maka Herrod is excited about the weeklong Kaua‘i Mokihana Festival that begins Sunday

Shane Maka Herrod, aka Boom Shaka Laka Maka, is executive director of Malie Foundation, which produces the annual Kaua’i Mokihana Festival now in its 26th year and scheduled to run Sept. 19-25. This year’s theme is the Year of Olelo Hawaii – Hawaiian Language.

Kaua’i Mokihana Festival offers music, hula, a church service in the Hawaiian language, keiki choral groups singing in Hawaiian, crafts vendors and more. Each day, in various locations, the festival holds events that welcome residents and visitors.

Herrod assumed leadership from co-founder Uncle Nathan Kalama at the onset of last year’s festival, and suddenly it’s that time again, with a weeklong list of events centered on cultural preservation.

Herrod’s joy is infectious. If laughter is the best medicine, he’s the poster boy for it. Amid the thrill of hula competition, of slapping ipu and pounding feet, and of new musical compositions by composers vying for time in a recording studio, there’s a feeling of being rooted in a culture that is ancient yet growing and changing at the same time.

Herrod looks on as Uncle Nathan Kalama chants

Herrod makes it easy to be part of the many components of these events, striking a light note in just the right places. Expect to chuckle a lot and keep an eye out for him to step forward and dance hula – the love of his life, after family, of course – and to perhaps even execute a cartwheel or two.

“Usually, when I’m dancing, it’s spur of the moment, and they say, ‘Go get Maka!’ I’m a filler,” says Herrod, laughing. But his hula is no laughing matter – it brings screams of approval.

Joking aside, Herrod says, “Uncle Nathan mentored me and mentioned he wanted me to continue his work. I told him, ‘I would be blessed to continue your legacy for our keiki.'”

Festival-Foundation link

It is keiki who will benefit from proceeds of the festival.

First came the festival’s signature event – the composers’ contest and concert – back in 1984 when Kalama and two pals got a $300 donation to put it on and came away with a $5 profit. Then came the week-long festival, run under the nonprofit Garden Island Arts Council, and finally the birthing of its own nonprofit entity, Malie Foundation, which began giving scholarships for preschoolers to attend Punana Leo Hawaiian language schools, and has expanded that.

Today, Malie Foundation gives away thousands of dollars each year while supporting its mission to provide events that educate, promote, preserve and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture through its varied activities and for all people. It has an annual awards festival that honors achievers in Hawaiian culture, and there are support events, concerts and fundraisers throughout the year – always fresh, always crowd-pleasers.

As always, the festival draws halau from around the state. It has been Herrod’s delight to participate as a dancer, first as a member of Kumu Hula Kapu Kinimaka Alquiza’s halau, and later to enter his own halau, Na Hui o Kamakaokalani, which won numerous times, including first place for both kahiko and auana in 1998.

Herrod’s early years

Herrod stepped easily into the directorship of Malie Foundation, with both the grace of years of hula practice and with having worked in the field of human resources for eight years – this is a person who knows how to work with people.

The youngest of 12 siblings, Herrod was born and raised in Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore into a family in which everybody played ukulele and piano and knew how to sing.

As a kid, he surfed and swam, dove, threw net, caught fish, and picked opihi and haukiuki. But first, there were chores to be done – clean house, wash clothes and do homework.

“We lived across Alii Beach Park (in Haleiwa),” he says. “I had to do chores or I’d get lickins.'”

He began paddling canoe while he was in intermediate school, and at Waialua High School he played volleyball and took chorus and Polynesian music class – where he earned the prophetic nickname “Kumu.”

Learning songs and routines, he’d get his teacher’s permission and then turn around to teach his friends. Then they’d go out to perform.

While in high school, Herrod took first place in the non-audio category of the Brown Bags to Stardom program. Surprisingly, it was not in hula, but in a comic routine in which he masqueraded as a kumu hula teaching hula class – tita style.

The Herrod ohana: (from left) Kalalea, Aulii, Iwalani, Maka and Anuhea

(As an aside, Kaua’i’s own Glenn Medeiros took first in the audio category the same year, according to Herrod.)

Herrod might have had a career as that tita. He’s done other cross-dressing roles and even once, to howls of approval from the audience, he emceed the Miz Tita Kaua’i Contest, produced by the Kaua’i Mokihana Festival for five years.

And, according to Herrod, the producers of Brown Bags wanted him to do more, but, he says, “I didn’t want to. I wanted to be in hula.”

Herrod is married to Kapa’a born-and-bred Iwalani Ka’auwai Herrod, who is a state-employed social worker. The couple live in Anahola with their three children, daughters Anuhea and Kalalea, ages 16 and 10, respectively, and son Aulii, 15.

Kalama-Herrod connection

Herrod and Kalama connected early on. Kalama’s father, the Rev. David Ma’alo Kalama, had been the minister of the church that Herrod grew up attending.

“Liliuokalani Church had an annual luau every year, where a lot of people would come – wonderful, old-time entertainers like Charles K.L. Davis and Loyal Garner,” says Herrod. “I liked going to church – I knew because of my foundation and upbringing that that’s where my strength would come from.

“To this day, that connection is very strong. Ke Akua is first in everything that I do, and I believe that’s why we’re blessed to live here and be surrounded by our extended family have the opportunities we have.”

When Kalama and family moved to Kaua’i, he started a church in Koloa, and Herrod and other members of Kalama’s congregation on Oahu would visit.

“I told myself I wanted to move here and enjoy the beauty and learn about the island and its people,” says Herrod, who realized his dream in 1989.

Early on, Herrod volunteered his services to the Kaua’i Mokihana Festival. And so began his education in what would eventually become his future employment.

Herrod had built a career in human resources within the visitor industry, leaving it for a similar position at a native Hawaiian health services program – he still teaches a hula-based fitness class there – and then stepped into his current position with Malie Foundation.

Having served so long as a volunteer in varying capacities with the Kaua’i Mokihana Festival, Herrod has more than a passing familiarity with Malie Foundation and the members of the board.

“They love to work,” he says. “They have innovative ideas they bring to the table for discussion, and we have a balance of older and younger generations on our board.

“I think there’s a beauty there that we can work together, how it used to be and how it will be in the future.”

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