No Hula Mua At Merrie Monarch

Makuakane: not your basic hula or stories | Lin Cariffe photo

Makuakane: not your basic hula or stories | Lin Cariffe photo

Merrie Monarch is here, and if you’re a Hilo merchant or a competing halau, this is the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl wrapped into one.

Sig Zane, Hana Hou, Basically Books and Cafe Pesto may do better in these five days than the other 360.

Sonny Ching’s Halau Na Mamo O Pu’uanahulu is back, and you wonder if anyone else can win anything this week. Certainly not Mark Ho’omalu.

My thoughts as I sit poolside and ponder with a mojito at Hilo Seaside Hotel: Why don’t they announce the musicians playing for the auana performances? We get top-flight singers and instrumentalists but have to guess who they are.

How about the halau that won’t be there? Patrick Makuakane and Na Lei Hula I Ka Wekiu always fills the Palace Theatre in San Francisco. It will be at Hawaii Theatre next month. His hula mua, or “evolving hula,” thrills West Coasters. Not so well-received here by traditionalists.

That’s a shame and a result of our fretting over offending Hawaiian culture. Dance evolves. If you demand tradition, we’d all do the 6,000-year-old belly dance.

Ethno-musicologist Amy Stillman writes that “the hula tradition is far more than just dance. Each teacher has his or her own purpose, style and way of teaching hula.”

Makuakane says hula mua pays respect to traditional hula while bringing it into a modern world. He took his halau to Golden Gate Park for a practice. He saw Hare Krishna followers doing a ceremony. Makuakane went back to town and wrote a Hare Krishna Hula. Traditionalists groaned, but audiences loved it.

He did a local show called “The Natives Are Restless.” I think it academically misrepresented missionaries and Hawaiian culture. It was simplistic. But as artistic expression it was sensational!

I’m disappointed that Makuakane never applies to be at the Merrie Monarch Festival. He’d bring down the house. He knows he’s not artistically welcome.

The equally controversial Mark Ho’omalu’s Oakland group will compete but not win anything this year. Not with the festival’s regular judges with local kumu friends and local kumu grudges and prejudices. The audience will stand and applaud for five minutes. The judges will frown and ding.

MM is a revival of hula of the Kalakaua period, but it desperately needs upgrades or will lose its audience. Maybe some old and some new? Drop those winner-by-a-point-or-two prizes and make it just a talent showcase.

Also, if Gov. Abercrombie will pay $5 million to bring the Pro Bowl here in 2016, he damn sure can pay for local Merrie Monarch halau to attend and perform once a year in Hilo.

It’s our people’s event. Not the NFL’s.

Where will you direct the money? 865 Piilani St., Hilo, HI 96720? Or 345 Park Ave., New York, NY 10154?