By Renée Tillotson
When did you start your music recording journey?
I first stepped into David Kauahikaua’s recording studio in 2014. It has been a long journey and an epic arc of experience, and now I can officially share my debut album with the world!! I can’t possibly express the full measure of gratitude I feel for the love and support I have received from family and friends along the way.
How did your journey with singing Hawaiian music start?
I started dancing hula when I was about 8 years old, so I would say that my connection to Hawaiian music started back then. That, and an early introduction to Hawaiian music and ʻukulele in elementary school. My more serious study of ʻukulele began when I was training to be a kumu hula. My goal was to sing, strum, dance and teach at the same time, just like my kumu, my teacher.
Where did you get your inspiration to create this album?
I am so inspired by years of teaching hula to keiki, to kids! My children have been included in my hālau, my hula school, since birth and Iʻve seen what lights them up over the years. The most poignant classes Iʻve taught have been for moms and babies in the Salvation Army recovery programs. Nurturing connections between babies and caregivers, especially in times of hardship, is so important for laying a solid foundation for keiki. If my music can help in that process, then I am so grateful!
What was your favorite aspect of creating this album?
The learning curve: Things that started out so intimidating – such as standing in front of a recording mic – became natural over time. Things really started to flow when I applied what I know about nuance and transitions from hula and lomilomi massage to the process of recording music.
What was most surprising about the process?
I learned that my great grandma Emma copyrighted music in the 1930s. That surprised me and my whole family. Nobody knew!
Do you have a favorite track on the album?
I don’t have a favorite, but the last song, Mokulua Moonrise, is the one I play the most often. That one came so quickly, inspired and written in one take after witnessing the uproar that occurred after George Floyd was killed. The issues surrounding his death are so complex and entwined, with so many layers, that it takes time, attention and context for even grownups to understand.
I watched news footage of dumpster fires in residential neighborhoods and I thought of all the little ones who were witnessing the chaos and noise but maybe not understanding the full picture. I wanted to reach out and hold them all to me, so instead this song came out as my lullaby to the world. The moon is Grandmother moon, passing over, saying, “I see you”. Passing under the earth, she is still there praying for us. And something else is special in this track – my 15-year-old son is playing his great great grandfather’s guitar!
You can listen to this track on youtube.
Was there a big ‘take-away’ that came in completing the album?
Last year on October 1st, after 4 years of going completely silent on the album process, my recording engineer for the album emailed me. I had let the album lapse for so long that he wanted to refund my money for the uncompleted project. That email brought me to action. The power of the nudge!
As we were nearing the album’s completion, I realized that Father’s Day was coming up on June 21 for 2020. Since my own personal deadline was the summer solstice, I set the release date to Father’s Day to honor my dad, who has championed my hula and encouraged my writing in all forms.
It’s so precious to bring music back into our family. My great grandparents and both of my grandparents on my momʻs side were musicians.
Where would you most like your album to travel and be heard?
There is something so precious to me about families dancing and singing together. Anywhere that this can still happen, where families are taking part in cultural practices, I’d love to share my music.
Any vision for future albums?
I will gear my next album towards infants and toddlers and include the songs I teach in my Baby Hula classes.
My larger dream is to create an educational video series that includes hula and other Hawaiian practices filmed outside in nature. With the release of my first album, I feel as if I’m sitting on a little egg. I’ve birthed it, and now there’s so much I’d like to do to hatch it into the world. I would love to see families dancing hula together across the globe!
Where can we find your album?
Find links here! (https://kumumalia.hearnow.com)