An interview with Rev. Dennis Kamakahi
“Ka Manu” and conversations with the past
Keywords:Hawai‘i, Hawaiian, Hawaiian music, Hawaiian language, ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, haku mele, mele, transmission
In this Riff article, Keola Donaghy interviews the now late Rev. Dennis David Kahekilimamaoikalanikeha Kamakahi (b.1953-d.2014), one of the most renowned and beloved Hawaiian composers and performers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This interview was originally arranged to discuss and examine elements and characteristics of mele(Hawaiian language poetic or song compositions). Over the course of their discussion, however, we learn about the important process of knowledge transmission from his elder mentors (composers who were native speakers of Hawaiian) to Kamakahi, particularly in relation to the nineteeth century composition “Ka Manu”. Today, Hawaiian composers look to the past for knowledge, inspiration, and models from which they can create their own compositions. This interview with Kamakahi reveals insights into an otherwise undisclosed Hawaiian musical ‘past’, concerning his mentors and the central character of the mele.
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