Sing Flower and Lei Songs for May Day

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Celebrate May Day with Ukulele Mele

In celebration of May Day, join us for the next Sing-Along with Mele Fong series as we learn flower and lei songs on Thursday, May 4 from 10 a.m. – noon at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. The program evokes the feeling of sing-along with Mitch Miller programs as the lyrics and ‘ukulele chords are projected on the large screen in front of room for everyone to follow. ‘Ukulele players are invited to bring instruments to play along. Lunch is optional. Call Kaunoa at 808-270-7308 to register for the program on Maui.

Listen to our recording of the hapa haole song “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii” at http://ukulelemeleonmaui.com/images/fullaudio/MayDay.mp3  and then learn how to play it via private ‘ukulele lessons with me via private webcam lessons from the comfort of your home.

May 1st is also known as “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii.” Invented in 1927, writer and poet Don Blanding wrote an article in the local paper suggesting that a holiday be created around the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei. Fellow writer Grace Tower Warren came up with the idea of a holiday on May 1st in conjunction with May Day. She is also responsible for the phrase “May Day is Lei Day.”

The first Lei Day was held on May 1, 1928 and everyone in Honolulu was encouraged to wear lei, and festivities were held downtown with hula, music, lei making demos and exhibits and contest.

Originally from Oklahoma, Don Blanding is also credited with inventing the custom of tossing your lei overboard when you sailed from Honolulu. If the lei came back to shore, it meant you would return.

For more about May Day in Hawaii, visit

For more information about my classes offered at Kaunoa Senior Center, click here.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Celebrate Earth Day at Haiku Flower Festival

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Celebrate Earth Day at Haiku Flower Festival Saturday

This year’s Earth Day on Saturday, April 22, happens to fall on the same day as the 24th Annual Haiku Ho’olaule’a and Festival on Maui. Hours are 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Haiku Elementary School. This free local festival benefits the school, Haiku Community Association, and the Boys & Girls Club Maui-Hailku. It is one of the biggest events of the year, attracting over 7,000 attendees in past years. Entertainment runs all day including Richard Ho’opii who sings traditional Hawaiian songs and plays ‘ukulele along with his family at 11 .am. In past years, I have worked a booth to educate people about invasive plants and animals that threaten our environment. Now I get to go and “just have fun.” Visit http://haikuhoolaulea.org/ for the entertainment lineup and more.

“Founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, Earth Day is now a globally celebrated holiday that is sometimes extended into Earth Week, a full seven days of events focused on green awareness. The brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson and inspired by the antiwar protests of the late 1960s, Earth Day was originally aimed at creating a mass environmental movement. It began as a “national teach-in on the environment” and was held on April 22 to maximize the number of students that could be reached on university campuses. By raising public awareness of air and water pollution, Nelson hoped to bring environmental causes into the national spotlight.” Visit http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/earth-day for more on the history of Earth Day.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Fong Family Memories – Tribute to My Parents

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My musical beginnings

On February 10, 2017 my mom passed away making me a motherless child (since my dad had passed away on August 14, 2012.) On March 10, during my mom’s Celebration of Life, I presented a 6-minute slideshow movie titled “Fong Family Memories – A Tribute To My Parents.” The slideshow chronicled 93 years of her life and gives a sense of where I come from. It’s easy to see the musical influence and joy of making music that my parents instilled in me from a young age. In the background you’ll hear the music of Kui Lee singing “Days of My Youth” which he wrote when he was dying from cancer and dedicated to his son.

View the tribute on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/OfslGCy4uc4

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Prince Kuhio Day 2017

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Sample of my 2016 program on Prince Kuhio

The State of Hawaii designates two state holidays for Hawaiian royalty, March 26 for Kuhio Day and June 11 for Kamehameha Day. Kuhio Day honors Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, one of Hawai’i’s best known leaders. Kamehameha Day honors King Kamehameha the Great (aka the 1st), who united the islands into one kingdom in 1810. Both holidays fall on the actual birthdays of the leaders although statewide celebrations may occur on other days.

This year Prince Kuhio Day falls on the last Sunday of the month and is observed on Monday, March 27 when state and county offices will be closed. Some people commemorate Prince Kuhio by attending special services at Oahu’s Royal Mausoleum where he is buried. Others may attend festivals including statewide canoe races, cultural demonstrations and luaus. In previous years I have given oral history talks and sing-alongs of songs popular during the Prince’s lifetime (1871-1922) at Hale Ho’ike’ike at the Bailey House and at Kaunoa Senior Center (see sample title slide from a presentation in 2016).

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Hawaii, prince of the house of Kalākaua, is best remembered for his efforts to improve the lives of the people of Hawai’i. In 1902, Kuhio was elected as Hawai’’s second territorial delegate to the U.S. congress where he served for 10 consecutive terms lasting nearly 20 years until his death. Kuhio was the first Native Hawaiian and the only person elected to the U.S. congress that was born a royal. As a delegate, Kuhio authored the first Hawai’i Statehood bill in 1919. He also won passage of the Hawaiian Homes Act in 1921 which created the Hawaiian Homes Commission and set aside 200,000 acres of land for Native Hawaiian homesteaders. Kuhio’s legacy lives on today in two Native Hawaiian organizations, the Royal Order of Kamehameha which he restored in 1903 and the Hawaiian Civic Clubs which he started in 1918.

Prince Kuhio was born March 26, 1871 on the island of Kauai. His mother was Queen Kapiolani’s sister and his father was the ruling chief and son of the last high chief of Kauai. When Kuhio’s mother died soon after his birth, his Aunt Queen Kapiolani and Uncle King David Kalakaua hanaied (adopted) Kuhio and his brother David Kawananakoa into their family. Kuhio’s cousin Queen Lili’uokalani named him heir to the throne, and thus he was given the title of “prince.” Kuhio married Elizabeth Kahanu and they lived in Waikiki near the present day Kuhio beach. They had no children. Prince Kuhio died on January 7, 1922 at the age of 51 on Oahu.

In 1949, the legislature of the Territory of Hawai’i established Prince Kuhio Day as an official holiday. Today, various landmarks, streets, beaches, and buildings in Hawai’i are named after Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole. A statue of Prince Kuhio by sculptor Sean K.L. Browne was dedicated on January 12, 2002 in Waikiki on Oahu. As a teenager, I used to go paipo boarding (form of surfing) at nearby Kuhio Beach.

Now you know a little about the cultural significance of one of Hawai’i’s state holidays, Prince Kuhio Day that is celebrated on March 26.

Keep traditional Hawaiian music alive!

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Chinese New Year 2017

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year began Jan. 28

Chinese New Year – the Year of the Rooster – began the day before my birthday on January 28, 2017 and will last until February 15, 2018. “Kung Hee Fat Choy” (Cantonese) is how we greet each other in Hawaii. What’s the difference between celebrating Chinese New Year and the regular New Year in Hawaii? Look for red firecracker paper strewn around a person’s driveway and the evidence will show you whose house is a Chinese house. Growing up in Hawaii, I remember the fun of burning firecrackers to ward off the evil spirits. Plus there were certain types of traditional foods that we had to eat, for example jai, or monk’s food, along with gau.

When we celebrated regular New Year’s, it was more about going from one relative’s house to another and burning sparklers. We would eat traditional Japanese food at one house, then traditional Chinese at another, and end up with Portuguese soup at neighbors after midnight. What fun we had! When I got older, I would go with friends to watch the aerial fireworks light up the sky, but it was hard to breathe because of all the smoke.

People born in the Year of the Rooster are characterized as honest, energetic, intelligent, flexible and confident. I was born in the Year of the Sheep which means I am tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive, and calm.[1] There are many resources about the Chinese zodiac and what the signs mean (if you believe that sort of thing).

One year we were in San Francisco on Chinese New Year and it was great to watch the parade and enjoy the festivities. You don’t need to be Chinese to enjoy the celebration.

Read more stories about growing up in Hawaii.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/chinese-new-year-2017-year-rooster-celebrate-london-today/

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou

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Learn ‘ukulele from a Native Hawaiian

In Hawai’i we say Hau’oli Makahiki Hou to say Happy New Year. “In ancient Hawaii, the Makahiki Season was a celebration of abundance of land and sea and the accomplishments of the Hawaiian People. It was the time for healing, new growth, a time of peace and spiritual cleansing of the Hawaiian mind, sound and heart, in celebration of life.”[1] The season lasted approximately four months between November and February.

In the spirit of the Makahiki Season, I offer you a Hawaiian cultural connection through the perpetuation of playing Hawaiian music on the ‘ukulele. Live the Hawaiian culture from wherever you live. Learn to play the ‘ukulele, Hawai’i’s official instrument, from a Native Hawaiian with over 50 years of ‘ukulele playing and performing experience.

For all of you homesick Hawaiians and Hawaiians-at-heart living away from Hawai’i, learn the old Hawaiian songs in a new way. Get my song arrangements with unique strums for the ‘ukulele.

  • Can’t pronounce the Hawaiian words? No need to.
  • Forgot the melody? We sing so you can focus on playing along.
  • Curious about the story behind the song? Watch the video story and/or read the song sheets.

Celebrate the Makahiki Season with Ukulele Mele!

Read more how Ka’anapali Beach Hotel celebrates the Makahiki season. We have attended Hawaiian cultural events at the hotel and appreciate the local feel of the place.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

[1] http://www.hawaiiculture.com/cms/View.aspx/Show/Makahiki

Celebration of Life in Arizona

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The Hawaiian Serenaders perform in Arizona for a Celebration of Life program for 40 guests

“In This Life” and “I’ll Remember You” were two songs that we performed for our friend Rod Minami’s celebration of life program on Sunday, October 2, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. We selected the songs because they are popular in Hawaii and Rod grew up in Hawaii. Rod’s wife JoAn (originally from Iowa) planned the outdoor event at their home and gardens covering 1-acre and forty guests attended. After the formal program, we sang 2 more local songs and then the rains came. “It’s a blessing,” we told JoAn. In Hawaii, it is common belief that a light rain after an event is a good thing. For us, flying from Maui to Arizona to help JoAn was the right thing to do.

My husband Rich and I have been friends with Rod and JoAn for over 20 years since our days living in Maryland and working in Washington, D.C. They attended our wedding on September 3, 1994 and we attended their wedding on October 2, 1999. In February 1999 we had a joint 60th birthday party for the guys as they were born in the same year just weeks apart. We moved to Maui in 2000 and they moved to Arizona in 2004. We visited them in Tucson in 2005 and they visited us on Maui numerous times.

We specifically chose the two songs for Rod’s program because of the meaningful words. The day before the program as we practiced the songs, we had a hard time playing through our tears as we thought about the words. I knew we had to get our emotions out so we could play the songs the next day without choking up. The power of music can help us grieve the death of a good friend and deal with the hurt, hope, and heal to move on. Rod died on March 29, 2016 at 77 years-old.

Listen to an audio recording we made of “In This Life” that you can learn to play the Ukulele Mele Way with private ukulele lessons on Maui or via webcam from wherever you live.

Listen to an audio recording we made of “I’ll Remember You” that you can learn to play the Ukulele Mele Way with private ukulele lessons on Maui or via webcam from wherever you live.

Watch the video of The Hawaiian Serenaders performing “I’ll Remember You” on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/xktYwrnf-xo or visit my facebook page.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Classmate Reunion June 22-24 on Oahu

“You look the same – just a little grayer” my friend and I exclaimed after seeing each other for the first time since college graduation in 1977. She flew in from California and I flew in from Maui for our mini-reunion on Oahu for a couple of days last week during her vacation.

College classmates reunion after 39 years on Oahu

College classmates reunion after 39 years on Oahu

Joni Madolora and I first met in 1973 at freshmen orientation for the University of Pacific sponsored by the Anderson YMCA. I entered the Conservatory of Music on piano performance and wanted to be a music therapist. After changing majors, Joni and I both entered the American Humanics program and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in recreation, youth agency administration. My first job was with the Seattle YMCA, and Joni helped manage her family farm in Salinas, California. We lost touch over the years, and then she found me recently on Facebook.

Where do you begin after 39-years? Good thing we shared a hotel room (we left our men at home) as we had lots to talk about and catch up on. The Modern Honolulu was conveniently located at the edge of Waikiki and we had a great view from our room of Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.

The first night we walked across the street to the Chart House Restaurant for dinner. I was surprised to hear my name called out and turned to see my high school classmate, David Kauahikaua in the lounge. David used to be the music director for Hawaii comedian Frank Delima, and plays keyboards and sings at the Chart House only on Wednesday nights with his friend Tito on guitar and vocals. How lucky for us to be there on a Wednesday! We loved their age appropriate music mix of songs from our high school days and beyond.

On the beach where I grew up near Diamond Head

On the beach where I grew up near Diamond Head

The next day, I drove Joni to see my old neighborhood and house where I grew up on the slopes of Diamond Head. The saying “you can never go home” maybe true. She loved seeing the beach where I used to walk from my house, and where the neighbor kids and I played king of the reef and jumped into the water near Doris Dukes. I also explained how I used to gather and eat the limu that would wash ashore after high tide. Plus, my boy cousins taught me to surf at the beach when I was 14 years-old. I have such wonderful memories of running on the beach with arms outstretched letting my beach towel fly in the wind as I played superman.

Next we drove by my old elementary school in Kahala, and then I pointed out Waiokeola Church where my parents were founding charter members. I sang in the church choir as a teenager and used to perform hula with my cousins for church functions. A few years ago on behalf of my mom we donated an outdoor PA system for the church to use at the growing outdoor functions.

We stopped for breakfast at Big City Diner in Kaimuki (part of the old neighborhood), and noticed how the restaurant was sandwiched next to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and French restaurants all in a row. Hawaii has been and continues to be a mix of cultures which shaped who I am today.

Mele at Waimea Falls on Oahu

Mele at Waimea Falls on Oahu

Our big adventure for the day was driving to Waimea Valley on Oahu’s north shore. It had been ages since I had visited the valley. We enjoyed taking a shuttle ride to see the waterfall at the back of the valley, and then we strolled back along the path looking at native and non-native plants. The temperature was much cooler under the shade of the huge monkey pod trees.

On the way back to our hotel, we drove through historic Haleiwa Town to get shaved ice from the famous Matsumoto’s Grocery Store but couldn’t find parking. I have fond memories of eating shaved ice on the bench outside the store as a kid with my friends. Haleiwa has become quite built up since then, similar to Paia Town on Maui that caters to surfers and visitors.

Mele at Mom's 93rd Birthday party

Mele at Mom’s 93rd Birthday party

Once back at our hotel, we relaxed poolside, and then took a walk around the manmade lagoon near Kaiser’s Hilton Hawaiian Village. I don’t remember this lagoon, but enjoyed the view along the beach to Diamond Head. When we were hungry, we walked back over to the Chart House for our second night there. The same table was available and so was Tito this time performing solo on guitar and vocals. Joni showed me how to take video with my smartphone, and so I filmed Tito singing while a video of Maui aerials played in the background. Joni even danced with “Papa” a frequent patron from Japan who has been returning for 15-years. What another great evening of music with friends.

Friday, June 24 was Joni and my mom’s birthday. We checked out of the hotel and then I drove Joni to the airport for her flight back to California. After a business meeting, I drove to Arcadia Retirement Residence to see my mom. I took my ‘ukulele and sang a few songs with her friends during our little party for my mom’s 93rd birthday. It was fun!

See more photos of Mele’s memories.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Review Hapa Haole Sing-Along Songs

“Singing is good for the soul,” I overheard one of my ‘ukulele students saying after my NEW Hapa Haole Songs Sing-Along program on Thursday, June 16 from 10:00 a.m. – noon at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults age 55 and better.

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A full house came to the Hapa Haole Songs Sing-Along Program on June 16 at Kaunoa Senior Center

Twenty-six people signed up for the program, the fifth after the four major Hawaiian Islands Sing-Along Series. I planned to teach 11 songs, but time allowed only 9 songs (always better to have more songs ready to go than to be short). My original PowerPoint presentation was 73 slides and took 1 hour and 25 minutes. As I did before, I told the story behind each song in keeping with Hawaiian oral history traditions. Two of the songs had Hawaiian lyrics, and thus I taught how to pronounce the lyrics and the translation while using the red laser pointer feature on the remote control to advance the slides on the screen. The experience is getting to be more and more like the days of “sing along with Mitch Miller” minus the bouncing ball on the screen. We all had fun singing while I played my ‘ukulele and my husband Rich accompanied the group on his u-bass. There seemed to be more ‘ukulele players this time, and some new folks who might bring their instruments to the next program.

Here are the 9 Hawaiian and hapa haole songs we learned:

  1. Song of Old Hawaii – by Gordon Beecher and Johnny Noble, 1938.
  2. Lovely Hula Hands – by R. Alex Anderson, 1940.
  3. Manuela Boy – by Johnny Noble, 1938.
  4. Hukilau Song – by Jack Owens, 1948.
  5. Princess Pupule – by Jack Owens, 1948.
  6. Medley: Tiny Bubbles / Pearly Shells – Tiny by Leon Pober, 1966; Pearly by Webley Edwards and Leon Pober, 1962-1966.
  7. My Yellow Ginger Lei – by John Keawehawaii, 1940s.
  8. Blue Hawaii – by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, 1937.
  9. Hawaii Aloha – by Rev. Lorenzo Lyons, 1800s.

My selection of songs included two naughty songs – Manuela Boy and Princess Pupule – that are often sung at parties. It was fun to sing some of the songs we grew up with in Hawaii, as hapa haole songs were popular. Please note that in Hawaii we always close public events by singing Hawaii Aloha in the Hawaiian language, and thus we did.

Listen to an audio sample of Hawaii Aloha that ‘ukulele players can learn to play via Complete Monthly Online lessons or via Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs, Vol. 2 packaged song set of book/DVD/CD.

www.UkuleleMeleOnMaui.com

Lovely Hula Hands was 1 of 9 songs we learned to sing during the program

Fan Club members can listen to full audio recordings of the following songs found in the Hapa Haole music category. Learn to play the arrangements by scheduling private ‘ukulele lessons in person or via webcam. Register for free now if you are not a current Fan Club member, and listen to other songs you can learn to play the Ukulele Mele Way.

  1. Blue Hawaii
  2. Hukilau Song
  3. Lovely Hula Hands
  4. Manuela Boy
  5. Medley: Tiny Bubbles / Pearly Shells
  6. My Yellow Ginger Lei

Stay tuned for the next Sing-Along program coming on July 18 for the NEW Summer Sing-Along Series about the golden age of American songs found in The Great American Songbook and the American Song Treasury.  Visit my online Event Calendar for more info.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Father’s Day Memories

Born in Hawaii

Dad and I at home in Hawaii

“Music is the universal language and it will open doors for you,” said my Dad when I was growing up. I still remember the moment we were driving on H-1 freeway in Honolulu when he made that comment. My Dad passed away on August 14, 2012 at the age of 91 years-old. As Father’s Day is approaching this coming Sunday, I reflect back on what my Dad taught me.

My Dad instilled the love of making music and making people happy. All our family parties were filled with music, my aunt on piano, my dad on ukulele, and my mom and cousins singing and having a good time. As I grew up, I evolved from being the entertainer to being entertained by the next generation of cousins. I believe it was these experiences of performing in front of family from a young age that gave me the confidence to speak in front of large groups as an adult and be comfortable engaging the audience as an entertainer.

When I was 12-years-old, my Dad managed my cousins and I as a performing group of 5 girls ages 5-12 known as “Charlie’s Dollies” (my Dad’s name was Charles). We could all sing, dance and play instruments, and we used to perform at our church and around town. One show stands out in my memory when we performed at the orthopedic ward of the Armed Forces hospital in Honolulu. When we entered the ward, many men had their legs and arms bandaged and hoisted in slings. As we sang and danced for them, I noticed the faraway look in their eyes perhaps from thinking about their little sisters back home. The sense of connecting to people through our music touched me, to a point that when I headed to college I wanted to be a music therapist to help people.

In high school, my friends and I used to choreograph song and dance routines to songs like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B” sung by the Andrews Sisters. We wore our Dad’s shirts and ties, and called our families to watch us from the lanai (porch) as we performed down below on our backyard stage. Years later in college, I realized that the 3 of us were all different ethnic backgrounds – Japanese, Hawaiian, and Caucasian – and how lucky I was to grow up in Hawaii where we were friends first who just happened to be different cultures. Together we were representative of the mult-cultural fabric of Hawaii.

My Dad was Chinese, the son of the one of the first jewelers who emigrated from China to Hawaii. His mother was also from China, and died when he was just 7-years-old. My Dad was born in Honolulu’s Chinatown on January 20, 1921 and grew up with 3 brothers and 2 sisters. He married my mom on February 26, 1944 in the middle of World War II. They were married for 68 years.

When I was 12 years-old, I got accepted into Kamehameha Schools and Punahou School, and my parents let me choose which school to enter for the 7th grade. My Dad who is Chinese, said “Go to Kamehameha because that is your roots (Kamehameha is for Native Hawaiian children).” My mom who is Hawaiian said “Go to Punahou so you can meet kids from different backgrounds (Punahou began as a school for missionary kids)”. I chose Kamehameha, and am glad of my decision. My Dad instilled the love of Hawaiian culture and music that I continue to share today.

See photos are more of Mele’s Memories.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele