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Molokai: Ground Zero of Hawaiian Culture


photo by Rick Schonely

Photo courtesy of Rick Schonely

Community Contributed

By Winfield DuBresque

The breath of history has revealed another fine example of what lies at the heart of our little island of Molokai. The artist’s name is Norman DeCosta, a quiet and respectful native who lives by the sea with his wife, Hokunani and his dog, Palaka. Who would think that this much decorated survivor of the Vietnam War could harbor the subtle dynamics that flow throughout his recently-released CD, “Pohai Na Mele”?

All the words and fancy rhetoric in the world are thrown to the wind by the simple, quiet devotion that flows from his voice and guitar.

“When I returned from the war, my guitar went under the bed and stayed there while I raised two boys with Hoku and tried to earn a living,” Norman explained.

Many years later, Norman pulled out his guitar, tuned its 12 strings and flew to Maui. There with the brothers of the Brown Ohana, Kevin, Sheldon and Ikaika, and augmented by the skills of Joe Bommarito, Gilbert Emata and Michele Romero, he set to putting his soul on wax, as the saying goes.

The frosting on Norman’s cake is the exceptionally delicate “steel” work of Dwight Tokumoto. It transcends the contemporary whine of steel to lift the listener to a plateau of sweetness that long-ago prevailed in Hawaiian mele.

There’s no way this writer can describe the depth, delicacy and respectful renditions contained on this CD. It’s like going back in time when musicianship and nahenahe mele were a way of life — a time when lyrical expression transcended gain and stood as a beacon to those who will follow.

From the east end, Puko`o, where the boulder stone sentinels of the old harbor speak of its ancient commerce, and where surrounding hills whisper of a spirituality that outlives the crumbling remnants of the temples there that was once the centers of its devoted populations, comes “Pohai Na Mele.”

This CD can be purchased on Molokai at Hui Ho`olana Gift Shop, Coffees of Hawaii, Local Store (Hotel Molokai), Kalele Bookstore and online at Mele.com.


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