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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, May 16, 2005

Music of the forest on DVD

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

Hawaiian traditions often celebrate places and wildlife in chant and song, and The Nature Conservancy of Hawai'i has compiled some of the loveliest of those nature-inspired works in a DVD titled "Maoli No" that it will distribute for free.

The volume goes beyond simple music by including brilliant nature video and photography, along with detailed information on the history of the songs and chants, as well as discussions of Hawaiian culture and its connections to the environment, the latter narrated by Robert Cazimero.

"There is an intimacy between Hawaiians and the natural world that has largely been lost, but maintained tenuously through hula and chant," said Sam Gon III,

cultural adviser and senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy. Gon opens "Maoli No" with a chant traditionally used before entering a forest.

In one of the performances on the DVD, Richard Ho'opi'i puts voice to Dennis Kamakahi's song "E Hihiwai," about the freshwater snails of the Wailau Valley stream on Moloka'i's north shore.

Other songs and chants about native flowers, birds, eels, edible seaweeds and more are performed by Keola Beamer, the Brothers Cazimero, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Kekuhi Kanahele, Genoa Keawe, Gary Haleamau, Hapa and kumu hula John Lake. All the music was donated by the artists and authors.

Suzanne Case, executive director of The Nature Conservancy of Hawai'i, said the music and information is being distributed free to schools, environmental education groups, cultural organizations and individuals as an educational effort.

"Hawaiian music, with its power to connect to what is truly native Hawaiian, inspires and teaches us about Hawai'i's native environment and culture," Case said.

She said the conservancy's original idea was to issue a CD, and she credits Mountain Apple executive Jon de Mello with suggesting converting to a DVD format.

"An audio CD just didn't do it justice," de Mello said. "It's very pleasant to put this on the TV while you're having dinner, and you're in the forest. You can just about smell it and feel it."

The Nature Conservancy has produced 10,000 copies of the DVD. To find out how to get one, visit the Web site www.nature.org/hawaii, or call the group's office on your island: O'ahu, 537-4508; Moloka'i, (808) 553-5236; Big Island, (808) 885-1786; Kaua'i, (808) 826-6572; and Maui (808) 572-7849.

If you have a question or concern about the Hawaiian environment, send a note to Jan TenBruggencate at P.O. Box 524, Lihu'e, HI 96766, or jant@honoluluadvertiser.com, or call (808) 245-3074.