Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Haleakalā National Park in Three Acts

"Haleakalā National Park in Three Acts" is a three-minute exploration of three different landscapes in one national park. This is an entry to the 2nd Annual Public Land Owners Film Fest, sponsored by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

The music accompanying this video is "Grandchild," by Hawaiian artist Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole. The music feels both ancient and personal.

In Hawaiian folklore, the volcanic crater of Haleakalā was home to the grandmother of the demigod Maui. The grandmother helped Maui capture the sun and slow its transit across the sky, thus lengthening and creating the day. Mythologist Joseph Campbell would point to this as an example of the "story of fire theft," which occurs across cultures and time, "Prometheus" being another version.

"Grandchild" seems like the right music to accompany images of land that is "home to the grandmother."

The music also feels personal. We first heard "Grandchild" played as we made our way around Maui in June. It grabbed me. I said to Jill, "Stop. Run it back! Who IS that?"

When putting this video together, I sought film-fest permissions. After reaching out to her record label and her booking agent, I was able to contact Kaumakaiwa directly. I told her why her music moved me, showed her the video, and asked if she would permit me include it in this film fest entry. She replied, and said:

"Aloha Joe! Yes!!! It would be my honor."

The New York Times described her voice as "vaulting through registers and timbres, from bass to witchy contralto rasp to sweet soprano." She said of herself, "My work draws directly from ancestral memory and hula practice, with roots in chant that transforms to melody. It is not simply Western song with Hawaiian lyrics."

It's those lyrics in "Grandchild" that seem to make this song uniquely right for a video that seeks to honor the land. Kaumakaiwa's words call out to the land, of which she is part, and to her ancestors, to whom she is grandchild.

Some of those words are here:


"He is from the source, a living spring continues
from this land, now which nurtures me
a creation of survival, of essential memory
a child of the storms, a chaotic symphony 
I am their expression, ohana (family) we are
I was taught to call upon them
from those who came before..."


I think the images are honoring the story in her music, rather than the other way around.

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