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Maui Connections – By Rick Chatenever

Originally Published :
Maui News : Tues. Apr. 5, 2016 – “Maui Connections” by Rick Chatenever

The Merrie Monarch Festival, like the circumnavigation of the Earth by the sailing canoe Hokule’a, is another opportunity to realize the wisdom and beauty of the Hawaiian culture, and the lessons it has to teach the rest of the planet.
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The Merrie Monarch still had a hold on me the next day so I took a little drive out Kula Highway back to the source. The tranquil, historic buildings and tree-shaded grounds of what is now Maui Winery in Ulupalakua was once Rose Ranch, a Maui getaway for the Merrie Monarch himself, King David Kalakaua. There he would watch halau perform in his honor on a pa hula surrounded by a ring of cypress trees.
I listen for their echoes, but instead hear a solo guitar. It’s Randall Rospond, doing his monthly first Sunday gig at the Ulupalakua Ranch Store.
Randall’s a favorite traveling island gee-tar slinger and troubadour, keeping nuevo country folk sounds alive and well in his solo gigs, on his Saturday Mana’o Hana Hou radio shows, and with his stompin’ happy band, the Haiku Hillbillys.
On his classic little Gibson LG-1, his sound is twangy and dreamy, traveling music for the black two-lane roads that dance through the green meadows up here.
He gives me a CD of the Haiku Hillbillys’ fine new “Rodeo Dreams,” providing the perfect soundtrack as I drive home watching Ulupalakua’s beauty undulate down Haleakala to the gorgeous south coast vistas below.
Driving past Oprah’s place, and the turnoff to Kula Hospital, I stop briefly at Ching’s Store. In this changeless setting, with Upcountry greenery framed through the open front of the tiny gas station and market, Florence Ching sits behind the cash register. A small TV nearby is showing dancing rebroadcast from the Merrie Monarch the night before.
It doesn’t end. Hula’s not just a way of life for the kumu and the dancers, but for everyone watching, too. It’s the thread back to the beginning of history in this place, and the thread tying everything together in the present with its pulsing ipu heartbeat.
* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary film scriptwriter. Contact him at or 344-9535. This column appeared in The Maui News April 5, 2016

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