Maui is always on our minds – and I have been reminded that, though we have faced so many challenges, we are not alone. Specifically, I have been reminded that support comes in many different forms and places.
I proudly dedicate this column to brothers Kahikina and Kalani Ah Sing, who continue to garner support for Maui relief beyond our shores.
Twelve days after the West Maui wildfires, the nonprofit organization Kāhuli Leo Leʻa; producers, Zachary Lum, Ted Jung, Keliʻi Grace, and Keʻala Lucero; and Hawaiʻi’s creative and media community came together to produce “Maui Ola,” a telethon and benefit concert that was, perhaps, the largest simulcast ever to come out of Hawaiʻi.
The goal was simple: amplify our collective call to support Maui in this dire time of need. The Maui Ola broadcast brought in over $1 million within the first 24 hours of its airing. Beyond this, many other benefit concerts and broadcasts have continued to raise money and awareness to support our families affected by the devastation.
With the help of many Japan-based producers of hula concerts and events, the Maui Ola broadcast also reached countless viewers in Japan. The Ah Sing brothers, both of whom are kumu hula who were raised in Kona, made a special trip from Japan to Oʻahu to serve as the Japanese-language hosts for the broadcast.
With over 20 years of experience working in Japan as kumu hula, producers and entertainers, the brothers have become mainstays in the Japanese hula community. There are an estimated two million Japanese hula dancers, making the brothers’ ability to engage with this audience especially impactful for building awareness and support for Maui.
Even from across the ocean, the brothers’ support of Maui has not stopped. In early December, they produced “Maui Ola featuring Christmas with Nāpua,” a multi-city tour throughout Japan featuring Maui natives, Kumu Hula Nāpua Silva (my daughter), her hālau, and her family.
I had the privilege of being a part of this tour which has since left an impression on my heart. The benefit concert also featured Japan-based hālau, a very poignant reminder that support for Maui continues within the hearts, hands, feet and smiles of those who love our hula in Japan.
Though language barriers may sometimes mask the emotional connection many Japanese have to Hawaiʻi in general, I was reminded that hula has kept millions of Japanese connected to Hawaiʻi, and specifically, to Maui. And in that regard, I am so grateful for the work that the Ah Sing brothers continue to do in Japan, not only as kumu hula, but as advocates for Hawaiʻi and our people.
In late December, “Maui Ola featuring Christmas with Nāpua” was made available to international broadcast audiences on mele.com and, locally, on the Japanese-language TV station, KIKU. I look forward to more great work from the Ah Sing brothers and their strong and impactful presence in Japan for Hawaiʻi.