The following is a guest post by Douglas D. Peach, a Folklife Specialist at the American Folklife Center.
On April 27, 2023, the American Folklife Center (AFC) joined four other divisions at the Library of Congress (the Music Division, Rare Books and Special Collections, the U.S. Copyright Office, and the Law Library of Congress) to welcome a delegation from Hawai’i. Attendees included members of two Royal Families, as well as representatives of the ‘Iolani Palace in Honolulu and the Daughters of Hawai’i—an organization founded to preserve Hawaiian language, culture, and collective memory.
Staff members John Fenn and Guha Shankar showed the delegation treasures from the Hawaiian collections of the American Folklife Center. The collections included photographs and liner notes from Nā Mele Paniolo (Songs of Hawaiian Cowboys)—an album released by the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts in 1987. The project documented singers of Hawaiian cowboy songs—including Bill Ka’iwa and the band, Ku’ueli’s Own. The album was produced by Dr. Ricardo D. Trimillos, Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and Lynn Martin, former Folk Arts Coordinator at the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. AFC staff also shared song lyrics and sheet music from the collection of Mark “Boots” Lupenui—a 2022 recipient of the AFC’s Community Collections Grant. Lupenui’s collection features singers of “heirloom songs” of the Kohala region of the Big Island. Finally, the delegation viewed a beautiful, framed photograph of Hawaiian musician “Aunty” Genoa Keawe, taken by photographer Tom Pich. Keawe received the National Heritage Fellowship—the nation’s highest honor in the traditional arts—from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000.
Several in the Hawaiian delegation had personal connections to those documented in the American Folklife Center’s collections. For example, Mark “Boots” Lupenui’s aunt and uncle—Judy and Alika Desha—were members of the delegation. They shared their pride for Boots’ work, recalled stories of him playing music as a young man, and wiped tears from their eyes from seeing Boots’ research displayed at the Library of Congress. Harry Kau, another member of the delegation, recalled hearing the music of Clyde “Kindy” Sproat—a singer and storyteller featured on Nā Mele Paniolo—in his youth. Finally, four delegates sang a beautiful version of “Lili’uokalani’s Prayer”—a composition written by the last monarch and Queen of Hawai’i, Lili’uokalani, who ruled from 1891 to 1893. It was moving, for all involved, that the delegation saw their family and friends in the collections and sung the Queen’s music.
The delegation’s primary reason for visiting Washington, DC was to honor a portrait of Queen Lili’uokalani now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The group blessed the Queen’s portrait with a ceremonial chant, detailing the familial lineages that connect the Queen’s legacy to her descendants. Speaking about the ceremony, Judy Desha said, as if she were speaking directly to the Queen, “you are far away from home, but we are going to make you a home here [in Washington].” The portrait is displayed in the exhibition, 1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions, which will be displayed from April 28, 2023 to February 25, 2024.
The American Folklife Center has several other treasures of Hawaiian folklife in its collections. Most recently, we presented a video concert of ukulele music by Herb Ohta, Jr. and recorded an interview with him. Both of Ohta’s videos are embedded in this previous Folklife Today blog post. To find more AFC also has videos of Gary Haleamau, Ledward Kaapana, and the Unukupukupu Halau Hula in the Library of Congress’ Coolidge Auditorium, along with many important archival collections such as the Helen Heffron Roberts collection of Hawaiian cylinder recordings, the KCCN heritage series collection of Hawaiian radio, and the Na mele paniolo: songs of Hawaiian cowboys field collection. You can find our Hawaiian Collections by visiting our collection guide: American Folklife Center Collections: Hawai`i.
I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Mahalo plenty.
Can you please make a correction to the spelling of “Ionali” Palace. I believe it should read “’Iolani” Palace.
Done! Thank you for pointing this out!
I so enjoyed reading this blog post by Doug Peach about the Hawaiian delegation’s recent visit. It was especially moving to read about their personal connection to items in the American Folklife Center’s collections; in particular, to the music of Clyde “Kindy” Sproat, who was featured in _Nā Mele o Paniolo_ (Songs of Hawaiian Cowboys)— the album released by the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts in 1987. There is one additional connection… _Nā Mele o Paniolo_ was honored by the Library of Congress by being chosen by a panel of ethnomusicologists for inclusion in _American Folk Music and Folklore Recordings 1987: A Selected List_. This annotated discography celebrated the best 30 or so recordings from among 200 or so audio recordings submitted by producers and record labels each year, and was intended to make the chosen recordings known to libraries, teachers, and others. Although this discography was discontinued in 1992, it remains a great honor to have been selected for it… an honor that _Nā Mele o Paniolo_ so richly deserved for its great mix of field and studio recordings of the diverse musical traditions of Hawaiian cowboys, and its meticulously written sixteen-page booklet by Lynn Martin and Ricardo Trimillos. Thanks again to Doug Peach for a wonderful post mentioning this and other AFC collection materials that meant so much to these Hawaiian visitors.