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Hale Pulelehua
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Hula Lineage:
 Click to hear Audio transcript Click to see Video clip
George Holokai
Honolulu, 2002
In this clip, Uncle George gives insights into how he became the student of both Tom Hiona and Lilian Maka`ena, and how he ended up being a Kumu Hula instead of a mailman.
Length: 3:59

NONA BEAMER: So how old were you when you studied with Tom?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: I started uh-I just graduated from high school. And then uh, I met Tommy. He said, "Oh, George," he says, "Can I talk to you for a while?" I said, "Yeah." So we talked uh, for a while and he says, "Oh, you know, I'm starting a hälau uh, um, in uh, Mö`ili`ili." And he said, "I would like to have you come and uh, join us." I said, "Oh, okay." And he would teach-he would-all the other uh, men that were in the class, they would learn the dances and thing. But it was me that I had to ... learn the beat, learn the chants and things like that.

NONA BEAMER: You became his alaka`i, then?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Yes. Not knowing what he was planning to. In the meantime, I was learning from Maka`ena, Lillian Maka`ena. She came to the studio. And so my mother asked her, you know, what was the purpose of her coming to-wanted uh, teach me. And uh, she said, "Because ... I want to train my children to uh, carry on." She said, "But there's nobody that wants to carry on." So she says, "I had a dream of um, the boy. I had the dream, and I'd been going all over looking for him. And I finally found, you know, who it was. So that's why I came to the studio."

NONA BEAMER: And it was you?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: It was me. She dreamt uh ... she saw me in a dream. But she didn't know who I was or where I was, or whatever. So-and then the husband had the same dream couple of nights after that. So they both talked about it. And so the husband said, "Never mind." She said, "I'll go and look for the boy. And uh, I don't know where we gonna go, but anyway, I'm-I'll go look for the boy, 'cause he used to entertain out in Waikïkï." And uh, so he would go and uh ... go to different clubs looking for the-for me. Finally uh, I think was a Sunday evening when we were performing at Don the Beachcomber's. And there he was over there, and he watched uh, the program. And then-then he stayed for the show. Then he spotted me. He-I was on the right of Tommy. And then she said, "Oh, there he is." So anyway, he went home and he told the wife about it. So the wife said, "Oh, um, she wanted to go s-uh, see me." She said, "No wait. You wait." She said, "When I'm ready," she said, "I'll let you and I'll take you to see the show. And then that way you can, you know, see how he is." So went to Don the Beachcomber's again, on the show. She said-she didn't say anything or what. She said, "Ah, there he is." So she said, "Which one?" He said, "On the right of Tommy." She said, "Yeah, that's the same boy I saw." So she knew where he was-you know, where I was performing. So she came to the studio and that's how we got uh, connected. .
My father and my mother was against ... [CHUCKLES] me for um, teaching hula or being a kumu hula. My father wanted me to be a mailman. [CHUCKLES] My mother-my father really wanted me to get into the post office and carry on with uh, his work. But somehow, I changed, I went into hula. And because I-I became a kumu hula and my mother was against the hula and everything. Until finally she ... gave up and she went along with me uh, with Tommy and ... [CHUCKLES] um ... then uh, who-so that's how I took over the studio.

Comments on Own Hula Training:
 Click to hear Audio transcript Click to see Video clip
George Holokai
Honolulu, 2002
In this clip, Uncle George gives insights into his hula training experiences - how he learned from and became a Kumu from Tom Hiona, how he was chosen to be a student of Lilian Maka`ena, Tom Hiona's background, and his own `üniki experience.
Length: 3:59

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Tommy was living with my mother folks. So he-he called and ... oh, he woke my-my mother up and my cousin Bobby and myself. That he wanted to go down to the studio. This was we-wee hours of the morning and I said, "Oh." So my mother-'Why do you want to go down to the studio so early in the morning?" She says, "Don't question, just get ready and I want to get down the studio before the sunrise." So we all get ready, we get down to the studio about four o'clock in the morning. And then he's chanting in the room and everything else. And made me-made all of us sit down on the uh, on the floor and ... then he started chanting and things and ... praying and ... he said, "All right, George," he says, "I poni you. From now on, you're gonna take over." I said, "Me?" I said, "I'm not being-I'm not ... ready to uh, run the studio." He said, "No." He says, "I've taught you enough." He said, "One of these days, I'm gonna walk out of the studio and I'll never come back. And you'll never see me again." In the meantime, I was learning from Maka`ena, Lillian Maka`ena.

MAILE LOO: So um, Lillian Maka`ena's um, teachings are pretty much just all the ancient? She wanted to - she wanted to pass her chants on to you.

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Right. Because none of her children were interested. So she was trying to get as much as she can before she, you know...would uh, go.

NONA BEAMER: Well, what would you have said, now, the style of hula that you learned? Was it like um, `ölapa? Was it more kahiko? Was it more jazz? Was it more swing hula?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: No, it was more kahiko. It was more kahiko and uh, even when I was learning uh, or uh, teaching. Or even uh, entertaining, it was mostly kahiko I would do. Because then uh ... the au-we did ``auana. But then the thing is, I don't know, I ... I liked the kahiko more. He (Tom Hiona) uh, he never did ... he-he always used to tell the class, "Don't question me about the dances and you just-when I teach, you just learn." So that's what we did. Just learned. We never questioned him, we never ... uh, what, we never questioned him anything, anyway. Whatever he-came out of his mouth, and we accepted. And then if he's teaching something, you learn.

NONA BEAMER: What was his background, dear? From whom did he study?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: The way I feel, he must have learned it from Maui, from that uh, Ho`opi`i. 'Cause of what I was told, that, that Ho`opi`i was a uh ?


GEORGE HOLOKAI: Yeah, kumu in Maui. But I don't know who else. Well, while working for Parks and Recreation, it was uh, was just before I retired, it was requirement that ... we had to get a um, uh, we had to show our certificates. And I said, "You know, during our time, we never had certificates. It was just verbal. That was all." We never had-our kumu hulas never gave us uh, any certificates. It was just verbal, and that was it.

MAILE LOO: But you had a ceremony, though?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Yeah, we had a ceremony, yeah. It was private. It wasn't uh, a public thing. And, uh, so I said, you know, all of my kumus are all gone. I said, the only one that's living is Kawena, and I can ver- uh, you know, I, she's the only one that can verify who I studied with.

First Hula Memory:
 Click to hear Audio transcript Click to see Video clip
George Holokai
Honolulu, 2002
In this clip, Uncle George shares memories of seeing hula during his childhood years.
Length: 3:27

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Uh, the first time I saw the uh, the hula was at um [CLEARS THROAT], the Academy of Arts. And it was with uh, Tom Hiona, um ... Lökälia Montgomery, uh ... Kawena, and it was with `Iolani. `Iolani was the dancer. She was the soloist. In fact, she was the star. [CHUCKLES] But then the three of them were the chanters for `Iolani.

MAILE LOO: How old were you?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Oh, I was ... m-m ... I may have been about ... nine or something like that. My mother uh, and my father took me to uh, to see the show. I enjoyed it. But I didn't know what it was all about. You know. Until I really got into it. [CHUCKLES] We used to live up by Quee-uh, Queen's Hospital where the uh ... um ... medical building is now. In that lane. Or street, rather. We used to li- yeah, Lauhala Street. We used to live over there. And then uh [CLEARS THROAT], two uh, one of the neighbors used to dance uh, ol-uh, for Tom Hiona. So she was the one that told me one day, she said, Georgie, you want to go with me? I said, Where you going? She said, I have to go hula. She said, You want to go? Keep me company. You want to go with me? I said, Oh, okay. So uh, Tommy had his studio on um ... Emma Street. Right across from uh ... what that uh, club ... Pacific-no, not Pacific Club-is it? Yeah, they had all those cottages across uh, where the playground is now. In there. And uh, so that he had a um ... had a house there, and he-he was teaching hula over there. So I would sit on the porch, and then the girls would be inside the living room dancing hula. So I would watch and see them. Then I go home, and I try. [CHUCKLES] And I would try and, you know, pick up. So the girl would uh ... well, couple of times, she asked me, George, go hula with me. And then uh, well, just to keep me company. So I said, Okay. So we'd go, I sit on the porch and she's inside dancing hula. And-and then so when I was telling Tommy about, you know, how I um ... got to uh, see him, was through this Eloise uh, Kanoa. [CHUCKLES]

NONA BEAMER: So your early hula recollections are with your mother, huh?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Yeah. With my mother, and of course with the um ... the family. Like uh, the Kamaunu's, they were all in with hula and musicians. There was uh, Ellen Kamaunu and Robert Kamaunu. Well, they ha-uh, what, there-there were uh, different parties that we would go to. They had uh, dancers and things like-but it never ... dawned on me about ... you know, I just-you know, hula dancers, that's all. You know. Never really ... knew about it. I'd just see a hula dancer, or that's-she's a hula dancer and that's all. But until I really got into in-uh, with Tommy, and then ... And then I was [CLEARS THROAT]-anyway, I liked it better uh, what ... being a [CHUCKLES]--being a dancer than uh, working at the post office or whatever. [CHUCKLES].

Professional Hula Experiences:
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George Holokai
Honolulu, 2002
In this clip, Uncle George recalls his professional hula career: where and when it began; teaching hula (Parks & Recreation); performing at the airport; participating in Aloha Week, and his experiences with entertainers and shows in Waikïkï.
Length: 16:10

GEORGE HOLOKAI: There was times when you made the money. There was times that you had to suffer. What I mean, wait for the jobs to come in. And uh [CLEARS THROAT] ... um, the one that I really worked with uh, and for was uh-well, in fact, I-uh, I entertained uh, with different um ... entertainers in Waikïkï. My first was uh, Alfred Apaka. I was with his show. And uh, then uh, what-I worked with uh, Haunani Kahalewai at the Royal Hawaiian. Then I worked with Tavana at um ... the Queen's Surf. And then at that time, uh, Kamokila uh, yeah. She-she uh, took over a portion of the Queen's Surf. And so I had to go and do the show for her at Queen's Surf. And then same time, doing Tavana's show [CHUCKLES] at Queen's Surf. So oh, was with two different people.

MAILE LOO: So you would take a group of-of girls and-or men and women and-

GEORGE HOLOKAI: No, it was just uh ... women, that's all. 'Cause then at that time, it wa-it was only my uh, my cousin and I that were uh ... uh, teaching uh, for the studio. Uh, yeah, he tried. He tried. So the thing is, he would take the jobs outside, like the ships and things, he would take the jobs outside with the dancers. And I would stay in the studio and teach. So ...

MAILE LOO: So were-were the uh, men-the boys and the men not interested in dancing, or just that they didn't want that in the shows?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: No, no, they did uh, it's just that they wanted to uh, concentrate on their jobs and-and then some of them got married, so they-you know, it was hard for them to ... um, get away. So my cousin and I were the only ones that really um, stuck ... well, I had no choice, because Tommy passed the ... the studio to me.

Experience with Lena Machado:
GEORGE HOLOKAI: Then Lena Machado would call ... George ... I said, Yes? Oh, this is Auntie Lu-uh, Lena Machado. I said, Oh, aloha. What can I do for you? She says, Can-can you come over my studio? I need help. I said, Okay. I would go over her studio. She said, Oh, you know, I have a show to do, but I don't have any musicians. Can you help me? I said-I said, Yeah, okay. I said, But I'm not a very good guitar player, but if you can stand my music, I-I'll go play with you. [CHUCKLES] That's how I got connected with her and ... and then I used to get this check all the time for um ... Kaulana O Hilo Hanakahi. I said, Eh, I didn't compose this song. I said, Why do they send to me the check? So I would send the check back. And then before you know it, another check is coming back, but it's bigger. And I said, Oh, my good-and I go to the music store. I said, You know, I don't know whose-I-I'm not the composer of this song Yeah. Not knowing that, you know. Because I-I guess I-I went to go help her, or what. And she was giving me the mo-uh, royalties. And I said, No. I said, Don't do that. She said, No. She said, This is my way of thanking you for helping me. Because ... uh, what-they would uh, perform, but not much money, yeah? At that time. (Yeah) You know, five dollars was plenty money. [CHUCKLES] Even two dollar fifty cents was plenty. But that's the way we were. Nowadays, ooh, they're in the hundreds. But during our time, no, was [CHUCKLES] very cheap. [CHUCKLES] Very weakly. [CHUCKLES]

King's Alley:
GEORGE HOLOKAI: 'Cause even when I used to entertain at the King's Alley for the Bishop Museum, and Pele Suganuma was there. And uh, she called, she says ... George, she said, Can I help you? I said, Yeah. She said, Oh, she says, you know, she says ... can you help me to uh, do a show here at the King's Alley? I said, Oh, when? She said, Oh, she said, at least about twice a week, you know uh, for half an hour. I said, Oh, okay. She said, But you know, the pay is very, uh, small. I said, How small? She says, Twenty-five dollars. I said, Oh, okay. She said, You'll take it? I said, I'll take it. So what I would do, I would have my students to go over there and they'd dance uh, at the uh, King's Alley. And I'd tell them, You know, the pay is very small. I says, So ... I says, if you folks want to dance, I said, then you can, you know, uh, dance. I said, But if you expect to get big money, I said, then forget it, drop out. You know, I'll go find somebody else. She said, Oh, no, George, we need the practice and we need-you know, uh, experience and things like that. I said, You're sure, now? Don't-don't tell me that you want to make more money. I said, No. I said, Because the money is small, I said, so if you folks want it, I'll give it to you folks. Yeah, okay, we'll take it. So I would have about five ladies. And then I would uh ... and then for me, I-I don't care, you know. It's just that I can ... make some-well, uh, uh, what, get them to go dance some place anyway. So I told 'em, You know, I said, you folks have to buy lu-uh, your own lä`ï skirts, you have to make your lä`ï skirts. You have to make your own leis. I said, and then the ... the pä`ü and stuff like that, I said, so you have to ... Oh, yeah, we can, we can. You're sure now? I said, No grumble. ([CHUCKLES]) She says, no, we-we won't. I said, Okay. So they would buy their lä`ï uh, and then uh, what-and the lä`ï at that time was cheap. Now I hear it's very expensive. Was fifty cents a bunch. There was about forty-five, fifty leaves.

Parks & Recreation:
GEORGE HOLOKAI: 1966. I was uh, my cousin worked for um ... Civil Service. Oh, um ... yeah, for Civil Service. And then uh, so there was an opening for um, the instructor at Parks and Recreation. So she called me. She says, Kanani, she said, I want you to uh, go and sign up for um ... to be a hula teacher for Parks and Recreation. I said, Nah, I don't want to go, I rather take care of my studio. She said, No. She said, I want you go over there and ... just try out anyway to see if you-you know. If you're going-if you're gonna make it, you're gonna make it. If you're not, well at least you tried, you know. I said, Nah, I don't want to go. I said, I rather just, you know, stick to my uh ... hälau. I went anyway. [CHUCKLES] She made me go.

NONA BEAMER: Was that Alice?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Yeah, Alice Kalähui was the-the supervisor. I went and there was a uh ... uh, oh, there were several of us that uh, went for the uh, interview. And um ... so when I went and I looked, and I seen the-all the uh, um ... the ones that were interviewing. And I knew everyone of them. [CHUCKLES] Yeah. So all I did was, Oh, aloha. I went up and I honihoni each one of them. And I wasn't supposed to. [LAUGHS] Huh? Well, I know what, there were several of us that uh, went for the interview. And uh, so anyway, they asked me, oh, you know, um ... if I'm gonna be teaching, how would I be teaching a class. So I uh ... uh, I would explain to them that I'm-I'm uh, I'm a mirror. I dance the opposite, and then the students-I face the students instead of the students, you know, looking at my back. I face them and so they know where my hands are going and everything else. Oh. Oh, could you demonstrate to us? I said, Oh, yes, okay. I stand up, I stood up and dance. She said, Okay, we have enough. Um, do you know how to use an uh, `ulï`ulï? `Ae. Do you know how to use an ipu? `Ae. I told them the pahu, all the different implements. And she said oh [CLEARS THROAT], okay. Uh, well, we'll-we'll see you later. I said, Okay. So the next one came in and she said, Oh, how did you do? I said, I don't know. I said, this is only interview, so I don't know whether I made it out or not. But anyway, so finally after everybody uh, went to the interview, then they said oh, that they would let us know by May or ... [CHUCKLES]. So ... but then I was asked to go to the uh, office and uh, for ... another interview, and get the-sign papers and things like that. So I started in 1966 with Parks and Recreation.

NONA BEAMER: Was that with Adeline Lee?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Adeline Lee uh, was Leolani Pratt. And uh, myself.

MAILE LOO: How long were you with the Parks and Rec?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: I-until um, 1985 when I had a s-uh, mild stroke. And then after that I retired, yeah.

NONA BEAMER: But what playgrounds were you at?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Oh, all over. All over.

NONA BEAMER: You were traveling like Auntie Alice Namakelua?

GEORGE HOLOKAI: `Ae. Well, the thing is, just before I retired, nobody wanted to go country areas. So I said I will go to the country areas. 'Cause then at the end of the month, oh, uh, plenty mileage. [CHUCKLES] Plenty mileage. [CHUCKLES] Whereas in town, you just have you know, maybe ten miles or whatever. But nobody wanted to go to the country areas. And then plus, the freeways were being built. So I wanted to know just how the roads are gonna go and where the playgrounds are, and things. So ... I-you know, I wanted to go out to the country areas. So I would go to uh, Ewa Beach, Wahiawa, Waipahu, um, Kai-Kailua, Kaneohe, He`eia, Kailua. [CHUCKLES] Uh, what ... anyway, was all the country areas. And then when it would rain, oh, I enjoy going the country area, because the-all the waterfalls and everything. Oh, it was so beautiful. And then every year, they-they had the hula festival out at Kapi`olani Park. So by January, I-I would tell the uh, the dancers. I said, You know, this year we're gonna make pä`ü skirts. I said, So, I says, um, I'll find the material, I said, but you folks have to sew your own. Okay. If not, um ... I want all the ladies to make a holokü. So they would make the holokü and everything. Then I would ... teach them the number. From the January to August they're learning the same-well, I would run over the uh, the dance. But still yet, I would teach 'em others uh, dances. You know. So for opening song, I would do uh, uh ... for them to enter with their holokü's. I get them coming from sides of the stage, up on top, from the in the front of the s-the-the park and everything, coming from all angles.

GEORGE HOLOKAI: But then the thing is um, because I worked for-I worked for Lei Collins at the uh, airport. Well, when-when the tourists would come off from the pla-uh, the plane, and then we would have the booth in different areas. Uh- Yeah. And then so if they needed any help, they would come to us and then we would help them. But then our-our other job, we had to go out onto the um, out by the ramp. We had to play music. And then the-the women had to dance hula. So after we pau, we all run back into the uh, the booth. And we all [CHUCKLES] attend to the-the booth and an-answer questions or whatever. And if the military was there, we had to call the base for them to get rides to go to the base or what. So we were scattered all over the airport, going down to the foreign uh, area and domestic and everything else.

Aloha Week:
GEORGE HOLOKAI: So when the uh, Aloha Week called the studio ... and they asking me to be a uh, court chanter for Aloha Week. So I told my mother, I says, Mother, I says, this is Aloha Week. She said, Here, here, here, here. I says, Why? Why don't you talk? I said, No, no, here, here, here, here. That's for Aloha Week, I give it to you, you go talk to them. So they were asking me if I would be uh, all right to uh to be-- be the court chanter for... for the uh, for them. So I said, Oh, goodness, I don't-I-I'm not prepared. And so I called Maka`ena. I says, Mama, I said, Aloha Week just called and they want me to um, be the court chanter. And? I said, Well, I'm not prepared to be a court chanter and I don't know what to do. She says, Never mind. She said, Just accept it; yes, you will. And she said, And I'll come down to the studio and then ... you come pick me up, and then come down to the studio and I'll tell you what to do and then [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. But then be-be-before that, I--[UNINTELLIGIBLE]. So she would tell me what chant to, you know, 'cause I already learned that. And I was wondering why was she do-doing all these-teaching me all these different chants. But not knowing, you know. 'Cause even-even when uh, what uh, Elsie Lane would tell me, George, I want you to do uh, uh, what ... christening of a canoe. I said, Me? I don't know nothing about can-she says, You do the christening of a canoe. I said, But I'm not prepared. I don't know what to do. So call Maka`ena again. Mama, they asking me to uh, uh, christen a canoe and I don't know what to do. And then she would tell me, It's so-and-so chant; use that chant. I said, Yeah, but what do I do? What do I do? She says, Oh, she says, just get the uh, um, calabash and then uh, uh, what ... put, uh yeah. And pa`akai and the salt water, whatever, and then you-you use that. I said, Oh, okay. But then after that, I was told ... Don't use-don't use salt water. Because everybody use the-the-the hand and everything else. You use coconut. I said, Coconut? Why Coconut? She said, Because it's water. But it's never been touched by man. So what you do, you cut the top off and then you use the water. So I-that's what I've been using, coconut. I don't use the salt water, she said just coconut. 'Cause you cut the top off and then after that, you put the lä`ï. And then the rest of the-uh, you pour inside the wa-uh, the plant or whatever. But then I don't leave it over there. I take home. Not by, by somebody make funny-kine to- coconut for me, uh, no, I - that's going home with me. [CHUCKLES]

Experience with his kumu hula, Tommy Hiona:
GEORGE HOLOKAI: Whenever uh, what, Tommy had a sh-uh, a show or something. And I would tell my fa-I said, Oh, I have to go dance and I have to do this. She says, You-what about your job? I said, Oh, you can go find somebody else, 'cause--[CHUCKLES]. So my father had to go look for a sub-sub carrier. 'Cause my job was to go-uh, go on the motorcycle and pick up all the mail on the road. You know, the street. But oh ...

NONA BEAMER: Yeah, you-more important to go dance. [CHUCKLES]

GEORGE HOLOKAI: Well, 'cause I enjoyed it. [CHUCKLES]

Motivation for Dancing:
Clip currently under production.

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