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<b>Down South, Out West</b><br><i>Sir Bob Harvey’s son Fraser walks New Zealand’s Karekare<br>Photo by Dana Edmunds</i>
Vol. 17, no. 5
October/November 2014


The Music Man 
Story by Tiffany Hervey
Photo by Chad Heronemus

Just outside the Waiahole Poi Factory in the lush Hakipu‘u ahupua‘a, Uncle Calvin Hoe plays his ‘ohe hano ihu, or Hawaiian nose flute. On a picnic table next to him, a few of Calvin’s students have assembled various Native Hawaiian instruments, which Calvin has taught them to make and play. “These classes have no walls, no time; there is no beginning and end to the teaching or learning,” he says. “I teach anyone who wants to learn how to make instruments.” Calvin’s son Liko Hoe emerges from the greenery behind the building with chunks of sugar cane to snack on. He details some of the instruments they make regularly: kala‘au (dancing sticks), ipu and ipu heke (single and double gourd drums), pahu and puniu (coconut wood drum and coconut shell knee drum). “We grew up making instruments,” Liko recalls. “We sold them at hula events and made them as prizes for the Merrie Monarch Festivals.”

By making these instruments, Calvin perpetuates an almost-lost art form. He began creating them for kumu hula Auntie Nona Beamer in the 1970s. “She got many of us men to dance and connect back to our roots,” he recalls. “She needed traditional instruments to accompany her traditional hula.” To make sure the instruments were as authentic as possible, Calvin and Auntie Nona researched precontact instruments in Bishop Museum’s back rooms.

Calvin and his wife Charlene purchased the Waiahole Poi Factory in 1971; today he has a workshop behind the factory but prefers to make his instruments in the mountains. “I always carry a saw, drill and Swiss army knife with me,” he explains. “I can make a flute anywhere. Instruments were made with what was available, so we also use gourds, shells and stones.”

While Calvin has played at the Smithsonian, he’s also performed with contemporary musicians like Paula Fuga. He seeks to make native instruments as much a part of today as possible. All are welcome at the classes he teaches at the taro patch owned by Hakipu‘u Learning Center, a public charter school he co-founded in 2001. “I love teaching music in the taro patch,” he beams. “It’s nice to make instruments at the same place we plant taro.”