In a time when a lot of hotels are cutting back and looking at cost saving measures it’s refreshing to see that one of Hawaii’s most cherished entertainment venues has been reopened and restored to its original condition of the early 1900s at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The Monarch Room has played a significant role in the history of Hawaiian music as legendary local and mainland musicians performed here for more than eighty years.
Last night kicked off the “Curators of Hawaiian Music” series which features Hawaii’s new masters of Hawaiian music. A dream of many, spearheaded by Kelly Hoen, general manager of the Royal Hawaiian and Coronado Aquino, legendary performer, the series was created in an effort to bring the rich musical legacy of the Monarch room back to life. This tribute to Hawaiian culture is part of the re-culturalization of Waikiki.
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the first show featuring Makana, Hawaii’s youngest slack key guitar master and one of the most recognizable music icons of his generation. I could tell from the moment he took the stage how important the moment was to this formidable artist. His performance took us on a journey that returned us to a place and time so cherished in the islands. Each of the songs became an event with beautiful visuals and enlightening stories. Makana’s many guitar changes during his set enabled him to share incredible melodies and unique slack key technique only he could perform. Through his unique sound, an eclectic mix of Hawaiian slack key and world fusion he is helping to fortify the island’s cultural heritage.
Performances are held from 7:30 to 8:30 pm, followed by a later show from 9:30-10:30 pm. Each hour long performance includes a four piece band and traditional Hawaiian dancers. Tickets for the cocktail show run $49 per person with a two drink minimum. Kamaaina (local resident) tickets run $39 with a two drink minimum. Dinner packages are also available. Makana will be performing every Thursday during July and August. Next in this series is Maunalua performing visually traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music during September and October, followed by Cecilio & Kapono performing Hawaiian acoustic rock during November and December.
While it’s true that as locals we can experience Hawaiian music almost any day of the week, this show made me understand how important it is for not only for visitors but also the local community to support this kind of performance, a part of our history that has been missing in Waikiki. If you’re lucky enough to be in Hawaii for any of these wonderful concerts, I encourage you to make it part of your plans.