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The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) came and went. We all tried our best to avoid the increased traffic, street closures and other inconveniences. But turns out, not everything was an inconvenience. There’s always a bright side to be had. And I was fortunate enough to experience one of the positive results of having some extra guests coming to the island – fantastic local entertainment!
I took advantage of the last day of non-interrupted bus service into Waikiki and headed to the Royal Hawaiian Center, where the award-winning Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame serenaders performed in the beautiful open air Royal Grove.
I’ve always enjoyed the concerts there, and this one drew an unusually large crowd. The performance included traditional music and dancing that highlighted the unique culture of our islands. Signs decorated Waikiki, welcoming APEC delegates to Hawaii.
The event started with the celebratory blowing of the pu (conch shell) and a new hula performance, choreographed in honor of the 125th anniversary of the Center’s owner, the Kamehameha Schools. The theme was “Vibrant People, Thriving Lands.” During the serenading performance, dancers used traditional musical implements like the ipu, uliuli and pu’ili to showcase an excellently chosen cross section of Hawaiian songs and dance. You’ll see this later in the video below.
I enjoyed listening to the group give a bit of Hawaiian history and lore before each number. Their commentary added that needed morsel of island history for guests who might be first-time visitors. I was particularly intrigued with the story of the slack-key guitar. It seems this is originally a Hawaiian invention, according to the group. Guitarists as far back as the 1890s turned their guitars on their sides and used a sliding motion to produce the special sound that is so unique to most modern-day Hawaiian songs. Travelers came and heard this sound; musicians from here traveled to the mainland, and eventually the new sound was picked up by the country music industry, where they went on to make it “their own.” But really, it was Hawaiian in origin.
Visitors and locals got Hawaiian entertainment at Royal Hawaiian Center.
But back to the crowd, which was multicultural and spanned the ages. The little visiting child, whose stroller sat next to me, smiled and pointed at the dancers; his little body bounced to the music. I doubt he’d seen hula before but obviously loved it. The senior couple behind me, from Minnesota, made their reservations a year ago before they knew APEC would be happening. They were thrilled after finding out there would be some extra entertainment to be enjoyed for free and were unfazed by the heightened security measures around them.
I watched the audience during the show, and there was no doubt they were enjoying themselves. The show was a solid hour and hardly a soul left early. Afterwards, many lingered throughout the grove, so beautifully lit with flaming torches under tall palms.
I know that preparations for APEC have brought out the best that Hawaii has to offer the world, but a traveler any time of the year will find that our “best” lasts all year long, summit or no summit. It’s not going anywhere and will be here waiting for you when you come back to our islands.
VIDEO: Hawaiian music and dance helped quell the APEC craze in Waikiki.