Ethics in song: becoming kama'aina in hapa-haole music.

Author:Yamashiro, Aiko

Just five hours away by plane from California, Hawai'i is a thousand light years away in fantasy. Mostly a state of mind, Hawai'i is the image of escape from the rawness and violence of daily American life. Hawai'i--the word, the vision, the sound in the mind--is the fragrance and feel of soft kindness. Above all, Hawai'i is "she," the Western image of the Native "female" in her magical allure. And if luck prevails, some of "her" will rub off on you, the visitor. (Trask 1999, 136-7)

In "'Lovely Hula Hands': Corporate Tourism and the Prostitution of Hawaiian Culture," Native Hawaiian activist, poet, and scholar Haunani-Kay Trask critiques mass, corporate tourism as "cultural prostitution," an exploitation that depends on figuring Hawai'i as a complicit, inviting, exotic female. Trask underscores the power of popular culture to perpetuate these debilitating stereotypes and argues that these representations lead to real and devastating effects. In her cutting words, the "attraction of Hawai'i is stimulated by slick Hollywood movies, saccharine Andy Williams music.... Tourists flock to my Native land for escape, but they are escaping into a state of mind while participating in the destruction of a host people in a Native place (1999, 137). Her essay hammers out hard statistics of material conditions that support her condemnation of tourism as "the major cause of environmental degradation, low wages, land dispossession, and the highest cost of living in the United States" (1999, 144).

It is no accident that Trask borrows her essay's title, "Lovely Hula Hands," from the name of the hit song written by R. Alex Anderson in 1940 about a beautiful, graceful hula dancer. For Trask, this song signifies not only the feminized and sexualized stereotypes of Hawai'i that were promulgated and are perpetuated by U.S. popular culture, but also these stereotypes' power in the American imagination. As documented in work by Elizabeth Tatar, Adria Imada, and Charles Hiroshi Garrett, (2) among others, Hawaiian music, via sheet music, the new technologies of records and radio, and live travelling performances, was a driving force for the "Hawaii Craze," that besotted the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century. (3) A new musical genre also grew out of this period--"hapa-haole" music ("halfforeign")--a hybrid genre that mixed American jazz and dance rhythms (swing and foxtrot), Hawaiian instrumentation (such as the steel guitar and 'ukulele), and lyrics in both English and Hawaiian-languages. Through national (U.S.) songhits like "Lovely Hula Hands," "My Little Grass Shack," "Hawaiian War Chant," and "Sweet Leilani," hapa-haole music solidified and perpetuated U.S. mainland caricatures of Hawai'i as a place of grass shacks,white sandy beaches, lovely hula maidens, and happy dancing natives.

I argue that these sweet and tantalizing songs also played a significant role as reassuring and enabling texts in the larger project of settler colonialism, through their appropriation and breezy translation of the Hawaiian concept "kama'aina." Kama'aina is often translated literally as "child of the land" and can also mean local, native, "old-timer," or host. Its linguistic counterpart is "malihini," a foreigner or newcomer, a guest, or a "tenderfoot." Today, kama'aina is a Hawai'ian term valued by businesses as an easy way to advertise local-ness, familiarity and belonging. For example, many businesses employ kama'aina in their names to show a connection to the community (Kama'aina Pest Control, Kama'aina Kids Day Dare, Kama'aina Pizza Hut, etc.). The term is also commonly used to label a type of monetary discount (e.g., the admission price to a theme park may have a "kama'aina discount"for people who can prove, through a Hawai'ian driver's license for example, that they live here.) Historically, this value placed on belonging--of being kama'aina--has also been a cornerstone of settler colonialism in Hawai'i. Settler colonialism has drastically refigured the concept of kama'aina in various popular cultural texts, hapa-haole music being one of many examples, putting focus on the idea of becoming kama'aina as an easily attainable possibility. This paper will trace some of the history of how the term kama'aina has been transformed in the service of settler colonialism. I will also explore some musical examples that argue that outsiders can become kama'aina, and consider the unique ethical problems of posing this argument through music: the embodied experience of musical structure and the disruptive potential of a performer's ethos. Ultimately, I aim to demonstrate that in the case of music, settler texts are entirely captivating yet not static; and that through performance they can be directed and re-directed for overlapping and conflicting purposes. The use of music can raise some unsettling questions about what we may call "settler texts."

Kama'aina and the ethics of settler colonialism theory

Settler colonialism theory often depends on a hard-and-fast distinction between Native/indigenous and non-Native/ settler. This distinction is designed to do the ethical work of undermining settler claims and recognizing and restoring indigenous peoples' unique rights to land. Kama'aina and malihini have often been defined along this binary by supportive Hawai'i scholars (4). For example, in his 1999 book Displacing Natives: The Rhetorical Production of Hawai'i, Houston Wood argues that kama'aina in the Hawaiian language originally meant "Native-born" or indigenous Hawaiian and that this meaning changed over the early 1900s into "island-born" or "well-acquainted" with Hawai'i. He uses Mary Louise-Pratt's idea of "anti-conquest rhetoric" to explain that a kama'aina identity was taken up by white missionaries' children (who were born in Hawai'i, as opposed to their parents who came to Hawai'i from New England) to do the "dual work of asserting innocence while securing hegemony" (1999, 40). Tracing the transformation of the word, Wood surveys the popular tourist and white settler publication Paradise of the Pacific from 1909 to 1910, concluding that quite liter ally, kama'aina had gradually come to replace the words "white" and "foreigner" (1999, 41): "By the 1930s, at least for the mostly Euroamerican writers in the pages of Paradise of the Pacific, kama'aina referred to Caucasians who had lived long in the islands, or who claimed to know much about 'island ways'" (1999, 41). Linking the processes of colonialism and tourism, Wood's argument identifies the white settler's/visitor's very real desire to become kama'aina as a colonial desire and appropriation of indigenous identity. (5) His reassertion of kama'aina as Native (indigenous) thus attempts to undo colonial claims and lead to an ethical formulation based on recognizing impossibility: If you are not Native, you cannot become Native, and can therefore never have the same claims to land.An ethics based on this polar understanding between kama'aina and malihini relies on responsibly recognizing impossibility. (6)

Yet this irrevocable distinction between Native and non-Native contradicts what is found in cultural material in other Hawaiian-language folklore sources, namely 'olelo no'eau (wise/poetical sayings or proverbs) and Hawaiian-language songs that use the words kama'aina and malihini. (7) Although malihini was used to refer to white foreigners and newcomers to Hawai'i, the word was not exclusively reserved for non-Natives. In the standard Pukui and Elbert Hawaiian-English Dictionary, malihini is more broadly defined as a "stranger, foreigner, newcomer," "one unfamiliar with a place or custom" (Pukui and Elbert 1957, 233). One 'olelo no'eau reads "Mamua ke kama'aina, mahope ka malihini, first the native-born, then the stranger" and explained as something "often said before legendary battles in deciding who was to strike the first blow" (Pukui 1983, 124). It is unlikely that the malihini in the context of "legendary battles" referred to non-Native foreigners, and very likely that it referred to a person from another island or another part of the same island. In addition, Hawaiian-language songs like "Wai Punalau" (1897) and "Akaka Falls" (1934) use the word malihini in a non-ethnic, non-nationalistic way to simply describe unfamiliarity with a particular place in Hawai'i (the waters of Punalau and Akaka Falls, respectively). These kinds of sources assume that a person is kama'aina or malihini by their knowledge and relationship to place. A kama'aina has specific knowledge about a specific place that a malihini does not.

Along with this knowledge requirement, the possibility of becoming kama'aina is already culturally inherent to the concept. The saying "E ho'okama'aina! Make yourself at home (said to strangers)" (Pukui 1983, 124) suggests that, even if meant figuratively, kama'aina can become a verb and an imperative in the context of hospitality (8). Strangers are welcomed into this identity, but the welcome is bound by responsibility. For example, the 'olelo no'eau "Ho'okahi no [sic] la o ka malihini" is translated as "A stranger only for a day" and explained, "After the first day as a guest, one must help with the work" (Pukui 1983, 115). Based on this Hawaiian cultural knowledge, a more difficult ethic emerges in which it is not only possible to become kama'aina; further, one ought to. In contrast to the limiting settler colonial model of ethics discussed earlier (bound by impossibility), this ethical model defines its limits in terms of responsibility and care between the land, host, and guest. I say "more difficult ethic" because the translation of this model out of the Hawaiian language and cultural context and into a tourism discourse can and has offered a dangerous opening to making colonial claims to a kama'aina identity. To qualify Wood's argument, we can understand the colonial appropriation of kama'aina as something the term had been vulnerable to all along.

We can...

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