Friday - August 08, 2008
Eight years since he jumped on the Hawaiian music scene with his debut album Maunahele,Leokane Pryor has stepped out from his private surroundings in Hana, Maui,to engage himself in the music world once again.
This month, Home Malanai hits store shelves - a personal piece that tells the tale of Pryor’s journey that has brought him to his home in Malanai.
“It’s about being born and raised here,moving away, and the events and people who came in my life and brought me home,” says Pryor.“So many who leave Hawaii don’t come home. I feel so blessed to be able to come home. That’s what the album really is. It’s that story and all the songs gifted to me by talented composers. These were songs that were given to me and I wanted to bring them to life.”
Pryor’s story goes back to his days attending Punahou School and living on campus. His father, Jacques, was a teacher there, and Pryor considers the school not only his alma mater, but his home.
After graduating, Pryor took his music talents to California, where he hoped - as many musicians do - to make a glorious career of it. But the realities of the big city soon had the Hawaii boy longing for home.
It was when Pryor’s mother fell ill with cancer that he started recording her favorite Hawaiian songs and mailing them to her for the times he couldn’t be with her. In 2004, Pryor’s aches to return home finalized when his father passed away.
“It was a difficult loss,” says Pryor, who performs regularly at the Hotel Hana Maui. “I just needed a break, so I came to Hana and I never went back. It wasn’t my plan, but that’s sort of why I’ve been off the radar for a while. I needed it so much to be on the land and playing music. I haven’t really been out of Hana in years. So this is an emergence not just the CD, but for me.”
The album features 12 tracks, including eight originals - seven co-written by Pryor. The album took form following a DVD project, Maoli No (Truly Native), with which Pryor partnered that celebrates Hawaii’s native environment and culture through songs and imagery.
“I am very message-driven with my music,” says Pryor.“That’s what inspires me, to share that. To do what I can as an artist to make a difference. I think it’s all of our kuleana to do something.”
To find out more about Leokane Pryor, visit www.leokane.com.
Can you talk about the significance and story behind the song on your album, Malaekahana?
It is an original song which was composed by Kaliko Beamer Trapp, and he wrote the song for his ohana. They have a beach house at Malaekahana, where the Beamer family goes for these big family gatherings. He composed this song at the end of one of those weekends, and asked if I would write the music. Interestingly, when he wrote it, it was kinda peppy and upbeat. But when I read the words I didn’t feel it that way. It was more a twinge of melancholy when the party is over, and you have a little bit of ache because you just don’t want it to be over, and you don’t know when you are all going to be together again. So I slowed it down and,interestingly,now with Aunty Nona’s passing, this song captures more of that sentiment now. So it’s an honor to have it heard because it’s never been heard before. So that’s a special song to me.
What is it about music that you love?
I think more than anything, I’m drawn to the emotion in music - the music itself opposed to the lyrics. I’m always drawn first to the melodies, the harmonies and the chords in music. We’re from the earth,and there’s something that resonates with us in music. We can feel it in our bodies and it can really affect people. It affects me, and in singing I’ve seen it affect others. Couple that ability to stir something in someone through music with the message of the lyric. That combination is what’s exciting for me.
What’s your favorite song to perform live?
I like to play the song Kaimu. It just makes me really happy to think of the times and the people that it’s about. And it’s really peppy.
What do you consider to be your most notable accomplishments?
That’s hard, because I don’t think of what I do in terms of accomplishments. I would just say in a bigger way living my life congruent with the values I grew up with from my family, and my life in the Hawaiian Islands. The more I can act and be congruent with those values is an accomplishment.
What are you musical goals?
My mother had gotten ill with cancer and this is really how I got back into music. This was 1995, and I had gone to a Kealii Reichel concert in San Francisco, and I saw him and it completely changed my life. The music healed me and my family. So I started recording Hawaiian songs for my mom during her illness, and it helped all of us with her passing. It was so healing for me. And it also brought me home to my culture. So for me, if there’s any way that through the music I share I can make a difference in someone else’s life, that is meaningful to me. The healing energy of Hawaiian music can reach so far. I get e-mails from all over the place about how the music has positively made a difference in their life. That is why I sing. And the same with the aina and the environment. Where the music comes from is the land, and therefore to preserve our music and culture, we have to take care of the land. If I wasn’t doing this, I would be working for an environmental group in Hawaii. Through the music I hope I can reach far and wide, and hopefully spread a message.
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