Millicent Cummings

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - June 27, 2008

The 411

Millicent Cummings

Born on American Indian land, Millicent Cummings’ deep connection with her spirituality and passion for indigenous rights flows into her lyrics on her new album, Altar Native. Her journey from Utah to Hawaii has allowed her another journey - through the Hawaiian Islands.

She recently moved to Punaluu here on Oahu after spending most of her seven years in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. And in between she has made trips to the remaining six islands.

Millicent’s love for the Islands and its music completely steers this album. In fact she says, “It’s all in slack key.Nothing I do is not in slack key.It’s an important factor in my honoring the Hawaiian tradition, but in a very individually oriented, unorthodox way. It’s contemporary Hawaiian music, that’s what it is.”

The album is a live recording of a special concert of all the songs that Millicent wrote for all of the islands. The concert, which happened in September of last year, features Millicent on slack key and vocals accompanied by Cindy Combs on guitar, ukulele and vocals, Anela Lauren on Celtic harp and vocals and Joe Lohmeier on cello.

“I was hoping to get a good enough performance for a live album, so it’s kudos to Shawn (Livingston Moseley) to engineer it well enough to release it as an album,” says Cummings, who is eight months’ pregnant (it’s a boy!). “And it’s kudos to the musicians, the audience and the magic that took place that night. You could say it’s luck, but I think it was definitely destined to be formed. It was six years of my life that needed to be reduced in this particular manifestation.”

The 10 tracks presented on the album were chosen from more than 20 songs played at the concert - eight songs representing each island and two songs that talk about the project as a whole.

“My music is extremely dynamic,“adds Cummings. “It would be unfair to the music to refer to it as folk, or folk rock, or blues or any of the things that it is.”



Millicent Cummings
Millicent Cummings

What is the meaning behind the title of the album, Altar Native?

Altar Native is putting the native consciousness, the more sound consciousness, back in a more sacred consciousness for a more sound way of life on the planet, particularly here in Hawaii. It’s a global issue - the colonialist paradigm that has been strangling the lifeblood out of the land and the indigenous people of the world. Some of these songs are calling attention to that here on Hawaiian soil, but it is really a global issue. So the reason I chose the name Altar Native for the title is because it’s sacred cultures that need to be honored in order for a more-balanced way of life on this planet for everyone. And particularly because I’m pregnant, I’m very intimately and physically aware of the need for sustainability for my own bloodline as well. So it’s a little bit more personal. This child will be born on Hawaiian soil, so I want to do what I can in my lifetime to benefit his generation. So I’m trying to do that through music. Altar Native is a project that is a mouthpiece for that kind of work because usually I try not to be political. I think music is a mother tongue language that doesn’t need to be utilized this way, but it is being utilized this way. So I am accepting the kuleana (responsibility) that I now have.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

That’s a hard one. I can’t say I have a favorite song, but I would say that Culture Of Fear, even though it’s not for the masses, is my personal favorite because it talks about my relationship to the island of Kaho’olawe, which was a profoundly moving experience for me, and George Helm, who was very inspiring to me. But as a favorite overall, it would have to be Da Kine or Moloka’i Blues.

After your two-month “maternity leave"from music in July and August, what are your plans?

Record the next album I’ve been waiting three years to record, and keep honing my craft with other musicians.I just started working with a phenomenal ukulele player, Greg Martin, who will be performing with me for my concert June 28 at Ward’s Rafters. The artists whom I am starting to work with are very inspiring, and I think there will be a lot of new music.And not to mention that I’m going to be writing new music for this baby. I’m always writing new music, so God only knows what’s going to happen. I am sitting on one album in particular that I’m very much looking forward to record. So that’s what I’m looking to do in the fall, and then hopefully releasing it in the early part of next year.

What can the audience expect at your final CD release concert June 28 at Ward’s Rafters (7-9 p.m.)?

What the people are going to receive is the entire album from the first song to the last. From the time they sit down they are going to be hit with the first song with a full band and go on a journey. After that journey takes place and they have gone to all eight major islands, I’m going to take them on another journey that is more objective for the next set of the concert.There will be no break. It will be an intense experience. It will be a real performing art piece and then I’ll be concentrating on the baby.

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