New music honors bond between Filipino and Hawaiian cultures

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) – A total of 15 sakada (or Filipino contract workers) arrived in the islands in 1906 to work on the sugar plantations. Over the past 115 years, the community has grown and built deep connections to Hawaii.

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New music is now showcasing these connections by taking Filipino folk-music and reimagining them in the Hawaiian language.  

The album “Kawili” is a result of local musicians — including Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning and Grammy-nominated talent — taking their Hawaiian musical skills to showcase not just the pride of Filipino culture, but gratitude to the islands.  

“Putting those two things together is so appropriate for this album which strives to take Filipino folk songs, reimaging them as Hawaiian mele, and what the album represents as a cultural bridge,” says Zachary Lum, album co-producer and musician.

“Not just between those of Filipino ancestry, those Hawaiian ancestry, but how that interacts with it being in Hawaii,” said Lum.

The Filipino community composes approximately 15% of Hawaii’s population, according to the 2010 Census.

“My initial question when we were doing this album was ‘why?’ Why would we translate Filipino songs into Hawaiian?” Lum said.

“The real question is ‘why haven’t we?’ What has kept us from having these conversations when we have literally been here for decades, you know? For over a century,” Lum said. 

The album consists of 11 Filipino folk songs translated into Hawaiian language, and two Hawaiian songs sung in an Ilokano rendition.      

The album was released on Thursday, Jan. 7, and is available for purchase with proceeds benefiting the Refugee & Immigration Clinic at the Richardson School of Law and the Ilokano Language and Literature Program at UH Manoa.  

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