Brunei gets taste of Hawaiian music

Hakim Hayat

The United States (US) Embassy in Brunei Darussalam is hosting Grammy-award winning Hawaiian musicians Daniel Ho and Keali’i Ceballos as US arts envoys to Brunei Darussalam from January 26 to 30.

The band last evening conducted a public performance at the Youth Centre in the capital.

In addition to their own songs, they collaborated with Brunei musicians and dancers from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) to perform traditional songs such as ‘Adai-Adai’ and Ho’s signature song, ‘Pineapple Mango.’

Daniel Ho is a six-time Grammy Award winner who plays the ukulele and slack-key guitar. He also composes and produces. His song Living in Paradise has been featured on the TV series Hawaii Five-O.

Keali’i Ceballos is an acclaimed hula dancer and vocalist who teaches at the UCLA, Santa Monica College, as well as in Japan, Taiwan and Mexico. Daniel and Keali’i are accompanied by Randy Drake on drums and percussion, Steve Billman on bass, and Lydia Miyashiro-Ho on vocals.

Daniel Ho has performed on behalf of the US Department of State since 2011 to share the universal language and common love of music. He has visited Japan, Taiwan and Australia to conduct music education workshops and perform for local audiences.

During their visit to the Sultanate, Daniel Ho and Keali’i Ceballos conducted strings, percussion and dance workshops at the Youth Centre, Relentless Academy and Avenue 41. At the Youth Centre, the dance and music workshop was conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

They taught local youth, government musicians and others about the history of Hawaiian music as a genre of American music, for example noting that the ukulele originated from an instrument brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the 1870s and then adopted by Hawaiians.

They also demonstrated some of the wide range of influences on Hawaiian music, including samba and jazz, as well as a distinctive island music combination of Jamaican reggae and Hawaiian called ‘Jawaiian.’

US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Scott Woodard remarked, “We are so fortunate to have Daniel Ho and his talented band in Brunei sharing their musical knowledge, music and Hawaiian Aloha. He is a true master of the guitar and ukulele, a sensitive interpreter of classics and an inventive composer and performer of his own music.”

The band also performed at Pusat Ehsan Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam, teaching the students the meaning of hula hand gestures and encouraging them to dance along with the music.

The group spoke with Progresif Radio about the importance of music and dance in Hawaiian culture to preserve community history and memories, then performed some of their songs. Progresif loaned the band musical equipment to play in Brunei Darussalam.

The Arts Envoy programme seeks to connect with the international public who might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with American arts professionals.

ABOVE & BELOW: US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Scott Woodard delivers a speech; Keali’i Ceballos performs at the Youth Centre in the capital; and Daniel Ho takes the stage. PHOTOS: HAKIM HAYAT