Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

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Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Loving Legacy

Photo Courtesy of Kanilho.com
Photo Courtesy of Kanilho.com

 

     There is a quiet power in Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s 1993 album, Facing Future. Kamakawiwo’ole is best known for his rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which is featured on the album, but his other songs could easily stand alone in their own right. Supported by his ukulele, the Native Hawaiian’s angelic tenor embodies the haunting beauty of the Hawaiian islands. 

     The first track, “Hawai’i ‘78 Introduction”, is almost the same as the closing track, “Hawai’i ‘78.” In both, Kamakawiwo’ole sings in his native language before his “cry for the gods, for the people,” and “for the land that was taken away.” His cries are a sorrowful call to the independence of the island before its colonization and eventual addition to the United States. Despite his pain, Kamakawiwo’ole’s voice soars above a drum, some light strings and his faithful ukulele. Kamakawiwo’ole also demonstrates the joy of those native to the island, even through periods of colonization, with songs sung entirely in Hawaiian (“Ka Huila Wai” and “Ka Pua U’i,” to name a few), as well as his cover of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” In the track, Kamakawiwo’ole highlights the beauty of Hawai’i, substituting “West Virginia, mountain mama” for “West Makaha, Mount Ka’ala.” His truly joyful and genuine take on an already famous song is a moving tribute to his homeland. 

     The life of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is perhaps the most touching part of his story. Born in 1959, Kamakawiwo’ole was quoted during his lifetime as expecting to not live very long. His brother, Skippy, died young due to a heart attack; Israel expected a similar end. The brothers both weighed upwards of 400 pounds, and Israel weighed more upon his early death, in 1997, from problems relating to his weight. Upon his death, all of the Hawaiian islands went into mourning. A truly excellent musician was lost in Kamakawiwo’ole, a man who demonstrated Hawaiian pride and beauty but did not shy away from the generational pain of colonization. Kamakawiwo’ole did not fear his death despite predicting an early end, however, and he left the world with wonderful music and the love and admiration of millions. 

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