John Cruz


Hawaiian Island Style Music

John Cruz by Hui O Wa’a Kaulua © Gérard Koch

On Thursday morning in MAUIscene, a local publication, I discover that John Cruz gives an  evening concert at Lāhainā’s Baldwin Home Museum. Today’s trip is decided with this article, and we’re off to Lāhainā.

From Kihei we drive north to North Kihei Road along the scenic coastal Honoapiilani Highway, heading to Lāhainā. Lāhainā, formerly known as Lele (or Hawai’ian for ‘merciless sun’) and founded in 1819, is the world’s most important whaling port in the Pacific.

The small fishing village of Lele at the foot of the West Maui Mountains, and before King Kamehameha I, was the residence of the first chief Mauiloa, fifth chief in the genealogy of the Mō’ī of Maui. Maui was conquered at the Battle of ‚Īao Valley. Mauiloa’s successor King Kamehameha II made Lāhainā the capital in 1820, before Honolulu became the capital of Hawai’ian Islands in 1845. Today, the old wooden houses that were created in the 1820’s still line Front Street.

As the first street signs of Lāhainā decorated the highway, we turned left from the extremely busy road and drove towards the old town on Front Street toward downtown. We parked the car just outside and walked leisurely into the center to the Baldwin Home Museum. Before we went to the event, we made a short trip to a store to organize a lei for John Cruz. Throughout the Hawai’ian Islands, it is customary and a gesture of friendship to bring a flower necklace to show appreciation.

When we arrive at the Museum, some listeners have already grabbed free chairs and put themselves in the best position. Many have also seated themselves on the green, short-cut grass under the shady trees.

John and his bandmembers are still busy with the soundcheck while the place fills up with relaxed, music-loving visitors from all over the world. Shana, my wife, goes straight to John, through all the people sitting on the lawn, to bring him the lei with her aloha. At this friendly welcome, we agreed to meet after the concert on stage to schedule an appointment for my interview.

During the sunset, at perfect temperature with a light breeze, John starts his performance after a short announcement. This atmosphere at the equator under trees, palms and among such friendly and attentive people is an experience that burns deep into your memory. This is a high quality of life, an indescribable warm, soothing feeling that comes with the music and the mood at this historic place. This atmosphere is like a drug that makes one dream and takes one away on a journey into the past, where one finds oneself back in the history of the place.

On the Historical Trail (Ala Moolelo O Lahaina) tour of Lahaina, one follows in the footsteps of the past to 62 historically significant sites. Since 1962, the Lāhainā Historic District is listed as a National Historic Landmark building. [1] Historic Front Street was voted one of the Top Ten Greatest Streets by the U.S. Planning Association in 2011. [9]

Early on, John Cruz sang my favorite song „Island Style„. This world-famous song has an extraordinary story that John tells in this interview.

For me back by Switzerland, when I hear this song, I step out of the stressful life and my thoughts doze off to the Hawai’ian Islands from the time we were allowed to spend with John Cruz and his location contact.

Saturday afternoon, we parked our car back on the same parking lot as a few days earlier and this time just had to cross the street to get to the meeting point with John.

In Shana’s hands were two fresh colorful lei, which she unpacked, while I carried the photo equipment. We cross the stony, dusty parking lot and then the road. We reached in a few steps the historic square of Kamehameha Iki Park which was the residence of Kamehameha III. This place, which is just off the beach, is filled with surfboards and outrigger canoes of local Hawai’ians and sunbathing visitors. Shana and I await next to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua searching for a hall yet discovering a simple canopy-looking building. We heard and saw how water spurted out from underneath the canopy and how heavy objects were moved. Apparently, the space was in active preparation mode.

A large truck drives up, and we see John Cruz accompanied by his lady friend. John gets out greets us warmly. He introduces us to his girlfriend, as well as Timothy Gilliom, who prepared the interview site. Hui O Wa’a Kaulua is a nonprofit organization to restore and preserve the canoe that preceded the Hokulea, which was jacked up and packed in white protective paper.

John and Timi unveil the enormous mystery: a glossy canoe name Mo’olele and made from indigenous koa wood. What a rich and charming boat appeared before us! The precise and luster found in the smallest details is tended to with heart, labor and love! Timi leads us sequentially through the hall and tells us the story of Mo’olele canoe, as he was first mate this extraordinary canoe in the Pacific.

As Timi ended the tour with his exciting, adventurous tales through his building, John sat down in a camping chair in front of the Mo’olele. Shana and I prepared the equipment for the interview. Timi ginerly placed a ki leaf plant pot on the Mo’olele to benefit John’s interview. We turn the cameras and audio equipment in record mode and listen to John’s story, like a life review covering his private life, Hawaiian slack key music, and how the U.S. marketed the Hawai’ian Islands to the world. „Hollywood“ arrived and changed not just the Hawai’ian Islands but also distorted visitors’ perspective by promoting an idyllic easy life. The Hawai’ian culture was presented to the West as a one-sided, distorted and unrepresented image, which is still burns in the minds of many.

We complete John’s interview after ninety minutes, then Timi invites us to a shady spot on the grass out front of the canoe hale (Hawai’ian for house) to unwind in late afternoon. He prepared a round of camping chairs and pulled out of his cooler freshly caught ahi (tuna fish) with a small knife to prepared sashimi. The freshness of the fish, the flavor, the delicacy of the meat with Timi’s homemade sauce are unbeatable. Being invited by such welcoming people, enjoying the late afternoon and appreciating with humorous stories, what can one say over this experience? Simply heaven!


Photo Album:

3 Gedanken zu “John Cruz

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