Tag Archives: Merrie Monarch

When Is The 10:00 News?

By Leslie Lang

Rick Blangiardi was keynote speaker at a Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board meeting on Wednesday. He spoke about how today’s (and yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s) rapidly changing technology is changing the news business. It was interesting to hear an overview of how much TV has changed, and how quickly, and why.

Blangiardi worked in media for decades, both here in Hawai‘i (he started with KGMB back in 1977) and on the mainland—where, among several other positions, he was president of the Spanish-language television network Telemundo. Now he’s back in Hawai‘i, where he first moved in 1965 and where he said his heart has been ever since.

In 2009, he took over as general manager of Hawaii News Now (HNN), a new concept in television here:

Hawaii News Now is the name of the news department shared by three television stations in Honolulu, Hawaii: CBS affiliate KGMB (channel 5), MyNetworkTV affiliate KFVE (channel 9) and NBC affiliate KHNL (channel 13). The newscasts are produced by Raycom Media, which owns KGMB and KHNL and operates KFVE (owned by MCG Capital Corporation) through a shared services agreement. – Wikipedia

Remember how every evening there used to be an announcement, like, “Tonight’s 10 o’clock news will start at ten minutes after 10”? Programming wasn’t the same as on the mainland, he said, “and we didn’t follow any of the rules.”

Not only did Hawai‘i have to wait for its copies of mainland programs to physically arrive by boat (isn’t that amazing to think about now!), but many people were not able to see television broadcasts at all, because the island’s topography caused poor reception in some areas. There was no cable distribution, and it was a wholly different ballgame.

In 1989, computer technology came to television, and that’s when it became possible to measure the television watching audience here. Hawai‘i became part of the national television index, and television stations here were asked to clean up their act and start their programs on time. That’s when the 10:00 news started airing at 10.

In the last four to five years, he said, changes have been unprecedenced. The collapse of the state’s economy in 2008 “brought all of us to our knees,” he said. Even before that, stations had been struggling for advertising dollars. The advertising marketplace had changed and it was hard to support the four local news operations Honolulu had at the time.

In 2007, a group of investors bought the highly-competitive-with-each-other television stations. There was a lot of scrutiny about the deal, he said, but they carefully vetted everything through lawyers and FCC regulations before announcing the consolidation of stations. The stations became Hawaii News Now, and it created an incredible opportunity.

Their plan was to combine resources and provide something Hawai‘i had never seen before. Using these extensive resources, and the ability to hire the best people, they commited to producing what’s now 40.5 news hours per week and became a 24-hour news operation.

Technology has opened up a whole new perspective. Now, he said, people go to the computer and expect news around the clock. For instance, during a recent period of huge surf on O‘ahu, HNN had 10 million page views on mobile platforms in a week, and another 2.5 million on the web.

Two hundred and seventeen thousand people like Hawaii News Now on Facebook. “If they ‘like’ you, they’re inviting you in,” he said. “You’re part of the family. It’s like when the kids go to college; we hear about it. It’s all unprecedented. The readers can reach in and touch us. Everybody has some kind of device in their hand and people expect to be able to communicate like that now. (HNN Reporter) Mileka Lincoln, she’s a rock star! It’s a whole different dynamic.”

The other huge change, he said, is that they no longer only broadcast over the air. The technology they use to distribute their programs is pretty sophisticated and wide-ranging now—methods I imagine no one dreamed of back when he started in television.

What especially seemed to resonate with the group of HIEDB forward-lookers is when he said that every plan and every decision they make is done with an eye toward the future. He said it’s taken him four years to get the staffing at HNN just right, and now he feels very good about the people working there and how they are moving Hawaii News Now toward a still-changing future. He’s also glad they’ve been able to bring talented people back home from the mainland, where they moved to pursue careers, and give them good jobs here—like the aforementioned Mileka Lincoln.

“Hawai‘i is more sophisticated than many other places when it comes to wired technology,” he said. “We’ve really evolved into a 21st-century electronic company.” HNN is a statewide television organization and tries to be inclusive of the neighbor islands; he points out that the morning program Sunrise is going on the road 15 times this year. When they come to the Big Island each spring to cover Merrie Monarch, he said, they actually put their expensive truck filled with very high technology equipment on the barge and bring it with them—but even that technology is changing now.

Technology has always driven the television business, he said, but never to the extent things are changing today as we continue to careen into the Digital Age. He said that he’s always asking his staff: “Where are the new ideas? What are we going to do that’s new and different? What are we doing right now, at the end of February, that’s different from what we did a year ago?”

Richard Ha said later that this is a question  people in every industry, who understand all the changes we are going through right now, should be asking themselves.

He told me he was interested in how Rick used his iPhone to illustrate how dramatically things had changed in the last four or five years. Handheld mobile devices made it possible for people to report things instantaneously—just click and send. And then people wanted to receive their news the same way; on their handhelds.

“It was an unprecedented change, and HNN challenged themselves by thinking outside of the box,” said Richard. “We are constantly challenging ourselves, too, by asking how we can stay relevant to a rapidly changing tomorrow.”


Merrie Monarch 2012

So finally, on Wednesday night, I got to see what it was like to watch my daughter and her halau perform, for a huge audience, chants and hulas I’d been watching in rehearsals for months, my daughter in a costume we made ourselves.


It was exhilarating. Thrilling.

Afterward I asked my daughter, who’s 8, to tell me a little more about her performance. She said, “I thought it would be scary but it wasn’t really. You were right, the people were all so happy about our dancing that I wasn’t scared.”

Beforehand I’d told her that the crowd loves her halau, Halau O Kekuhi, and would be roaring for them and loving the performance, and indeed that’s what happened. It was definitely not a hostile crowd. But, then again, there was nothing to be hostile about!


You can see and hear that on this Big Island Video News video of the Ho‘ike, which gives a good taste of Halau O Kekuhi’s performance, as well as the ones that followed it on Wednesday’s Ho‘ike (Exhibition) night.

And if you want to see some of Hilo’s Merrie Monarch competition, it streams live here at 6 p.m. Hawai‘i time on Friday, 4/13/12 and Saturday, 4/14. Tonight is the hula kahiko (ancient style) competition, and Saturday is the ‘auana (modern style) one.


Merrie Monarch: The Buzz Has Started

Last night, all of the sudden, Merrie Monarch practice at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium was different. Last week, it was just my daughter’s hālau there in a quiet stadium in the evenings, rehearsing. Now, just three days before the first performances, we arrived to find great activity.

Ti-leaf diplays are wrapped around the railings now, and anthuriums, heliconia and greens sit in arrangements around the stage. Sponsors’ banners were affixed to framework – Mauna Loa Macadamias, Hawaiian Airlines, Big Island Candies. Two women were crouched down behind the bleachers, soaking ti leaves, and braiding ti leaves; they were surrounded by buckets and buckets and buckets of flowers. Clearly they were decorating the place.

The sound people have set up behind the stage and were there, doing what they do. Oficial people walked around, studied the area where the royal court people sit, and talked about last minute repairs.

It wasn’t the quiet place they’d been practicing for days. There were suddenly lots of people, each with the jobs they’re doing, and there was a buzz.

Itʻs nothing, though, like the buzz that will fill that stadium on Wednesday night.


Merrie Monarch: Intense!

I mentioned last time that my daughter, 8, is dancing in the Merrie Monarch hula festival this year for the first time, and so this is our first experience with what goes into preparations for the big hula event.

The number of practices with her hālau has stepped up a lot. During these last two weeks before their performance, they’ve gone from meeting twice a week, as they do during the year, to practicing most weekdays from two to four hours a day.

As a parent, let me just say WOW. That’s on top of school and homework (finding time for her to do homework is taking a lot of parental ingenuity) and trying to make sure she gets enough sleep at night.

But it’s only for a very short time, and as I watch these kids practice on that stage at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium I think about how very much it’s worth it.

I marvel at how much they are learning. It is huge, and great, how much they are learning about the Hawaiian culture – stories, chant, hula, history, ways of being, ways of learning, respect, continuity, integrity, community, cooperation and more.

And they are also learning how to come together and be a part of the total hālau by dancing with the adults, whom they don’t usually dance with the rest of the year. They are learning confidence, and how to perform in front of 5000 people. They are learning to take direction.

They are learning how to work hard at something that’s important to them. Is there any greater lesson?

These kids are working hard but there are so many smiles at rehearsal. My daughter is loving it. She keeps telling me she likes practicing every day, because she feels herself getting better each day in a way that’s different from when they meet twice a week.

What I love is seeing her take part in something that’s so much bigger than herself, than our usual world, and enjoying it and fitting herself into it so well. What more rewarding thing is there for a parent to see than their young child successfully taking on a big challenge?

A reporter and videographer from Honolulu were at the stadium and taped part of their rehearsal for the television news last night. It’s starting!

Stay tuned and I’ll report back again.


Merrie Monarch: Cultural Traditions

I’m not a hula person, but my daughter is and this year is the first year she’s dancing in the annual Merrie Monarch hula festival. If you live in Hawai‘i, you know that’s a big deal here. It’s a hula competition held every spring in Hilo, and it’s one that people come to from around the world.

My daughter, who’s 8, is dancing with her hālau on the Hō‘ike (Exhibition) night, and this is the first time I’m experiencing firsthand what all goes into preparing for the Merrie Monarch.
We’ve been working on her costume, which started with each parent and child going into the forest and cutting down a hau tree. Wow! Pretty intense, but so interesting!
(This blog talks a lot about sustainability, and if you don’t live here that might sound unsustainable to you. Please note that hau trees grow like weeds. I don’t think you could wipe out the hau even if you tried.)
I have since learned how to strip the bark, clean it, and separate the layers, so we can braid it into cordage that we’re using in her costume.
Similarly, we have gathered lau hala – the leaves of the hala tree – and trimmed and cleaned them. When I mentioned that I got a box-type stripper – it lets you strip hala leaves to an even width so you can weave them or use them to make hula implements, for instance, as below – Richard said it makes him think of his grandmother’s house where there were always rolls (kūka‘a) of prepped lau hala.
It was always the same in this house where I live, too, which was my grandmother’s home and her mother’s before her, and where there used to be hula and weaving and more.

Somehow that managed to skip a couple generations, but I love that once again, this house is sometimes filled with hula and ‘oli (chanting), and that rolls of lau hala and skeins of handmade hau cordage and handmade hula implements, like this ‘ulī‘ulī we made, again fill our home.


Merrie Monarch 2011

Hilo just finished hosting hula dancers and admirers from around the world at its annual Merrie Monarch hula festival.

It’s so great to see how Hilo comes alive for that Merrie Monarch week, which is held each year around Easter. The streets overflow with people, many of them Hawaiian, in their designer aloha wear, flower leis and lauhala hats. Everything that is good about the place — the people, the leis, the music, the dancing — is magnified and multiplied. It’s everywhere. It’s wonderful.

From Wikipedia:

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a week-long cultural festival that takes place annually in Hilo, Hawaii. It honors King David Kalākaua, who was called the “Merrie Monarch” for his patronage of the arts. He is credited with restoring many Hawaiian cultural traditions during his reign, including the hula. Many hālau hula (schools), including some from the U.S. mainland and Japan, attend the festival each year to participate in the festival exhibitions and competitions, which are considered the most prestigious of all hula contests. Read the rest

The hula always starts on Wednesday, with a free Ho‘ike (demonstration) night. Watch this year’s Ho‘ike highlights from Big Island Video News here, and some of Halau O Kekuhi’s dances from that night here. They are renowned, and what a treat to see them.

Some other videos from this year’s Merrie Monarch:

This is Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani, of Hilo (It’s their kahiko performance)

Chinky Mahoe’s Kawaili‘ula, from Kailua, O‘ahu (kahiko)

And there’s always a wonderful Merrie Monarch Parade through Hilo town. See some of that here: 2011 Merrie Monarch Festival Grand Parade

It’s never too soon to start thinking about attending Merrie Monarch the next year, if you’re interested. Mark your calendars: tickets are available to purchase by mail only, and your ticket requests must be postmarked on December 26 or later. (If they are mailed later, you might not get seats; it’s best if you email your request on 12/26 exactly.)

Ticketing info is not yet updated for the 2012 festival, but watch this space later in the year if you’re interested in knowing exactly how to order.