BWW Reviews: Experiencing the Future at the 20th Annual Hawaii Conservation Conference, Part 2
Venturing back upstairs, I was just in time to hear Wyland give a brief speech from the stage, delivering the most quotable line of the evening: "If we're not going to get support from our government, we're gonna get it from each other !" Rousing cheers greeted this declaration.
There was still a little time before the headline music (Na Hoku Hanohano award winner, Anuhea) and so I took a deeper turn into the myriad of crafts and science booths in the upstairs conference hall.
My last stop was the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary booth. The facilitator Fionna Langenberger was in the midst of explaining to another visitor about the highly specialized practice of freeing humpbacks and other whales from entanglement with nets. Sadly, this problem is on the rise, as our ocean becomes increasingly cluttered with debris, and scientists have developed a very delicate and specialized operation to free the large cetaceans. "One of the problems" Fionna explained, "is that the trapped whale is often guarded by another whale, and so great care has to be taken to not appear threatening. They use a procedure not unlike what traditional whalers used called 'kegging' to keep the whale at the surface. But instead of using wooden barrels attached by barbs lodged in the whale's flesh, they attach buoys to the strands of net. They then study the way the net is wrapped around the whale's body; usually it takes just one strategic cut with a highly specialized blade designed like scissors (sharpened only on the inner edges to prevent injuring the whale)." When I asked Fionna what she felt to be the most significant reason for providing whale sanctuaries in the islands, she responded: "Sanctuaries are a great platform for outreach and education opportunities. Also, valuable research is conducted to further Marine Conservation in Hawaii; for example, efforts in the whale disentanglement program."
For more information visit: http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/res/cases0809.html
At last it was time for the luminous and tre' talented Anuhea, who took the stage playing acoustic guitar, accompanied by a percussionist and bass player, as the crowd eagerly gathered. Unfortunately, the acoustics in the room worked against her delicate vocals, and it was difficult to hear the lyrics. I tried to get as close as I could, and eventually grabbed a chair in the front that was vacated, so I had a great vantage point for most of the show. Her guitar playing is solid, and her accompanists provide highly sophisticated and nuanced rhythms (lots of emphasis on chimes) to compliment her pop/soul sound. The overall performance more than fulfilled it's objective for an event such as this (which is to create a great vibe). She is just a beautiful and accomplished vocalist. Early on, Anuhea surprised us with a faithful version of Fleetwood Mac's "Leather and Lace", not something I was anticipating in the repertoire of such a young artist.
She then kicked off a cover of "Come Over" by Estelle telling us that this is her favorite song.
I noticed for the first time, a banner by the Surfrider Foundation hanging form the back of the stage... it is so nice to see them sponsoring this event !
Anuhea paused for a minute in her set to explain how she made a special trip back to Hawaii in the midst of her mainland tour so she could be a part of this event. She was obviously very happy to be back home for a few days. It was charming to hear pigeon English flowing effortlessly from the lips of such a fair, blond keiki o' ka aina, as she spoke of feeling the "mana" of the surf again, and getting back with the "keiki" and eating Lomi Lomi salmon.
Back into her set, she makes it clear that her forte' is the sweet, soulful love song, as she delivers one after another. Where so much focus on the sweetness and romance could become cloying or overdone, Anuhea manages instead to charm with her natural grace. Wrapping up a strong version of "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls", she declares, "Every once in awhile I need to rap !" And here she takes the patois of rap up into the "ultra-lite" zone, and manages to make the medium work at that high, sweet altitude. The rhythm section lays down the most understated and spare accents to support her. "I come from a long line of educators and that's why I am trying to do something for conservation for 'the Aina'." As if her presence here needed any explanation !
She then treats us to a new song, (never performed live) entitled, "Forever Summer". This song was more inward, thoughtful, reflecting on a relationship, searching for some sense, an indefinable feeling; she introduces a few lyrics in Hawaiian and brings it to a close. Then she moves on to her big hit, "Higher Than The Clouds". Her version this evening seemed a little less effervescent than the original recording; more contemplative than joyous, but every bit as lovely. Anuhea tells us that her next big hit, "Simple Love Song" was written for Justin Bieber (whom she confesses she was in love with at the time). Here she showcases her incredible singing range, ascending to impossibly high notes with effortless precision, and finishing by jumping to the microphone and raising her hands in two "shakas", keeping it Hawaiian-style, and bringing the Wednesday's festivities to a close.
(This is the second part of Gail's review of the Hawaii Conservation Conference. Follow this link for the first part.)
Photos courtesey of Cynthia McArthur