News / USA

Couple Helps Preserve Hawaiian Culture Through Music

Retirement turns into mission to promote island's native singers

Laurie and Jake Rohrer's love of Hawaiian music has led them to spend their retirement preserving and promoting the work of native singers.
Laurie and Jake Rohrer's love of Hawaiian music has led them to spend their retirement preserving and promoting the work of native singers.

Multimedia

Audio
Jan Sluizer

Laurie Rohrer first discovered native Hawaiian music at the age of eight, when her military family was stationed at Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

"I fell passionately in love with Hawaii and its expression through music," she says.

Now Laurie and her husband, Jake Rohrer, are devoting their retirement to preserving and promoting some of the island’s little-known native Hawaiian singers in their garage recording studio near the little town of Ha’iku, in Maui.

Getting started

Music is something Jake Rohrer  knows. He grew up in El Cerrito, California, where he befriended John Fogerty and some of the other musicians who later formed the rock and roll band, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Rohrer went on the road with them, as a manager. Forty years later he looks back on those days as a great opportunity.

"Fun. Exciting, and a first-hand look at the music business at all levels, and how it operated," he says.

Laurie's family eventually settled in El Cerrito, where Laurie and Jake met and were married, both for a second time. In 1996, with their children out of college and on their own, the Rohrers decided to retire to Maui. Laurie immediately reignited her passion for Hawaiian music.

The Rohrers' recording studio is in the garage of their home near the little town of Ha’iku in Maui.
The Rohrers' recording studio is in the garage of their home near the little town of Ha’iku in Maui.

"Traditional Hawaiian music is my teacher," she says. "It tells me the legends of the places in Hawaii. It tells me what these places mean to Hawaiian people, and so it connects me to these places and this culture."

Inspired by Laurie’s enthusiasm, Jake also fell in love with native Hawaiian singers, whose sensuous rhythms are distinctly different from any other kind of music he’s known.

"This rich vein of cultural heritage seems to run through them, especially in families," he says. "If one guy’s got the gift, almost the whole family does."

Garage recording studio

It seemed natural for the Rohrers to get involved in the local music scene. Jake built a recording studio in their garage, and they recorded a CD with a traditional native singer named Ata.

Jake Rohrer in his garage recording studio
Jake Rohrer in his garage recording studio

With plans to make more recordings, the Rohrers needed their own record label. They chose the name that one of their artists had given to their home - Ululoa. Laurie explains that many Hawaiian homes have names and theirs is especially appropriate.

"Ululoa has many meanings, many layers of meanings. But it means abundant growth, and not just plants," she says. "But spiritual growth, creative growth and it has come to represent exactly what happens here in people growing their music in our studio."

The Rohrers decided to invite only native singers that they liked to record with them. They work with each one individually, granting them free artistic expression and cultural respect.

Once sales have paid back the cost of producing a CD, Ululoa and the artist split the profits, 50-50. Honesty is a key word in the company’s business dealings. There are no contracts. Everything is sealed with a handshake based on the Hawaiian cultural principle of ‘pono.’

"You do the right thing with your artists, with anybody you do business with," Jakes says. "It’s a matter of being pono and when everybody is pono with one another, lawyers aren’t needed."

The Hula Honeys, Robin Kneubuhl and Ginger Johnson, record on the Ululoa label and combine contemporary jazz with traditional Hawaiian sounds.
The Hula Honeys, Robin Kneubuhl and Ginger Johnson, record on the Ululoa label and combine contemporary jazz with traditional Hawaiian sounds.

Successes

One of the groups the Rohrers invited to record on their Ululoa label is the Hula Honeys. Its CD, "Girl Talk," won an award from the Hawaiian Academy of Recording Arts for Best Hawaiian Jazz Album of 2010. Singer and songwriters Robin Kneubuhl and Ginger Johnson say the Rohrers put them on the music world’s map.

"They took a chance with us. We weren’t professionals in the beginning. They just took us in and we’ve gotten to watch, not only what we have done with them, but what they’ve done with a lot of other fabulous performers and musicians here on Maui," says Kneubuhl. "They’re great supporters."

Johnson agrees. "We’re tremendously lucky to have Ululoa because they’re coming from the heart. The bottom line is heart with them and they’re only recording music they really believe in. That’s rare."  

Hawaiian culture is an oral tradition. Legends and stories are passed down from generation to generation through songs. Many artists have said that with Ululoa, the Rohrers are saving a culture that might otherwise be lost, but Laurie Rohrer says they are just trying to put out good music.

"It cannot be said that we are doing what we do to preserve Hawaiian culture, but if by recording Hawaiian people and their music has that as an end result, we would be very happy."

Laurie and Jake Rohrer keep a close eye on native Hawaiian singers coming up in the next generation. When the best of them are ready, they will be invited to record on the Ululoa label, continuing the Rohrers’ success in promoting and preserving Hawaii’s unique sounds.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid