Binding Back to the Hawaiian Roots
By Anuj Malhorta
Keo Woolford, a multi-disciplinary artist was born and raised in Hawaii and who began dancing hula in high school. Keo has won many awards including the honors of the best-selling album when Keo was a member of Hawaii boy-band called “BrownSkin”. Keo is also a prolific songwriter, having written many songs for BrownSkin and a number of other recording artists in Hawaii and Japan. I specially liked his story telling skills. Although a little odd in the beginning since this was my first attempt at story telling, Keo did a wonderful job. He delivered a hard-hitting performance poem that outlined his reasons for embracing his cultural heritage. As a direct quote from Keo, “Because I was adopted before I was born, there are issues of identity. It wasn’t till I left the Islands that I realized that there was a need to connect to culture and identity. This reconnects me, in stronger and deeper ways, with Hawaiian culture. You don’t know what you got until it’s gone”.
Going over one of his high school experience through story-telling, he mentions on the day of graduation when he was involved racially aggravated event when Keo and his friends beat-up a white boy. Obviously Keo regrets it to this day however this did get me thinking that even in a place like Hawaii which is known for its friendly population, racial discrimination does find its way through. Another important aspect of the performance (which I asked Keo in the Q&A) was the conflict of religion beliefs within Keo. The question being “Hula having to do with Hawaiian gods and goddesses but you are a Christian, is that conflicting in any sense?” Keo responded that he respects all religion and he that he overcame the fact of blending in two totally different religions within his performance. Although it takes him awhile to connect with his audience, but his strength being his dancing, his show delivers ample fusion of Hula and Hip-Hop.