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ALOHA KĀKOU

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Jene'a and Gregg de Castro both grew up in the very ethnically diverse city of Carson, CA (Jene'a having been made in Japan; Gregg coming from New Jersey at 8 years old).

 

Growing up, they were surrounded by Polynesians and engrossed in the Polynesian culture. Jene'a says, "I remember watching Tahitian dancers at the school Football field at halftime and I decided I wanted to dance that style."

Since her teens, Jene'a studied and performed the teachings of Polynesia. But it wasn't until their marriage and honeymoon in 1979 (in Puna, Hawai'i and the Village of Solo Solo in Samoa) that Gregg was fully immersed in the beauty of the islands.

Gregg says, "An enchanting island dancer, Jean Marie Portillo enamored me with the music, dance, and culture of the South Pacific."

And so in 1981, they founded the professional Polynesian entertainment group Westwind Productions, who performed for and with:

Basil the Magnificent (Caribbean dancer), the Caribbean Gems, Hawaiian Airlines, The LA Lakers, the LA Sparks, the LA Kings, Disney's Lilo & Stitch Red Carpet Premiere, KTLA 5 News, Warner Brothers International, Universal Studios, Soap Talk, The Mirage's Treasure Island in Las Vegas, Jenny Garth, Jeffrey Tambor – and most notably, their 20 year run at Catalina Island's Casino Ballroom.

In 2003, they then began Ka Makani Ko Mohana Polynesian Instruction & Entertainment (now Kamakani Komohana).

Jene'a says, "As I started teaching I was SCHOOLED by a Kumu named Clarisse Nuhi. She asked me how I was teaching my students. She asked if I was teaching them about the culture and what the stories and songs meant. Am I translating and pronouncing the words correctly? From that moment on I started to realize how important tradition and culture was. And as the years went on, I realized that dancing authentically from the heart, not from the ego, was the most important aspect I could teach."

Since then, Jene'a, Gregg and haumana (students) have focused all their efforts on preserving the culture, legends and traditions of the Polynesian islands, and have engaged in many cultural trips as well in order to immerse themselves in their learnings (listed below).

In addition to Kamakaniʻs cultural trips, we have also been honored to bring the joy of the Polynesian culture to many communities and foundations such as Huntington Beach Waymakers Youth Shelter, The Friends of the Childrenʻs Library, American Legion Veterans, Assisted Living Homes, Halfway Homes, Mental Disability Homes, Homes for the Deaf, Cystic-Fibrosis Awareness Events, and many more – and were honored to be asked to blow the pū (conch shell), and play the ʻohe (nose flute) and Tahitian drums in Dana Point Harbor to welcome the Ancient Boat Hikianalia, sister ship to the Hokulea.

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KAMAKANI CULTURAL TRIPS

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Hawai'i

Haumana have traveled across Hawaiʻi, Maui and Oʻahu with different nā Kumu (teachers) teaching and guiding them through ancient lands such as Puʻuhonua O Honaunau (City of Refuge), Hale O Kupuni (The Sunken City), Akaka Falls, Waipiʻo Valley, Mauna Kea, Kealakekua Bay, Hiʻilawe Falls, and most notably, they were invited to dance on the hot lava rock of Peleʻs Halemaʻumaʻu crater on the volcano Kilauea – and to perform at the Kamehameha School.

Haumana were taught to play the ʻohe (nose flute), plant taro, pound and die kapa, chant to the rising sun, search for the ʻUlalena rain, and were taught to surf by one of the best big-wave surfers in the world, Clyde Aikau (his brother was Eddie Aikau, a well renowned big-wave surfer and first life guard at Waimea who was lost at sea after trying to save his fellow crew members when the Hokulea was overturned). Sam Ka’ai, who we learned from in our travels, was also a crew member.

Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Haumana were able to travel across Aotearoa with different relatives of one of our Māori teachers, Aunty Linda Wishart of Tribe Tainui, learning about the customs and traditions of Kiwi home life in Aotearoa. They traveled to Auckland (Māori: Tāmaki Makaurau), Te Kuiti, Matamata town, Otorohonga, Ragland, Wanui Bay, Manu Bay, Paihia, Russel Island, Rototua, Taupo and Hamilton.

Most notably, they explored the Auckland Museum, the Māori swap meet Otara, the Waitomo glow worm caves, Marakopa falls, Kokari Māori Immersion and Learning Center, Maromaku where Mānuka Honey is made, Waitangi Treaty House, Kauri Forest/Father of the Forest/Waipoua Visitor Center, Kiwi Night Village, and the Te Pua, Mitai, and Tamaki Māori Villages. Not to mention visiting many marae (sacred gathering places).

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Tahiti

Gregg played the Tahitian vivo (nose flute) and pahu drums while select haumana were conditioned in dance and singing to perform in the annual world-renowned performance, Heiva I Tahiti (performed with Uncle Alex Tekurio of Hitia O Te Ra) in Papeete, the central city of Tahiti, on the largest stage in Tahiti, the faʻaʻa. Haumana rehearsed and conditioned every morning at 6 am in the Tahitian heat.

Most notably on our travels, we were able to learn from masters Uncle Alex Tekurio, Coco Tirao and Ariʻi Atua (as well as immersing ourselves in the Tahitian culture through the grace and company of Uncle Alexʻs relatives), we travelled to the Tahitian dance school in Ahutoru, and continued on through Papanoʻo Valley, and Moʻorea.

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Jeneʻa and Gregg were able to explore American and Western Samoa and immerse themselves in the Samoan community by staying with their extended and self-proclaimed aiga (family). Gregg was then invited to sit in meetings in the fale (home) of the High Chief Leota in the village of Solo Solo. They later learned that the family they stayed withʻs relatives are now a part of the Kamakani Ohana!

Samoa

**Future Cultural Trips currently being planned. Check back every once in a while for more information!**