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Keoni Turalde ♦ He Ola Hou O Ke Kumu Niu

Hilo, HI

The unique culture of Hawaii marches to the beat of its own drum, specifically the traditional Pahu drum. Keoni Turalde started making Pahu drums after an unfortunate diving accident that left him in a wheelchair. Deciding to go back to his Hawaiian roots, Keoni taught himself how to make these drums, and now teaches others the ancient craft. Depending on its size, one drum can take Keoni two weeks to make.


GET TO KNOW KEONI

What drew you to your chosen craft?

This is my chosen craft. This is part of Hawaiʻi, the pahu (drum). Itʻs the oldest instrument that people are still playing and making. If you can find the makers.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?

I donʻt buy the woods to make my craft. If no more the wood, no more the craft. And just carving… thatʻs the best part: free wood, and I just have to carve ‘em. The owners of the trees, when they cut down the coconut trees, they just drop it off to me, or call me to pick it up with my trailer. I let ‘em age for about a year, and then I begin the making of the drum: taking the skin off, shaving, and digging, and out-sketching the traditional designs.

Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?

Because thatʻs how it started in the beginning of time. Eating with your fingers, food, #1. And then how to use a spoon or a fork, a hammer or a chisel. So use your own hands while you can. Do that artwork in one art that just catches you, and you want to be part of that. Designs… Besides, making things is what makes us human. Otherwise, we are just going to be robots. We are only human; we only get so much time to use our hands.

In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass-produced?

Like a hairpick. The hairpick that I make…itʻs more nice and itʻs a real wood from Hawaiʻi, and I made it from my own fingers, my own hand. Outsketch, cut, sand down, and stain. One nice Hawaiian wood hairpick for ladies’ hair. The ones you usually find at the craft fair or in the stores, 80% is all made from big companies and cheap labor done by people who donʻt make enough money for a good life. Itʻs nice, but itʻs cheap made.

What does the future hold for your type of work?

There is a future for carving pahu for individuals that got inspired and made drums. But where, and when? A lot of people like to make pahu drums, but at this time, with Google Earth and computers and ipods and cellphones, I think time has been slowed down for making pahu drums or any kind of craft around the world that I see. To do this kind work, you have to be around the kind of people that dance Polynesian dance and Hawaiian hula — hula hālau (hula schools) that do a lot of arts besides pahu making. So we have to raise our kids around this so they can do the lifestyle. And people do look for people who will teach and make the Hawaiian artwork.


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