James Kaupena Wong, tradition-bearer and master of Hawaiian chant, dies at 93
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - James Kaupena Wong, a master chanter who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts has died.
Wong died Saturday afternoon, according to his niece Haunani Denhart of Oakland, California.
Among his many accolades is winning Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in 1993 and 2004.
“He is a link to that ancient past, to that ancient way of learning and passing down knowledge from generation to generation,” said Kumu Hula Kawaikapuokalani Hewett.
“With Uncle, he had the mana leo, the mana in his voice because that voice came from the generations above him that fed him,” Hewett recalled. “That allowed him to be that vessel of ike to these ancient things.”
Kumu Hula Blaine Kamalani Kia described meeting Wong as fascinating. He said the master chanter was “very spiritually present,” withholding a powerful aura.
After college, Wong studied under Kumu Hula Dr. Mary Kawena Pukui.
For 12 years, he learned the five primary styles of Hawaiian chant. Wong is also one of a few that mastered the full spectrum of ancient instruments.
Three significant events in his life include performing at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 as Hawaiian Chant was presented for the first time as an American Folk Tradition.
In 1969, Kaupena Wong chanted at the statue dedication of the King Kamehameha I in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.
And on May 1, 1976 he sent Hokulea on its way to Tahiti in its maiden voyage.
“Meeting with Kaupena Wong just reminded me of these incredible individuals that are the cornerstone of many of our wonderful knowledge and wisdom of old Hawaii Nei,” Kia said.
He was 93 years old.
Services are pending.
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