If you haven’t heard of Keale yet, it’s time to brush up on your Hawaiian music. The ukulele player with Kaukahi, a kahu, soloist, teacher, and all around warm and genuine guy, Walter Keale’s music expresses it all and then some. My interview with him about what he’s reading surprised even those who think they know him well.

What I’m Reading | Keale
Makua, DOE Kupuna Program; Musician | Solo and with Kaukahi

Q&A with Christine Thomas
April 2008

-What are you reading?

First I’m reading reports by Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission on everything from wahi pana to archeostronomy—just getting involved in the politics there. My favorite book, which is like ten years old, is Salman Rushdie’s “Haroun and the Sea of Stories.” I always read it, for one to get a different side of the guy because the way he’s been portrayed by Islam and the media you’d think he must be strange, but he’s a great writer and must be a pretty cool guy. Since I moved back here the information I gather is all oral. In Hawai`i it’s a less literate pathway to knowledge.

-How did you discover Rushdie?

I was teaching literature in Oregon at a seminary, so I’d teach the Bible as literature and I’d make my students read things that would open up their minds. Most of the people in that course are also evangelical and could use a wider world. Like I’d recommend they read G.K. Chesterton, the guy who influenced C.S. Lewis—he was way ahead of his time. He writes a book called “Heretics” and another called “Orthodoxy.” Another book Lewis wrote that’s really cool is “Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer,” a collection of letters to his friend.

-What keeps you coming back to “Haroun and the Sea of Stories”?

I like that it describes culture, really, in a lot of ways. It’s the same here in Hawai`i as it was with church academia—there’s always this fight between the traditionalists and the new contemporary thinkers. He frames it in a way that is real entertaining, and actually there’s a lot of beauty to what he’s writing.

-Do you try to address that tension between traditional and contemporary approaches in your solo music and work with Kaukahi?

In Kaukahi, we create and play innocuous music that’s pleasurable but not too radical or out there. But where I’m trying to go with my solo music tends to be subversive. I’m singing music to challenge the way so-called Hawaiian culture, that’s really Western, looks right now, because we have to deal with the real issues and reality. The more radical side of me comes out in my solo music.