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I was saddened by the news of Genoa Keawe’s passing in February, but I couldn’t help but smile when remembering the last time we spoke, over the phone, in March 2007. I was researching a music feature, and we were going over whatever questions I had prepared for her that day, when suddenly Keawe paused, and asked, “Would you like to hear a song?” Of course, what do you say to a legend of Hawaiian music when she asks you a question like that? With no other preamble, she began singing an a capella version of “Kimo Hula,” her voice soft through the telephone line, still soaring to the falsetto heights she had become famous for. The song lasted less than two minutes, but by the time she wrapped up, I was in a puddle beneath my desk. “And that’s the song of the day,” she said with a laugh. I don’t even remember how I was able to continue the interview after that, but I still treasure the gift she gave me that day. You’ll be missed, Auntie Genoa, and I’ll always remember you for the joy you took in sharing your music with others, whatever the occasion.
It takes guts to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the days of instant online gratification, but in da Shop, local publisher Bess Press has found a way to allow fickle/loyal readers to have their cake and eat it, too.