Better and better

Thoughts on the Grammy Awards and crime.


By mid-month, we'll know who will have won the second Grammy ever given for Hawaiian music, but, for now, there's some suspense. This month's cover story, found here, by associate editor Ronna Bolante, introduces readers to the top nominees for the award. They range from living legends, such as Ledward Ka'apana, to promising new talents, such as Raiatea Helm, a young woman who associate editor Michael Keany dubbed one of the Islands' "New Traditionalists" in last June's music issue.

I was surprised and pleased to see that this use of the term "New Traditionalists" has apparently stuck – last month, Hawai'i Theatre manager Burton White, inspired by the June issue photo shoot at his theater of the New Traditionalists, hosted a New Traditionalist concert, featuring such upcoming artists as Helm, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole, Snowbird Bento and Kaleo Trinidad.

(Pleased, but also jealous. I've yet to coin a phrase. My only contender is, "tap bank," which I've been pushing for years. I coined it as a snappy substitute for the much longer expression, "I have to go to the ATM and take out some cash." No, no, no. You have to tap bank. Just as you might "tap a keg." Well, feel free to work it into your conversations.)

Raiatea Helm, photographed at the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu. Photo: Monte Costa

As we do with the Grammy piece, the magazine aims to bring you a little greater understanding of the Islands. We see things going on all around us and wonder, What's the real story? You'll find a short item here, for example, by associate editor Lori Anne Tomonari, looking into Chinatown and downtown crime trends. I wanted to know what the real story was, when a weekday stabbing death in front of the Longs I stop into all the time was followed by a high-speed chase ending in a dramatic crash at the intersection of Hotel and Bethel streets.

It's not unusual for people to see a clump of bad events and mistake it for a trend. Tomonari pulled together crime reports from the Honolulu Police Department for the past three years, and found that—the occasional high-speed chase aside—violent crime in the three beats that make up Chinatown has subsided. With all the galleries, shops and restaurants opening in the area, it's been changing for the better. If the gentrification keeps up, we'll soon be complaining about how Chinatown has lost its "real" feeling, the way New Yorkers grumbled when a Disney Store opened in the once notoriously seedy Times Square.

Or, perhaps we won't. At a recent First Friday, I bounced this theory – that we might regret making Chinatown too squeaky clean – off a downtown gallery owner, who had just recounted his frustration with persistent drug deals going down in plain view around his gallery. "Please," he said, with a tired roll of his eyes. "That day can't come soon enough."

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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