From left, Myoung-Ja Hwa, Justin Kalanialiʻi Stoleson and Larry Kimura are part of a group of scholars digitizing Kimura’s 1970s radio show Ka Leo Hawaiʻi for online listening. (photo credit: Claudia Hagan)

A radio project that has roots dating back to the 1960s and the beginning of the Hawaiian Renaissance is making its way to the public thanks to Larry Kimura, the internationally renowned “grandfather” of Hawaiian language revitalization.

Kimura is now an associate professor of Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani, the College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. His life’s work can be traced back to the conception of the foundational educational programs that launched the rebirth of the Hawaiian language 50 years ago.

Justin Kalanialiʻi Stoleson. (photo credit: Claudia Hagan)

Kimura and colleagues are currently working on a project Kimura considers one of his greatest achievements to date—online access to recordings from his radio show, Ka Leo Hawaiʻi, that featured Native Hawaiian speakers. The program started in 1972 and continued for 16 years of broadcasts.

The digitized recordings are being uploaded to Ulukau, an electronic library hosted by the Hawaiian language college that offers the public free access to books, newspapers, genealogies and a variety of other Hawaiian language media.

Cassette recordings of some Ka Leo Hawaiʻi programs have been available at UH libraries but this is the first time since their original broadcasting that episodes will be digitally available for online listening.

An important contributor to the project is the Center for Language and Technology at UH Mānoa. “The center’s director, Julio Rodriques, was gracious in sharing their digital files of the Ka Leo Hawaiʻi archive for the online Ulukau project,” says Kimura.

The ʻohana (family) of helpers working on the project includes Myoung-Ja Hwa, who received her master of arts in Hawaiian language and literature from UH Hilo in 2014 and Katherine “Loke” Roseguo, among others.

Recently, Simon “Kaliko” Trapp, a lecturer at the college, and Justin Kalanialiʻi Stoleson, a Hawaiian language student, also have helped contribute to the endeavor.

“In the course of working with these files I was able to hear so much of the voices of the kūpuna mānaleo, the native speakers,” he says. “It helped me become more proficient in Hawaiian than I would have been otherwise. It’s a really wonderful project and such a valuable resource.”

Larry Kimura (photo credit: Claudia Hagan)

Ka Leo Hawaiʻi

“One of my interests back in the 1960s was to record Hawaiʻi’s rapidly disappearing Native Hawaiian speakers,” says Kimura.

While teaching at UH Mānoa, Kimura, encouraged by the interest of his students, was moved to produce and record a radio program named Ka Leo Hawaiʻi or The Hawaiian Voice. The program aired on Oʻahu on KCCN-AM from 1972 until 1988.

A grant from the Ford Foundation is helping to support the digital project through to completion. Kimura is estimating a launch date of the first few files at the end of May.

The Ulukau website will eventually showcase an audio library of 417 recordings from the Ka Leo Hawaiʻi broadcasts.

Ka Leo Hawaiʻi documents some of Hawaiʻi’s last fluent Native Hawaiian speakers who descended from an unbroken heritage of Hawaiian language as it was traditionally passed down from one generation to the next. According to research, there are less than 40 such native speakers residing outside of Niʻihau today.

“The KLH Collection of 550 plus hours, I believe, is the largest audio archive highlighting the Hawaiian language,” Kimura explains.

The Ulukau website’s main purpose is to provide a resource for the advancement of the Hawaiian language and cultural learning. Kimura believes that a person’s deep connection to their native language brings about a sense of well-being. “The well-being of an indigenous people in their homeland can only be beneficial,” he says.

He also believes that the local and global community have a lot to gain from native languages and cultures.

The radio show will be a perfect addition to Ulukau, which features many different Hawaiian language dictionaries, easy for look-ups while listening to the recordings. A keyword search also will be available, allowing users to jump to specified sections of audio for streamlined listening.

Kimura says the Ulukau website is “another crucial resource that has yet to be used to its fullest potential.”

He feels that making the recordings available to others is the first step in their use for Hawaiian language and cultural revitalization, as well as providing possible insights for the fields of linguistics, anthropology, history and others.

“For many listeners, these voices of Ka Leo Hawaiʻi are pilikana, or family, who openly share in the spirit of aloha, valuable knowledge and lessons in the Hawaiian language so that we as mamo, descendants, can carry on the language and bind to a Hawaiian way of life,” he says.

For the full story, see the UH Hilo Stories article.

A UH Hilo Stories article by Lara Hughes, a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

The old 7-inch reels of the Ka Leo Hawaiʻi radio show are shown here archived in a temperature-controlled room inside the library at Haleʻōlelo, the College of Hawaiian Language. There are 417 shows being transformed into digital files for online listening. (photo credit: Claudia Hagan)