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A poignant song about violence in Hawaiʻi and around the world was the result of a Windward Community College class assignment. Matthew Latorre wrote Throw a Shaka, Not a Fist for his MUS 211 Music Ensemble class. He and his classmates were preparing to perform their original and group songs on stage at Palikū Theatre in the Hanauna Mele series spring 2020 concert when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“As a kid growing up in Hawaiʻi, I never used to hear about shootings, and over the years the violence keeps getting worse,” said Latorre, who graduated from Castle High School in 2018. “That needs to stop. Let’s not get used to violence happening to our home. We can control our actions towards each other, Hawaiʻi needs more shakas being thrown, instead of fists.”

Matthew Latorre
Matthew Latorre

The assignment was designed to give students a voice and empower them to start a dialogue on issues of importance to them.

“Needless to say, this semester, we had issues galore!” said Kamuela Kimokeo, Windward CC music instructor and director of the Hawaiʻi Music Institute. “When our concerts got canceled this semester due to the pandemic, we had to be creative and think of a way to make sure that the songs and issues that my students wanted to give voice to, were heard.”

The Hanauna Mele biannual concert series features musical performances by students enrolled in ʻukulele, slack key guitar and Hawaiian ensemble courses. Students get the opportunity to play music with special guest artists such as Jerry Santos, Amy Hanaialiʻi, Ledward Kaʻapana, and other Hawaiʻi music icons.

Kimokeo describes music as a great tool of expression and empowerment. “There is a Hawaiian proverb, ‘Ma ka hana ka ʻike,’ which means in essence, ‘One learns in doing,’” he said. “I want to empower my students with the sword of melody and truth. So here it is, Hanauna Mele—this means generational music, but the word play suggests the birthing of new music and musicians.”

Visit Windward CC‘s YouTube channel for the full lineup of Hanauna Mele 2020 student performances.

For more information about music classes and certificates in Hawaiian and general music, contact Kimokeo at

students in a circle
Windward CC Music Ensemble class with special guest artist Josh Tatofi.
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