Nobody has a radio in their house anymore, says Michael Elam. Which makes it all the more remarkable that Mana’o Radio — the island’s well-loved listener-supported station — is celebrating its Sweet 16 birthday Sunday.
Michael is the president of Mana’o’s five-person board of directors. He’s telling me about the upcoming birthday party. It takes place from 2 to 8 p.m. at the VFW Hall, 1136 Uluniu Road in Kihei. The venue is right on the beach, a throwback to an old-Maui-style Sunday afternoon, relaxing in your beach chair with the surf lapping at your toes as you listen to the music of the Deborah Vial Band, Soul Kitchen, Shea Butter and the Cream, and the Gina Martinelli Band.
The bands are all fronted by female vocalists in honor of the Sweet 16 theme. Food trucks, magicians, face painters, a silent auction and the proverbial surprise guest appearances are on the bill for this fundraiser, $10 in advance, $15 at the door. It will be broadcast live for those who can’t be there. Visit manaoradio.com or call 283-6788 for details or tickets.
Ever since the low-power FM radio station sprang to life in Barry Shannon and Kathy Collins’ bedroom, it’s been teaching island audiences what mana’o means, thanks to the eclectic musical tastes and independent spirit of its DJs.
The unmistakable voices of Bill Best and Michael McCartney have been there since day one. Bobalou and Dorothy Betz are two more longtimers who just keep on keepin’ on.
The Hula Honeys — Ginger Johnson and Robyn Kneubuhl — have brightened many a Friday afternoon in my Tacoma, as they share their witty ways with words in between the music they spin. Randall Rospond . . . Laura Civitello . . . Rich Tully . . . Dr. B . . . Dr. Nat . . . Tony Novak-Clifford . . . just the tip of the iceberg of favorite DJs over the years. I even got to talk about movies with Kathy Collins on her show for a few very enjoyable years.
But time marches on. They just turned on the antenna to get the signal to the west side — Olowalu to Kapalua — and it’s loud and clear as far as Wailea and into Makena to the south.
“There’s not much of the island left to cover,” says Michael.
Which helps explain why Mana’o is looking over the horizon, to the rest of the world.
Mana’o’s mission hasn’t changed much from Barry and Kathy’s vision that first brought it to life. It was an act of collective consciousness, by and for humans who share this island home. Those were people, not computer programs, picking the music. No commercials. The format gave the DJs room to roam.
Everyone’s a volunteer, but it still costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to buy the equipment, pay the rent, turn the electricity on. The station has weathered ups and downs in the economy. It’s on an up right now. “We’re seeing good inflow from our underwriters,” says Michael.
“Another thing we’re excited about is we’re getting new people and younger people. Our audience is very diverse in age and demographics. We have to capture people who like electronica and hip-hop, but keep our legacy listeners, too.”
Unlike many noncommercial stations at the left end of the dial across the U.S., Mana’o is not affiliated with a university or other institution. “Listener-supported” pretty well sums up its business plan. But in the age of digital streaming, those listeners and underwriters can be anywhere on the planet.
“We’re a unique entity because we’re on the island of Maui,” Michael concludes. “The aura of Maui extends far beyond our shores.”
Elsewhere on Maui’s global media front, filmmaker Ken Martinez Burgmaier reports that “2307: Winter’s Dream,” the futuristic sci-fi adventure he co-produced, is now on airlines’ inflight entertainment around the globe. “Emirates Airlines has our movie as No. 1 on their action list! I just got a text from my friend Dr. Homayon Tavakoli of Kihei Urgent Care who saw it on his flight to Dubai.”
Closer to home and closer to the ground, friends tell me Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center exploded with “Hysteria” last Friday. That’s the title of Cudra Clover’s solo exhibition running through April 13. Her exhibit explores the subject of overstimulation through oversized silk textiles and interactive multimedia. Dancers entertained the costumed guests (many in red), as projections on the exterior of the Hui, unique music and incredible, edible printed chocolates enthralled guests at the opening, including Pam Cameron Andelin and Chuck Grey, Johann Smith and Em White, Tom Calhoun and Penny Souter, Barry Sultanoff, Maha Conyers and Martha Woodbury.
* Rick Chatenever, award-winning former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.