Big Island singer-songwriter, Kehaulani (Ishle Yi Park), has a new single out called “Milk & Honey,” but before we delve into that, let me tell you who she is, and what an amazing career she’s had so far. “Lani,” as she calls herself, was best known for her poetry before developing her songwriting skills and moving to Hawaii. Her writings have appeared in numerous publications, including New American Writing, Beacon Best Writers of All Colors 2001, and The Best American Poetry of 2003. Lani has performed in the United States, Cuba, and Korea, and was a featured poet on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam.
In April 2004, she was named Poet Laureate of Queens, N.Y., and the New York Times described her as having an “angelic face and the soul of a rock star.”
Her Hawaiian name Kehaulani means “morning dew from the heavens.” It is a name gifted to her from her first Kumu Hula, Kumu Healani Youn, Miss Aloha Hula 1986. Her given name in Korean is Ishle, which also means morning dew. She cites Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Norah Jones, and Sade as her musical influences.
Lani is currently a popular singer-songwriter in Kailua, Kona, and you can find her dancing hula on the Kona Oceanfront Plaza, and singing at various restaurants & hotels in Kona, sharing the Hawaiian and island culture with visitors through song.
“Milk & Honey” is Lani’s very first song. “It was inspired by an enchanting, magical time I spent living at Whalesong Sanctuary (in Captain Cook) with a dear friend and lover. We planted trees together all summer, and it inspired me to write a poem, which turned into a song. My friend, Anthony Anderson, actually has an organization called Grow Paradise, and he teaches people about fruit farming, which is why it is referenced in the song.”
Lani says a portion of the proceeds from “Milk & Honey” will go towards the creation of AARTS (Aloha ‘Aina Rainbow Tribe Sanctuary), a three-acre food forest sanctuary and retreat for artists of all colors, races, ethnicities, and nationalities to gather, create, recharge, care for, and be inspired by nature. You can see the video for “Milk & Honey” here.
“AARTS is a creative dream of mine that I’ve been envisioning for quite a few years,” said Lani in an email to Big Island Music Magazine. “It is still in its seedling stage, and I am currently looking for three acres on Maui, or anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands. A friend of mine also is selling a three-acre place called Banyan Sanctuary in Kona, Big Island, and ideally, I envision that place as the center for AARTS… It would benefit Big Island musicians by giving them a sanctuary where they can escape and recharge their batteries & be inspired by a clean, healthy, nurturing environment with healthy organic food, surrounded by other musicians and artists from around the world, so artists can inspire and help each other grow.”
In addition to her new single “Milk & Honey,” Lani is at work on four, yes four, albums. “One is a solo acoustic album of all original songs tentatively called Bless Our Waters or Aloha ‘aina,” said Lani about her future recording projects. “The second album is a collaboration with another Big Island musician, Irie J, which is a collection of acoustic love songs with two ukuleles (Kehaulani & Kealohamana). This album is complete and will be released on all digital platforms this year. The third album is an instrumental world album, which has tribal beats and is more vibey, beach, spacey kind of music, and it’s called Sweet Gold (this will be under the artist name LANI). The fourth recording is a radio-friendly reggae album that features local and international reggae musicians.”
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos courtesy of the artist.