AUGUST 21, 1929


Wong, born into a family rooted in Hawaiian culture, is a leading consultant in Hawaiian language and in the art form of chant–a traditional form of language transmission. After college in 1959, he began a 12-year apprenticeship with Hawaiian cultural expert, Mary Kawena Puku`i learning the Hawaiian language and becoming a master chanter. James is also one of the few masters of ancient instruments, such as the pahu (drum) & ‘ukeke (musical bow), used to accompany the chant. Wong helped establish a chant & hula program at the University of Hawaii.  His performance at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival is regarded as the first presentation of Hawaiian chant as an American folk tradition.  In 1969, Wong performed for the dedication of the statue of King Kamehameha I in the Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. His compositions include Alika Spoehr Hula, I Whisper Gently To You, and Ku’u Lei Pikake. The National Endowment of the Arts granted Wong a National Heritage Fellowship in 2005.

Sources:  “Ka`upena Wong Composes,”Ho’olehe Hou, 8/21/2014.  Retrieved 6/13/2020,
Photo:  Jeff Kubina, 8/15/1995. Permissive Use

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