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A Tradition of Music and Dance: The Lim Family of Kohala

Nani Lim Yap of Kohala is one of Hawai`i Island’s best-known hula teachers and musicians, but her influence is truly international. Indeed, as we were emailing one another regarding this article, Lim Yap was in Japan leading hula workshops, a country she and her family have been visiting since 1998, sharing Hawaiian culture, dance and music.

“Before Covid, I would go back every other month to teach,” she shares. “I specifically train sensei (teachers), those who have halau-based groups (hula instruction). Now, I will do hula camps in Hawai`i two times a year and hula retreats in Japan four times a year. When we perform on tours, I usually extend a few days after to be able to visit my haumana (students) in different areas in Japan to teach classes. As far as performances, Hawaiian music and hula is making a comeback. Everyone is doing a Hawaiian-based concert or hula competition and so since July of this year, I have been back to perform twice and judge three times.”

Her work in Japan and elsewhere is something she takes great pride in. “I feel a great satisfaction that my students and their students can dance alongside my halau and with other Hawaiian vocal artists, and present hula with utmost care and aloha for the dance. The essence of the hula is evident. It’s because they love it so much. There are some excellent dancers from Japan. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Surrounded By Music
One of six kids whose father, Elmer Lim Sr., was a Parker Ranch cowboy, Nani and her siblings grew up in a small home provided by Parker Ranch, surrounded by Hawaiian music, laughter and love. Her father taught her how to play `ukulele and her mother, Mary Ann, had a background in hula. So, while she never had any formal training, Nani says Hawaiian music and dance was “just always there.”

When the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel opened in 1965, Mary Ann was asked to perform for the hotel’s guests, and by the time she was 12 years old Nani joined her family onstage at Mauna Kea, and thus began the storied Lim Family of Hawaiian dance and music.

In various combinations over the years, The Lim Family group consisted of parents Mary Ann (`ukulele) and Elmer (rhythm guitar); and siblings Nani (tiple), Lorna (bass) and Elmer “Sonny” Lim (lead guitar, often in slack key, `ukulele and steel guitar). The vocals featured the three females, all of whom sang both lead and harmony. The men also added backing vocals on some songs.

Nowadays, Nani is a respected kumu hula (master hula teacher) and cultural ambassador, who sits on the advisory board of The Waikoloa Foundation among her many activities. The hula halau she co-founded with her sister Leialoha, Halau Na Lei O Kaholoku, has won multiple awards at the annual Merrie Monarch Festival over the years.

Sonny and Lorna are respected solo musicians in their own right, with the family still performing together occasionally throughout the islands.

Passing A Legacy
Nani’s passion these days is passing along the knowledge and traditions that she learned from her parents and has honed over the years to the next generation. Her son Manaola is a respected fashion designer as well as an accomplished musician and writer, and her daughter Asia is an up-and-coming force on the bass. Sonny’s daughter, Anuhea, is playing slack key guitar, and Lorna’s daughter is a hula dancer.

“I am thankful to my parents for the opportunity to sing and dance,” Nani reflects. “They set a foundation for us, and we have continued to share and teach this to this day. It is truly our legacy. Our children are around it and they pick up on what we do. I am so proud of our hula accomplishments with our halau, my children and my nieces as well. As far as the musical side, I was hopeful that they would follow what was there. They are award-winning dancers and chanters. What more can I ask for?”

Nani believes that adhering to the traditional ways connects her to the past. “We are keeping the traditions of our kupuna (family) and their stories alive in our time,” she says. “That keeps us connected to the things they held sacred. In our time, it is very important for us to keep the sacred things sacred.”

“The blessings! We are grateful. We humbly share with so much aloha as it was shared with us. Pride … ha`aheo (cherished with pride) … yes indeed!”

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Sugar Coast Candy is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm
(808) 886-0406

Customers of all ages feel “like a kid in a candy store” when they walk into the new Sugar Coast Candy at the Kings’ Shops. Hundreds of old-fashioned candies, handmade chocolates, saltwater taffy and other hardto- find treats are displayed throughout the 1,228-square-foot store.

The new location, opened in July, is a sister store to the Sugar Coast Candy in downtown Hilo.

“We’ve been asked for years to open a store on the west side of the island,” says Jake Joao, general manager of the Waikoloa Beach Resort store. “We see people from six years old to 80 here. Young kids go crazy, and the older crowd often say, ‘Oh, you have this?’ Or ‘I remember this from when I was a kid.’”

One locally made favorite is the Kona coffee mac nut brittle. Homemade chocolates come from Laymon Candy Company in California, with creations like white chocolate caramel pecan clusters, chocolate-dipped Oreos, English toffee and milk chocolate divinity balls.

Customers nostalgic for childhood classics can find Bit-O-Honey, Pez with Pez dispensers, Tootsie Roll Pops and Jawbreakers in the Memory Lane section. Taffy Blvd., Licorice Lovers and Chocolate Block are other sections.

“Our goal is to create a happy and nostalgic environment for our customers, while ensuring a pleasant and enjoyable workplace for our employees,” says owner Janice Stanga.

For the holidays, stocking stuffers and gift certificates are available.

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