“What you smoking?” asks UH Hilo instructor in his hit song “Smoke All Day”

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University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo lecturer Kaʻikena Scanlan knows what people will assume when they hear the title of his reggae style song, “Smoke All Day.” That, he says, is intentional.

Scanlan playing guitar, click for larger image

Kaʻikena Scanlan, photo: Easten Tanimoto

“You may think this is about drug use but instead we are taking that preconceived idea and switching it to talk about preservation of foods, future sustainability and a recognition of cultural presence and activity here on the islands, which is smoked meat,” said Scanlan.

That’s right. The song Scanlan wrote and performs is about smoked meat.

“It’s a traditional delicacy that might not be a Hawaiian cultural, traditional kind of thing, but it is totally a thing anywhere you go in these Hawaiian islands,” said Scanlan. “It speaks to the lifestyle but also at the end it wraps up and says smoke meat, not batu, meaning smoke meat, not drugs.”

“Smoke All Day” went viral since its release on November 28, 2018, receiving airplay on many local radio stations. Part of its popularity, beyond its catchy reggae vibe and Scanlan’s smooth delivery, are the lyrics.

“We have a line that says, “shoyu, sugar, ginger, garlic, chili pepper water,” which is a pretty classic list of ingredients,” said Scanlan, who grew up playing music, which is a big part of his family’s life.

“Smoke All Day” can be downloaded on just about every major music service and is Scanlan’s second song after issuing “He Kanaka” in 2016. He is also set to release a new single “Utu Bang Bang” on February 14.

A musician and an educator

teacher preparing a wild hog in class

Scanlan preparing a small wild hog that he caught earlier in the week, to teach the importance of basic plants in the Hawaiian culture and the application in traditional underground cooking.

Just as “Smoke All Day” expresses Scanlan’s cultural style of living, so does his teaching style. He has been a part-time lecturer at UH Hilo, his alma mater, since fall 2015 after graduating in spring 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian language. He teaches Hawaiian ethnobotony at the Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.

“In my course, we try to make it more of a hands-on experience where you’re working with a different Hawaiian plant every week to create a new product,” said Scanlan. “For example, we grate coconut, we juice sugar cane, we mix ʻawa, we make rope, we make whistles.”

Scanlan says many of his students, including those from Hawaiʻi, have never seen things like the inside of a coconut.

“For them to be able to husk the coconut, open a coconut, grate the coconut, squeeze out the milk and taste the haupia at the very end, for some of them, you can see it in their face, it kind of changes their whole aspect on how they can use this cultural background to understand the place that they are at,” he said. “That’s why I keep on teaching, to see them have the moment of changing their whole aspect of thinking.”

Father, hog farmer and graduate student

Scanlan, who is currently pursuing a masters degree in Hawaiian language and literature at UH Hilo, is also a new father. He and his girlfriend, Nanealaʻakea, welcomed their daughter Keolaʻōiwi, on February 7, 2018. He also works at Kaunāmano Farm in Umauma on the Hilo/Hāmākua Coast. He describes it as an intensive rotational-grazing, pasture-hog farm, using 100 percent heritage breed Berkshires.

students listening to their teacher speak

Hawaiian Studies 211 students participating in a class imu.