Norm Bezane -- "Voices of Maui"

There are stories to be told in these Hawaiian Islands. And in ancient times, they were voiced through the hands of the hula dancer to visitors welcomed by family and friends. Today this much is still true, only these stories are more often told to visitors at a hotel luau instead. Such is the result of Hawaii’s growth and tourism.

Nonetheless, these stories and the people who tell them are still being heard. True, entertainers are mostly credited for doing so but there are other people and other stories waiting to be shared, especially on the island of Maui.

We have, for instance, colorful and interesting local characters who have something to say about living here. We also have our cultural advisors or kumu (teachers), kupuna (elders) and kahu (ministers) who want to convey meaning to our existence. Then there are the real movers and shakers in our government and county council who have important dialogue to share. And finally, there are the heartfelt voices of our many volunteers, restauranteurs, hotel operators, activists and others who reside here full time.

These are the types of people and stories that have held author and columnist, Norm Bezane, captive for over 40 years. As a result in 2006 and after moving here in 2001, he began to write in earnest about these people for the Lahaina News. In time, he re-released his articles in a series of small books titled “Voices of Maui”.

“I’m very passionate about this place,” Bezane says. “Hawaiians have earned a lot of my respect. When I see someone doing something fantastic, I feel compelled to say so…I’m curious about this island, its people and about its culture and I’ve learned a lot.”

Through his writing, Bezane shares what he’s learned in order to help people better understand the Hawaiian culture and to help Hawaiians better understand their own. He admonishes that it’s not always taught in school and offers this quote from Kahu David Kapaku, “If you love Maui, you have a responsibility to learn as much as you can.”

Bezane feels the same, then quips, “Now, people may ask, ‘What right do I have to write about the culture?’ Well, I think that it’s of value for someone outside to give a visitor a different perspective. It’s a different way of looking at things.”

It helps as well, he adds, to have an appreciation for certain people, like George Kahumoku, Jr., who as a farmer, teacher and Grammy award winner has a great sense of humor and tells amazing stories. One such tale that Bezane finds particularly amusing comes from Kahumoku’s autobiography titled “A Hawaiian Life”.

In short, it seems that while once living in a hotel, Kahumoku and friends got tired of the restaurant’s food and decided to catch some fish for dinner. After much success, they hung and dried their bounty in their air-conditioned room before lighting a small fire pit on their fourth floor lanai. They then decided to go for a walk on the beach only to return to firefighters “blasting a big hole in the sliding glass door with a powerful stream”. According to Bezane, it was just another day in paradise for the mischievous Kahumoku and friends.

Admittedly, Bezane is a fan of nearly everyone he writes about including his dog, Kea Aloha, who gets a profile in his latest book, titled “Voices of Aloha”. And while that piece is more or less tongue in cheek, his interests in the complexities of Maui’s politics and the people who influence the island’s growth, are more concerning. Given the many controversies, he wonders which voices will prevail – “the voices of reason and Hawaiian values or the voices of unbridled change?” To Bezane, there are no easy answers.

But then he believes there were no easy answers for Hawaii’s last matriarch, Queen Lili’uokalani either, whose kingdom was overthrown and has since become the plight for many of today’s native Hawaiians. As a result, Bezane often includes excerpts of a variety of historical documents in his books, including to name a few, those of King Kamehameha, Queen Ka’ahumanu, Queen Lili’uokalani, and President Grover Cleveland.

“Hawaii was and is a great place,” Bezane says in retrospect. “It’s a superior culture. Hawaiians have the spirit of aloha in a way that most of us don’t. Visitors come here and they see this and they learn and become people of aloha.”

It’s why he continues to write and publish his series of books, adding, “to preserve columns I believe are important for the historical record.”

You can find Bezane’s 5-volume-and-counting series “Voices of Maui” online at or pick up copies around the island at: the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, CJ’s Deli & Diner, the Native Intelligence store, Maui Grown Coffee Store, and Maui Friends of the Library in Lahaina and Kahului. To contact Bezane directly, E-mail him at go his website at

Written by: Elaine Gallant, Feb.. 2014
West Maui Book Club