Just in case anybody was wondering, the Hippie culture is alive and well here in Hawaii!
This post was originally published in 2007. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
It’s worth noting that this was my first encounter with hippie culture, and it was a bit of a shock. More than a decade later, I’m certainly not a hippie, but I’ve sure spent a whole lot of time with spiritually-minded people who fit the bill, especially when I was apprenticing with a shaman in Peru.
We were invited out for an evening at Coco (short for Center Of Conscious Openess), a small retreat/studio where the musician Tina Malia would be playing. Tina Malia is apparently a world-renowned singer/songwriter whose music can be categorized as Celtic/Sacred, and whose style is a combination of Loreena McKennit and Sarah McGlaughlin. It was also billed as a great opportunity for us to get to know some of the people in our local community, as Coco is only a mile down the road from us (and we’re a mile from the road., so two miles total).
So we happily bought our $10 tickets, and awaited the Thursday night with eager anticipation.
After a harrowing pitch-black windy night-time bumpy bicycle ride to Coco, we arrived at a strange oasis. Flower children were wandering around the property, hugging each other and “sending out positive vibes”.
My first clue that we were in for an interesting experience was when I overheard a conversation that went something like this:
“Yeah, I’m putting energy out to the universe for a movie deal. I’ve already done a ton of work on my yoga/peace/music/meditation/transformational/thingy and I think it’s ready for the world”.
When we took our shoes off and walked into the studio space itself, there is very little that could have prepared us for what we saw. It was really a beautiful space, with a high thatched roof, a smooth rich wood floor, candles everywhere, and a few coloured lights here and there to provide just enough ambient light. I was surprised at how civilized it felt, having come from an extremely rustic atmosphere with little to no power. The space itself was about 30ft by 20ft. There were floor cushions spread out around the performance space, where somebody was playing bongo drums to piped in music for ambience.
Circulating were more Hippies, giving and getting lots of love. And they looked like just what you would expect Hippies to look like: some had dreadlocks, and almost all the men were wearing some sort of linen or hemp loose pants or capris. Almost all the women without exception were wearing a floor-length skirt, and a hip-length halter top. They all looked almost identical in their efforts to be different. And judging by the conversation snippits we heard and body language we observed, we wagered that nobody there was sober or straight.
We took our place on the floor, next to the side wall so as to provide some back support and also to allow us to effectively be flies on the wall for this sensory and amusing experience.
Initially I really liked the place. Not only was the space beautiful, but the people seemed friendly and a chorus of frogs formed a constant and pleasant din in the background that only rivals what I heard in rural Africa. I wanted to come back during the day so I could see the property and buildings a little better, and get a sense of the events that take place here. I could see myself taking a yoga class here in a heartbeat.
I asked Iris where all these people came from (since Coco is incredibly remote), and she replied that on this road is a string of farms on which most of them live. There were children milling about and some babies strapped to the backs of some of the Hippie-mums, so it was quite the family environment too. Having gotten used to going to sleep by 9pm, I wondered how these kids would weather a concert scheduled to start at 8pm. I guess there are those out here who are night-owls too.
Tina Malia appeared and started playing close to 8:30, as people continued to stream in and get settled on their cushions, some even making themselves comfortable with blankets and pillows.
As the tunes progressed, a few people felt inspired to dance, and stood up where they were or moved to the back of the room to perform their interpretive bodily expressions.
My second clue that we were in for an interesting experience was when the Nymph entered. I have no other way to explain her than to call her a Nymph. She was a chubby, short, long-haired blond woman, who had a permanent smile pasted on her face and a light bubbly giggle peppering the room. She wore layers of green chiffon dotted with flower-shaped sequins, and a 2ft high long pointy hat with a feather stuck in it. And she couldn’t stop dancing. Her dancing was less of an actual dance, and more just maniacal jumping and turning in dizzying circles. She trod on many toes and legs of nearby sitting audience members, and each time she did would bend down and kiss the trodden foot and smile affectionately at her victim. After some observation, it became quite clear that she had taken something to enhance her Tina Malia experience (as had a few others after further scrutiny).
As the night continued, the music was lovely but monotonous. I think you would categorize it as “New-Age Mantra” music, with one to two guitars, Tina’s and a back-up voice, and consistent (and well played I might add) bongo accompaniment. Lyrical languages ranged from English to Hebrew to Hindi, and audience members periodically became inspired to sing along with the various chants.
More and more people gravitated to the back corners of the room to dance, and yet more occasionally stood up right where they were to wave their arms or even do a yoga pose.
On the wall where we were firmly supplanted, our backs became more and more sore, and our view became increasingly distorted by dancers stepping, gyrating, and flowing around and on top of us.
The mood and energy of the evening became almost frenzied by about 11pm, when Kelly & I were in astronomical amounts of pain and wishing we were in bed or dead. I’d love to finish this article by saying that eventually we became swept up in the energy of the evening and figured the best way to get the most out of it was to join the throngs of interpretive dancers and embody the music.
However sadly we didn’t succumb to the hippie culture mood. We were almost shell-shocked by the entire experience, not having expected anything like this and really not knowing how to deal with it. All we could think was “Where Are We?!?!” as we watched in gape-mouthed awe the one hundred or so Hippies that materialized out of nowhere, with a green Nymph in the midst turning, giggling, and tramping.
All this is not to say the experience was a bad one. It was simply out of the ordinary, and like I said it will be interesting to see the space on another day. I would still love to take a yoga class or attend a drumming circle there. But at least next time we’ll be a little better prepared for the experience. If we’re smart we’ll get a pair of hemp Capri pants for Kelly and a long skirt and halter top for me. Hey – if you can’t beat ‘em…….
I dove into hippie culture later in my time in Hawaii when I learned to dance like no one is watching at an Ecstasy Dance (minus the ecstasy).