Inside CDCR Video

Cultural group embraces history through music and tradition

Video by Dave Novick, TV Specialist
Office of Public and Employee Communications

For a cultural group at California State Prison, Solano (SOL), the voices of ancestors are still heard today, preserved through music and kinship.

The Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Cultural Group is one of many at SOL and prisons statewide devoted to celebrating cultural traditions. The SOL API group meets regularly under the guidance of Chaplain Yisroel Zaetz and Siu Laulea, who travels from the Bay Area each week to give her time and experience – and if she is not familiar with a particular tradition or practice, she researches it to share new information with the class.

The class holds various ceremonies and traditional dances, and shares their work with the rest of SOL by performing at special events such as graduations. Their beloved haka is a sure way to rev up a crowd, as the dancers don traditional garb and display the fierce war dance, complete with foot stomping, body slapping, and chanting. While the haka is described a war dance, the SOL class explained that its true meaning is rooted in pride, strength, and unity as a team.

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Remus Sam Langi

The Haka means movements, it means movements throughout all Polynesia.

To the Aotearoa people, the Maori, the Haka is like the war dance. They prepare themselves for battle, they ask the ancestors for strength, for courage, to protect what we love, protect what we stand for.

Amuolesami Winn

Through these chants, the voices of our ancestors can be heard, reminding us of the sacrifice that they’ve made.

The spirits of our ancestors can be felt.

Penianmina Ahyou

In the Polynesians, the history is kept through oral traditions, and we tell our history and we pass it down from one generation to the next generation, and we do that in song form. We do that in dance form.

Siu Laulea

To me, it’s very important for everybody to know where they came from, their roots, their culture.

I Google, and learn about Fiji, learn about Samoa, and bring in material, like songs for us.

Just to put the smile on their face, that’s more than anything else I would ever ask for.

But it’s the warrior’s dance, and the warrior of course they may appear hostile and violent and stuff like that, but there’s a difference between warrior and savage.

A warrior has a cause, a warrior fights for the protector over the women and the children and the elderly.

Everything in the culture, everything we are is preserved in the dances and the chant.

It’s the story of our people and who we are.


Until we meet again