Neil Young Teaches the World a New Word

What if pono (the Indigenous Hawaiian term for, well, a lot of things that generally mean doing the right thing) was an iPod the shape of a Toblerone bar that held 1,000 albums, and when you put headphones into it you heard a miracle?

That’s what Neil Young is trying to fund. His new project, PonoMusic, recently went live on kickstarter with a video of someone interviewing all of the famous musicians in the world in front of their car soul mates, and (as of this writing) has already earned $2.5 million out of its $800,000 goal. With a little more than a month to go, Young might just earn enough to buy Molokai.

We emailed John Hamm (Not that John Hamm. The CEO of PonoMusic), to get a little context for why, out of all the words that mean righteousness, Young chose to use “pono,” but Hamm wrote back that “Pono means righteous in Hawaiian, as you know. Righteous, or ‘the one’, whole, the real thing. That is what Neil wanted to communicate. The Real Music.”

In the kickstarter video, Young chooses to think that pono is “about the music; it’s about the people who make the music and the way it sounds to us when we’re in the studio making it. It’s about you hearing what we hear. And that hasn’t happened in a long time. We wanted you to be part of this and help us to launch this music system into the world.”

Otherwise, the thing has nothing to do with Hawaii, though there is a reference to listening to music underwater, and how, the closer you get to the surface, the closer you get to breathing air and thus experiencing Young’s Pono nirvana, but that’s a stretch.

If you’re one of his 7,723 backers about to have the greatest sound experience of your life in Neil Young’s white Cadillac Eldorado, just remember pono’s much-bigger history and meaning than whatever this tech startup might bring it.

Or maybe you’re just supporting Neil Young’s pono renaissance. “So I can sleep at night,” he says in the video, “I want to bring back pono. I want to bring back real music. [...] It’s a Hawaiian word. I want everybody to hear music that way.”




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