Happy Summer, Dear Readers!

June 1. 2014 is almost half gone. The summer solstice is officially another 3 weeks away, but our academic year is over. Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards are past; props to Best New Artist Kamaka Kukona, whose CD Hanu ʻAʻala was the focus of a post here several months back. And the Hawaiian music community is still reeling from the major loss of two giants, Uncle Dennis Kamakahi and Chino Montero.

Iʻve been abroad on my annual end-of-academic-year detox vacation, and am finally getting underway on the summer writing.


My goal for the summer is to make substantial progress on the book project Hawaiian Songs Ancient and Modern. Iʻve been chipping at it for nearly 30 years. Can you imagine? Yes, life happens . . . but in this case, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have senior colleagues who believe in the project, and have supported and encouraged me, and have shared their amazement as the project has taken shape.

The project is unprecedented, in terms of Hawaiian music scholarship, and also in terms of musicological theory and method. In my insistence to consider Hawaiian music holistically, many preconceptions have been blasted through–including the very starting premise, back in 1987, that Hawaiian music is even worthy of serious scholarly attention. I knew that, and so did many of my teachers; but it was an uphill battle to have it accepted in the hallowed halls of scholarship that were fiercely guarded by conservative scholars who found the stereotypes unworthy of any attention.

As life overwhelmed me from time to time, my project was endangered by up-and-coming young scholars who latched onto more popular cultural studies driven by oh-so-sexy critical theory (Michel Foucault, etc) and then by gee-whiz postcolonial theory (James Clifford, Gayatri Spivak, etc). And yet I continued to chip away at a project that had all the appearances of a Model T stuck on the supersonic Autobahn. Slowly, steadily, and with the unqualified encouragement of my esteemed senior colleague, Rich Crawford, who is the Executive Director of the series that Hawaiian Songs Ancient and Modern is slated to be published in–Music of the United States of America.

Iʻve been incredibly blessed with the fact that, from the very beginning, Rich “got it.” I credit a lot of that to the fact that, in his own career, Rich has walked very similar paths to mine. Oh, not with Hawaiian music; but with the musics that he was studying, he blazed trails and struggled upstream against naysayers and cultural gatekeepers. His efforts have made the path easier for me. More importantly, his understanding of the scale of the projects he has completed  have bought me the time to really get to know the sources I work with, both comprehensively and intimately, and to really think–hard–about how to tell the stories that the sources bring to light.

The book offers an examination of the sources for 50 selected songs. By sources I am thinking most broadly in terms of “visual representations” that includes notated musical scores, but also appearances of mele texts and song lyrics in printed and unpublished manuscript sources, and also transcriptions of performances registered in audio sound recordings, film, and video over the decades.

Stay tuned, dear readers. Iʻll be sharing my journey on the project, in the weeks and months to come.


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Na Hoku Hanohano 101 by Keola Donaghy

Dr. Keola Donaghy served on the Board of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts. He offers valuable advice about the awards process for the Na Hoku Hanohano awards.

Part 1:  Educating Yourself

Part 2:  Eligibility



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on my mind . . .

I stand corrected. According to Lynn Piccoli as well as Auntie Mariaʻs comment,

There are 2 other companies in Hawai`i which still distribute Hawaiian music, and both are located on O`ahu. Pacific Hawaiian (Waipahu) and Music Craft (Aiea).

So there are three distributors of Hawaiian music on Oʻahu. But with the demise of Aloha Music International, the number of artists outside established distribution networks has grown.

Which also leads to a certain level of frustration for customers who want to buy Hawaiian music recordings.

Retail venues for Hawaiian Music on Oʻahu include Barnes & Noble at Ala Moana, Target stores, Native Books, Hungry Ear Records, Harryʻs Music Store. On the neighboring islands, retail outlets include Basically Books in Hilo, Paradise Music on Kauaʻi, and Request Music on Maui. There are more independent retailers throughout Hawaiʻi who carry Hawaiian music, and it would be valuable to have a directory. Wouldnʻt that be a natural project for the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts (HARA) to develop and maintain?

Online retail sources include mele.com, mkaloha.com, Amazon.com, the iTunes Store, I suppose Google Play is in play (?), and CDBaby. Are there other online sources that Hawaiian music fans should be following?

Artistsʻ websites 

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on my mind . . .

With the demise of Aloha Music International, the Mountain Apple Co. remains the only distributor of Hawaiian music CDs in Hawaiʻi. It is a dismal prospect that, over the past few days, not a single copy of Cyril Pahinuiʻs new CD has been sighted on sale in the only Barnes & Noble left on Oʻahu, or at Native Books Hawaiʻi.

Pehea la?

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Hula Kuʻi Songs: A Playlist

Back in 2010, I posted the listening assignments for my class “Music of Hawaiʻi.” It was a list of song titles, artists and album titles, leaving it up to the listener to look up the recordings. Now in this age of YouTube, Vevo and other great resources, here is an updated listening list of stellar examples of hula kuʻi songs.

The term “hula kuʻi” was introduced in the late 19th century to distinguish the innovative “modern” hula that combined old and new elements. Along with this new hula was a particular poetic format:

  1. standardized line lengths (usually 4 accented syllabled);
  2. lines arranged in verses of usually two lines, but verses of 4 lines were also used;
  3. a formulaic poetic signal at the conclusion, in its most common form–”Haʻina ʻia mai ana ka puana;” but also phrases like “Hea aku mākou e ō mai ʻoe” or “E ō e ka nani mae ʻole.”
  4. Mele in this poetic format were set to a tune that fit one verse, and all verses would be sung to the same tune.
  5. In performance, verses are often separated by a brief instrumental interlude. Some dancers call it “the vamp” or “kaholo” (after the kaholo step); some musicians call this a “turnaround.”
  6. Hula kuʻi songs are accompanied by ʻukulele and guitar; they are also called “modern” hula songs, or “modern Hawaiian music,” in contrasted to ancient chanted hula kahiko. (Note that while all hula kuʻi songs are “modern” in contrast to ancient hula, not all “modern” songs are hula kuʻi songs. The vast majority of English-language hapa haole songs are not identical in format to hula kuʻi songs.)

These videos are drawn from Hawaiian Airlinesʻ Pau Hana Fridays series, which are recorded live and generously shared on YouTube.

First up, the group “Maunalua” sings Aunty Edith Kanakaʻoleʻs beloved song “Ka Uluwehi o Ke Kai,” and noted designer (and Aunty Edithʻs son-in-law) Sig Zane is called forward to hula.


Next up is falsetto singer Mark Yamanaka, singing “ʻAlekoki.”


And showing the performative possibilities of the repetitive hula kuʻi song format, here is an entertaining version of having fun, and taking up  instrumental opportunities in the repeats of the tune. This is Manaʻo Company, featuring Hawaiian Airlines employee Kaulana Pakele. Enjoy!


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Take 5: Hawaiian War Chant

Not your grandmaʻs Hawaiian War Chant. Not mine, either. But theyʻre out there.

A search on YouTube on “Hawaiian War Chant” will yield entire playlists of the song in various historical and contemporary performances. The vast majority are mainland-produced recordings and/or performances; in other words, these tracks are full of what other people imagine Hawaiʻi and the “Hawaiian War Chant” to be.

The Stereotypes

Here is Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra. This is the opening production of the 1940 film Ship Ahoy, starring Eleanor Powell. Interestingly she makes her entrance near the end of the.


Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Two takes of the song were released in 1945 and 1946. The entire troupe was the headlining act at the 49th State Fair in 1951 (named such at a time when optimism ran high that Hawaiʻi would be admitted to the United States as the 49th State). appeared aiian War Chant.” Their arrival at the Honolulu Airport was covered by the Honolulu Advertiser in a front-page story on May 2, 1951.  There is no mention of whether “Hawaiian War Chant” was performed to Hawaiʻi audiences.


The Muppets!!


Disneylandʻs Enchanted Tiki Room attraction anchored the parkʻs Adventureland area. Opened in 1963, it was the first attraction to feature the newly developed Audio-Animatronics technology. From Wikipedia:  “The presentation features a “cast” of over 150 talking, singing and dancing birds, flowers, the aforementioned magic fountain, tiki drummers and tiki totem poles that perform the attraction’s signature tunes, “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” by the Sherman Brothers and “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing“. The finale has every Audio-Animatronics figure performing a rousing version of “Hawaiian War Chant“.” The closing of the attraction raised an outcry from fans, and it has since reappeared. This clip is from the 50th anniversary celebration in 2013. 


The Lion King (Walt Disney Productions, 1994). A 16-second clip that uses plot-related lyrics. This clip was posted by YouTube user “Cornbugles,” and is a compilation of the one-verse-and-chorus song in 16 languages:  1) Arabic, 2) Brazilian Portugese, 3) Czech, 4) Danish, 5) Dutch, 6) English, 7) Finnish, 8) French, 9) German, 10) Hebrew, 11) Italian, 12) Mexican Spanish, 13) Norwegian, 14) Polish, 15) Portugese, 16) Swedish.


Talking back to stereotypes

What goes around, comes around: after decades of living down the stereotypes, Hawaiians are confronting them head-on. Here is the San Francisco-based professional hula company, Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu, in a rehearsal for their 2013 show.


After poking around YouTube for awhile tracking “Hawaiian War Chant,” and passing dozens of posts of Tommy Dorsey, Spike Jones, the Muppets, Disneylandʻs Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Michigan Marching Band (!), I found this on page 9 of my search results. Somebody finally did something interesting with a recording of the song that is not insensitively “yuk-yuk.” Teresa Bright sings the actual lyrics.


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Take 5: Hawaiian War Chant / Kāua i ka Huahua’i

Actually 1 Take today. But more to follow.

Here are several facts.

  1. “Kāua i ka Huahua’i” is understood to be a love song by Prince William Pitt Leleiohoku.
  2. The earliest known printed version of the songʻs lyrics is in the book Ka Buke Mele o Na Himeni Hawaii, compiled by Edward C. Holstein and published by the Hawaiian News Co. in 1897. [This volume was reprinted in facsimile by Bishop Museum Press in 2003.]
  3. The earliest known printed sheet music notation is by Bergstrom Music Co. in Honolulu. The copyright date on the sheet is 1903.
  4. The earliest identified sound recording at this writing is by the William Ellis Glee Club, on the Victor Records label, and dated 1904. I have not heard this recording, and queries to record collectors so far have been fruitless.
  5. The earliest recording of this song that I have heard dates from 1913, by the Hawaiian Quintette. Walter Kolomoku is identified as the vocalist. Released on Victor Records (65339), the recording is now accessible on the Library of Congressʻ National Jukebox. Here is a link:
Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 9.24.39 PM

The National Jukebox at http://www.loc.gov/jukebox


Note three observations:

  1. The tempo is not wedding-march slow. It is uptempo.
  2. The verses and the chorus share the same melody.
  3. The “Auē kāua” [or "Auē ta-ha-u-a-la"] refrain is not present. That gets added when the song is repackaged as “Hawaiian War Chant.”

There is another recording, from 1916, featuring a duet by Horace Wright and Rene Deitrich. Aside from the fact that their names do not sound Hawaiian, I donʻt know anything about these singers. But interestingly they also recorded songs like “Pua Mohala” and “Lei Aloha” with Hawaiian-sounding pronunciation (albeit without ʻokina-s). “Kāua i ka Huahua’i” is the first song in a medley of three songs. They only sing the first verse. The ʻukulele strumming is at the same tempo as what follows: “My Hawaiian Maid.” “My Honolulu Tom Boy,” and a repeat of the first verse of “Kāua i ka Huahua’i.”

Listen here:  http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/5189

Many people presume that Palani Vaughanʻs 1970 recording of the song as a slow ballad represents the “original” conception of the song. These two recordings from The National Jukebox from 1913 and 1916 testify to an uptempo singing of the song.

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What Iʻm Listening To: Kamaka Kukona, Hanu ʻAʻala


From the liner notes:  “Hanu, to inhale and breathe in the essence of life. ʻAʻala, a sweet fragrance that captivates the senses. . . . Hanu ʻAʻala, a solo debut recording effort.”

Kumu Hula Kamaka Kukonaʻs debut album is abundant with fragrances sweet, intense, and even overwhelming. The vocal command on “Hole Waimea” caught my ear immediately; the bouncy liveliness on “Eō hana” had me reaching for the liner notes so that I could track this experience closely. And I found myself rewarded with an exquisite sonic palette that continues to draw me back to the album, again and again.

The voice–a resonant, tenor-range, chanting and singing voice, a valued asset for a kumu hula. Through the magic of the recording process, Kamaka does all the harmonizing.

The songs–among the 11 tracks, four Hawaiian-language compositions that establish Kamakaʻs star in the firmament of hake mele; two English songs (one of which Kamaka wrote); a country ballad paired with a monarchy-era waltz song; four chants; four mele that extols Kamakaʻs Maui home.

The palette–an intuitively divined sense of surrounding the voice with the touches needed on a song-by-song basis. Namely: Casey Olsenʻs solid steel guitar fills on “Eō Hana” and “Honomuni;” pedal steel guitar work by Denny Hemingson on “You Look So Good in Love;” Kapono Naʻiliʻiliʻs subtle rhythmic touches on “Here for Today;” Iwalani Apo’s elegantly understated piano accompaniment on “Waikā;” and Dave Tucciaroneʻs sparkling piano countermelody on “Puanani Aʻo Hawaiʻi.” Thank goodness for liner notes; may they never disappear. The credits are indispensable for appreciating the diversity of the sonic palette over the album.

The mele: what an absolute pleasure to hear witty, well-crafted ʻōlelo, to hear the ‘olelo fit the melodies so perfectly,  to hear the ʻōlelo simply flow off the tongue. The four original compositions by Kamaka are “Eō Hana” (track 3), “The Bullet Train Song” (track 5), “No Uka Ke Aloha” (track 6), and “Hanohano ʻo Maui” (track 12). The title track, “Hanu ʻAʻala,” is an original gifted to Kamaka by haku mele Puakea Nogelmeier. “Eō Hana” will be in rotation on my playlist for awhile. Itʻs a party song, with upbeat guitar and ʻukulele strumming, tongue-twisting lines in which ʻokina fall in exactly the right places (try “Noenoe kuʻu kapaʻahu ʻohu i ka pali” and “O ʻena kuʻu liʻa nou e Kahaʻi” five times, fast), and complete attitude in rendering ” ʻO Hana i ka malie, ʻo Hana i ka ua noenoe” as ” ʻo Hana i sa malie, ʻo Hana i sa ua noenoe.” Par-tay!

“The Bullet Train Song (Liko Pua Hau)”–a mele inspired by travels in Japan, and for Kamakaʻs “hanu liko sakura blossom” students there. The mele itself is entirely in Hawaiian, although “bullet train” and “Takada” are left untranslated, and “pua hau” finally transforms at the end into “pua sakura.”  The melody, arrangement and accompaniment all contain insightful nods to some of the conventions of Japanese enka and obon. Props to producers Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing and Dave Tucciarone.

The most intriguing track for me is “Puanani aʻo Hawaiʻi,” a mele inoa honoring Liliʻuokalani and composed by Malia Craver for the Queen Liliʻuokalani Childrenʻs Hula Competition. Although patterned in the mele format of a hula kuʻi, Kamaka eschews the conventional use of ipu in favor of the greater antiquity and sacredness of the pahu and pūniu drums with its distinct rhythms. In this context, Dave Tucciaroneʻs evocative piano countermelodies ground this track in the living present. E ola nā pua!

The narrative arcs: There are multiple stories that I read embedded in the sequencing of the tracks across the entire album. There are songs about meaningful relationships, gentle notes underscoring the importance of making and valuing connections, but of also letting go of relationships. There are songs of affection for Maui–Kamakaʻs birthplace as well as current home. There are mele meaningful to Kamakaʻs hālau–songs for them, as well as mele presented publicly by the hālau. And yet the album begins and ends with the chanterʻs voice. A he leo wale no. It is the voice that carries the stories, the mele, the aloha. Sonic fragrance. Hanu ʻaʻala.


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2013 Hawaiian Music CDs in Review

Aloha Dear Readers! As the year draws to a close, I am drawn to reflect on the Hawaiian music CDs that have come onto my radar. I do not pretend to offer a comprehensive review, because as you know, I am partial to recordings of Hawaiian-langauge songs. But based on a list of recordings that I compiled this morning, of 2013 CDs that have come onto my radar, some fascinating insights came into view.

My terribly unscientific list numbers some 45 or so CDs. And this is how they kind of fall into groups:

  1. 18 of the new CDs I have acquired this year are by male vocalists who are featured soloists. In alphabetical order, the gentlemen are: Ikaika Blackburn, Danny Carvalho, Robert Cazimero, Norman DeCosta, Steven Espaniola, Daryl Gonzales, Nate Kanae, Kuana Torres Kahele, Henry Kapono, Elias Kauhane Jr.,  Kekaimoku, Kamaka Kukona, Chino Montero, Sean Na’auao, Nicholas Jon Navales, Al Tringali, Neal Yamamura, Mark Yamanaka
  2. 7 of the new CDs are by 6 female vocalists who are featured soloists: Faith Ako, newcomer Kanani Enos, Robi Kahakalau, Natalie ʻAi Kamau’u, Mailani (who released her third CD, Manawa, early in the year, and a Christmas CD, My Island Christmas, late in the fall), and the now single-monikered Nāpua.
  3. Among groups who released CDs (a “group” being more than one person), the stats are as follows: 2 womenʻs groups–Nā Leo Pilimehana and The Hula Honeys; 5 menʻs groups– newcomers Ho’omana and Kaiholu, veteran (and award-winning) artists KumZ and Waipuna, and the duo release from Nathan Aweau and Jeff Peterson; and two mixed groups, The Lim Family, and Kūpaoa (who released their third CD, Bumbye, early in the year, and put out an EP, I Know You By Heart, shortly before Christmas).
  4. ‘Ukulele soloists:  3 CDs, from Troy Fernandez, a Christmas offering from Kalei Gamiao, and Herb Ohta Jr.
  5. Slack Key Guitar:  kind of challenging to count, as musicians continue to explore repertoire beyond the Hawaiian standards, and as guitarists step to the microphone. The six CDs that came across my desk and into my iTunes library this year are all by men, all of whom are veteran recording artists:  Danny Carvalho (who shines as a vocalist), John Keawe, Makana, Jeff Peterson, Jim “Kimo” West, and the duo release from Nathan Aweau and Jeff Peterson.

As a Hawaiian music fan living far from Hawai’i, I am particularly intrigued to note that, among  the 40+ CDs, 6 7 were produced by artists who, to my knowledge, reside outside Hawai’i. In southern California, kumu hula Kekaimoku Yoshikawa and ki ho’alu artist Jim “Kimo” West; in the San Francisco Bay/northern California region, Faith Ako, Steven Espaniola, and the group Ho’omana; and in Seattle, Elias Kauhane, Jr. and Al Tringali (mahalo Gregg). E ō e nā ipu kukui e pio mau i nā ala loa!

Do I have favorites? Of course! Am I going to share? Um, maybe paha. But in the meantime, I wish you all blessings for this holiday season, and happiness and prosperity in 2014. My warmest aloha, Dear Readers!!

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SONGS: ʻUla Nōweo

49th State 45-87-B

Did you ever pause to wonder what you are not getting when you buy a CD with a remastered recording like this one? Come to think of it, when was the last time you actually saw a 45rpm vinyl disk? Record labels are a source of valuable information. Take a look at how much is here. This record was made sometime in the 1950s or very early 1960s, so all of the information on this label reflects how terms for types of mele were used at that time.

Title of mele is “Ula No Weo.” This mele is widely known and taught to hula students. It was one of the cornerstone mele to demonstrate ancient Hawaiian dancing at the long-running Kodak Hula Show in Waikiki, and multiple recordings of the mele, as both ancient and modern hula, were included on Kodak Hula Show albums throughout the years.

Look at other information included. “Hula Olapa” appears in parentheses directly below the title. This is clear evidence that someone at the time of this recordʻs production combined the term “hula ‘ōlapa” with this specific mele.  ”Ancient Hawaiian Chant” appears twice—directly below “Hula Olapa” and above in the central part of the label—perhaps positioned up there as a marketing assist for record store and record department clerks? (Customer: “Can you help me find a record of an ancient Hawaiian chant?” Clerk who knows everything about the Beatles and nothing about Hawaiian songs: “Hmm, letʻs see … hereʻs one!”)

Wait, Iʻm not pau yet. Artists are “Mrs. Anna Kahalelehua Hall with Joe Keawe and His Harmony Hawaiians.” Hold on—isnʻt this supposed to be ancient Hawaiian chant? Then what is Joe Keawe and His Harmony Hawaiians doing in there?? Can this still be an ancient Hawaiian chant if Joe Keawe and His Harmony Hawaiians are singing happily with ʻukulele and guitars?

In fact, “hula ‘ōlapa” is a category that is a subset within ancient Hawaiian chant, and one of the attributes of “hula ‘ōlapa” is that some of the mele have come down into the present as both ancient chant and modern song. “Ula No Weo” is one of those mele. I call them “crossover mele,” because the same mele lives in both ancient chant and modern song versions. The presence of modern song (or even only aspects) in this particular recording does not invalidate the fact that part of the recording is, in fact, chant performed by Mrs. Hall with ipu accompaniment. This recording demonstrates clearly that what we call ancient and modern in the present did happily coexist within hula ‘ōlapa.

[This post originally appeared on The Daily Mele on Feb. 1, 2012.]

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