Hawaiian recordings in the National Jukebox

About the NATIONAL JUKEBOX:

The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives. Recordings in the Jukebox were issued on record labels now owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which has granted the Library of Congress a gratis license to stream acoustical recordings.

The Jukebox includes more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925.

Hawaiian Recordings:

I found 138 recordings by searching on the following keywords: Hawaiian, Hawaii, aloha, hula. Mind you, this list includes commercial Tin Pan Alley songs of the sort that Hawaiian musicians and audiences alike would reject, and it the list includes songs on the B-side of recordings by national artists like John Philip Sousaʻs Band, or the Victory Military Band.

Here is a list of song titles. In future posts Iʻll sort the list by artists, and by recording dates. Spellings are as they appear on the National Jukebox.

You can listen to the recordings on the National Jukebox site!!

  1. Aiaihea, perf. Hawaiian Quintet
  2. Ainahau, perf. Irene West Royal Hawaiians
  3. Akahi Hoi, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  4. Akahi Hoi, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  5. Alabama Moon, perf. Hawaiian Trio
  6. Aloha Oe, perf. Ellis Brothers Glee Club Quartet
  7. Aloha Oe, perf. Sousaʻs Band
  8. Aloha Oe, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  9. Aloha Oe, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  10. Aloha Oe, perf. E. K. Rose
  11. Aloha Sunset Land, perf. Victor Salon Orchestra
  12. Auhea Lau Vabine, perf. Nani Alapai
  13. Beautiful Hawaii, perf. Frank Ferera & Anthony J. Franchini
  14. Bright Moon Waltz, perf. Frank Ferera & Anthony J. Franchini
  15. Cunha Medley, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  16. Dream Kiss, perf. Frank Ferera & Anthony J. Franchini
  17. Fair Hawaii, perf. Edna Brown & James Reed
  18. Halona, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  19. Happy Heinie March, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  20. Hawaii Ponoi, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  21. Hawaii Ponoi, perf. Arthur Pryorʻs Band
  22. Hawaiian Butterfly, perf. Charles H. Hart and Elliott Show
  23. Hawaiian Echoes Medley, perf. Louise and Ferera
  24. Hawaiian Hula Medley, perf. Louise and Ferera
  25. Hawaiian Love Song, perf. Ward Barton and Frank Carroll
  26. Hawaiian Lullaby, perf. Charles H. Hart and Elliott Shaw
  27. Hawaiian Melodies, perf. Walter Kolomoku
  28. Hawaiian Melodies, perf. Nicholas Barbarito & Warren Patterson
  29. Hawaiian Nights, perf. Frank Ferera & Anthony J. Franchini
  30. Hawaiian Twilight, perf. Hawaiian Trio
  31. Hawaiian Waltz Medley, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  32. Hello, Hawaii How Are You?, perf. Pietro
  33. Hello, Hawaii How Are You?, perf. Nora Bayes
  34. Hello, Hawaii, perf. Victor Military Band
  35. Hilo, perf. Irene West Royal Hawaiians
  36. Hilo Kupa Loke, perf. Nani Alapai
  37. Hiu hiu a uwahi, perf. W. S. Ellis & Ellis Brothers Glee Club
  38. Honolulu Honey, perf. Charles H. Hart and Elliott Shaw
  39. Honolulu March, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  40. Honolulu Tom Boy, perf. W. S. Ellis & Ellis Brothers Glee Club
  41. Honolulu Tom Boy, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  42. Hu-la hu-la cake walk, perf. Sousaʻs Band
  43. Hula Lou, perf. Frank Ferera, The Troubadours
  44. Hula Medley, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  45. Indiana March, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  46. Isles of Aloha, perf. Wright and Dietrich
  47. Ka-lu-a, perf. Edna Brown & Elliott Shaw
  48. Kai maia o ka mail, perf. Louise and Ferera
  49. Kale o pua, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  50. Kaman, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  51. Kamehameha, perf. Louise and Ferera
  52. Kaua i ka huahuai, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  53. Kawaihau Waltz, perf. Louise and Ferera
  54. Kawiliwiliwai, perf. Hawaiian Quintette, W. B. J. Aeko
  55. Kicky-koo, kicky-koo, perf. Green Brothers Marimba Orchestra
  56. Kilima Waltz, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  57. Ko Maka Palupalu, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  58. Kohala March, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  59. Kokohi, perf. Hawaiian Quintette, Benjamin Waiwaiole
  60. Kumukahi, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  61. Kiu home, perf. Hawaiian Quintette, S. M. Kaiawe
  62. Lanihuli, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  63. Lei Aloha, perf. Wright and Dietrich
  64. Lei Poni Moi, perf. Hawaiian Quintette, E. K. Rose
  65. Let the rest of the world go, perf. Frank Ferera & Anthony J. Franchini
  66. Liaika wai mapuna, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  67. Little Honolulu Lou, perf. Charles Harrison
  68. Lola-Lo, perf. Joseph C. Smithʻs Orchestra
  69. Mai poina oe iau, perf. W. S. Ellis & Ellis Brothers Glee Club
  70. Mai poina oe iau, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  71. Maid of Honolulu, perf. Ellis Brothers Glee Club Quartet
  72. Maid of Honolulu, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  73. Maui Aloha, perf. Louise and Ferera
  74. Maui Girl, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  75. Mauna Kea, perf. Hawaiian Quintette, S. M. Kaiawe
  76. Meleana E, perf. Irene West Royal Hawaiians
  77. Minnehaha Medley Waltz, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  78. Mo-Ana, perf. Athenian Mandolin Quartet
  79. Moanalua, perf. Hawaiian Quintette, Benjamin Waiwaiole
  80. Moe Uhane Waltz, perf. Louise and Ferera
  81. My Bird of Paradise, perf. Louise and Ferera
  82. My Hawaii (Youʻre calling me), perf. Orpheus Quartet, Raymond Dixon
  83. My Hawaiian Maid Medley, perf. Wright and Dietrich
  84. My Hawaiian Sunshine, perf. Henry Burr and Albert Campbell
  85. My Honolulu Hula Girl, perf. Hawaiian Quintette, E. K. Rose
  86. My Honolulu Hula Girl, perf. Wright and Dietrich
  87. My Hula Maid, perf. James Reed and James Harrison
  88. My Lonely Lola Lo, perf. Sterling Trio
  89. My Waikiki Ukulele Girl, perf. Irving Kaufman
  90. ʻNeath the South Sea Moon, perf. Paul Whitman Orchestra
  91. Ninipo, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  92. OʻBrien is tryinʻ to talk Hawaiian, perf. Horace Wright
  93. Old Plantation, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  94. On the beach at Waikiki, perf. Wright and Dietrich
  95. On the beach at Waikiki medley, perf. Louise and Ferera
  96. On the South Sea Isle, perf. Sterling Trio
  97. One-Two-Three-Four, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  98. One-Two-Three-Four, perf. Frank Ferera & Anthony J. Franchini
  99. One, Two, Three, perf. W. S. Ellis & Ellis Brothers Glee Club
  100. Papio Huli Medley, perf. Irene West Royal Hawaiians
  101. Poli Pumehana, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  102. Pua Carnation, perf. Nani Alapai
  103. Pua Carnation, perf. Louise and Ferera
  104. Pua i mohala, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  105. Pua Mohala, perf. Wright and Dietrich
  106. Pua Sardinia, perf. E. K. Rose
  107. Rain Tuahine, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  108. The Rosary, perf. Pale K. Lua
  109. She sang “Aloha” to me, perf. Orpheus Quartet, Raymond Dixon
  110. Siren of a Southern Sea, perf. All Star Trio
  111. So Long, Letty, perf. Victor Military Band
  112. Song to Hawaii, perf. Louise and Ferera
  113. Song to Hawaii, perf. Wright and Dietrich
  114. Stop, Look, and Listen, perf. Victor Military Band
  115. Sweet Hawaiian Girl ʻo Mine, perf. Charles H. Hart and Elliott Shaw
  116. Sweet Hawaiian Moonlight, perf. Joseph C. Smithʻs Orchestra
  117. Sweet Hawaiian Moonlight, perf. Lillian Rosedale and Vivian Holt
  118. Sweet Lei Lehua, perf. Hawaiian Quintette, E. K. Rose
  119.  Theyʻre wearing them higher in Hawaii, perf. Collins & Harlan
  120. Those Hawaiian Melodies, perf. Peerless Quartet
  121. Tomi Tomi, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  122. Toots Paka Medley, perf. Toots Paka Hawaiian Troupe
  123. Ua Like No A Like, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  124. Ua Like No A Like, perf. Pale K. Lua
  125. Underneath Hawaiian Skies, perf. Henry Burr and Albert Campbell
  126. Underneath Hawaiian Skies, perf. Paul Whiteman Orchestra
  127. Waialae, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  128. Waikiki Mermaid, perf. W. S. Ellis & Ellis Brothers Glee Club
  129. Waikiki Mermaid Medley, perf. Louise and Ferera
  130. Wailana, perf. Hawaiian Quintette
  131. Wailing Waltz, perf. Pale K. Lua & David K. Kaili
  132. Waiu Luliluli, perf. Louise and Ferera
  133. When itʻs Love-time in Hawaii, perf. Green Brothers Marimba Orchestra
  134. Wild Flower, perf. Frank Ferera & Anthony J. Franchini
  135. Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula, perf. Collins & Harlan
  136. Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula, perf. Victor Military Band
  137. Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula, perf. Avon Comedy Four

 

 

 

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Take 5: Noho Paipai

Hello Dear Readers! Iʻm working on the song “Noho Paipai.” Itʻs one of the songs in my critical edition project. The lyrics were published in 1946 in a collection of John Almeidaʻs songs, with translations by Mary Kawena Pukui. Among the earliest vocal recordings, there are at least two different tunes, and one of them in two variant forms in the first phrase. The playlist assembled here includes early vocal recordings I could find on YouTube. The datings of these recordings are based on the incredible research of  Malcolm Rockwell and his award-winning discography Hawaiian & Hawaiian Guitar Records, 1891-1860 (Mahina Piha Press 2007) .

1938:  The earliest recording I could identify is this instrumental medley of “Noho Paipai” and “ʻAʻoia” by John Almeida. It appeared on the Hawaiian Transcriptions label, and Malcolm dated the recording session to 1938. The track was reissued on the 49th State Records Strum Your Ukulele (LP-3423) in the late 1950s. Given the fact that this is an instrumental that invites instrumentalists to take the spotlight, one would be hard-pressed to use this recording as the basis for declaring what Almeidaʻs composed melody is.

 

ca. 1950: Johnny Almeida with Julia Nuiʻs Kamaainas on 49th State Records (HRC-64). This is NOT the earliest vocal recording; it is simply the earliest vocal recording I could find on YouTube. It was preceded by a recording by Randy Oness in 1945, and Danny Kuaana in 1946. The cool thing is, here is the composer singing his own composition.

 

ca. 1951: Here is John Piilani Watkins, on 49th State Records, singing a different tune. This tune was also used on recordings by Tommy Blaisdell (1952), Pauline Kekahuna (1958), and the Brothers Cazimero (1998).

 

1965: Genoa Keawe!! Doing her thing with the final cadence at the end of each verse.

 

1974: Kawai Cockett. ʻUkulele strumming at warp speed. Pay attention to the tune in the 2nd line of each verse. Compare it with John Almeidaʻs ca. 1950 recording above, and also with Genoa Keaweʻs 1965 recording. See where Iʻm going?

 

Bonus Tracks

Nothing beats the fun of live performance. Here is Jake Shimabukuro playing with the Makaha Sons at the Songs of Aloha concert, Hawaiʻi Theater, 2000.

 

 

Still one of my favorites: hereʻs Manaʻo Company in a 2012 live Pau Hana Fridays performance in Hawaiian Airlines premier lounge. Featured guest performer is Hawaiian Air baggage handler Kaulana Pakele.

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Recording Studios from Honolulu’s past

An absorbing piece of research!!

Aloha Got Soul

From July 7 through July 9, 2017, the Smithsonian Asian American Pacific Center will host ʻAe Kai: A Culture Lab on Convergence at the former Foodland space in Ala Moana Center. The 3-day art exhibition features 50+ artists and practitioners from Hawaii and beyond. This is a markedly different project for us, and as participants we are honored to have this opportunity to find new ways of presenting Aloha Got Soul and the stories behind this music we’ve been digging over the years.

Learn more about ʻAe Kai at http://smithsonianapa.org/aekai.

We’ve entitled our ‘Ae Kai contribution “Sounds of Hawaii”, a photo series documenting recording studios that once existed in the Kaka’ako, Ward, and Ala Moana areas.

This is an ongoing project that Leimomi and I started working on after returning from Japan in late May. As a disclaimer, I must add that this project does not attempt to encompass all of the…

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E Mau Ke Ea o Ka ʻĀina

Jon Osorioʻs powerful 2010 commentary in Honolulu Civil Beat is making the rounds on social media once again. Speaking of Hawaiian conceptions of independence, Jon offers a powerful statement on ea:

Independence — ea — for us was a basic right that was enshrined by law. We may either give in to the cynicism of the age and in the face of such enormous power wielded by the United States, conclude that self-determination is a foolish delusion, or we can press Americans to live up to a better standard of behavior and perhaps, a better version of themselves. But in the end, it is more important that we Hawaiians refuse to surrender our own faith in ea.

I returned to a memorable recording to revisit one of the Kingdom of Hawaiiʻs national anthems, “He Mele Lahui Hawaii” by (then-) Princess Liliʻuokalani. Here it is again, with all three verses. The track is performed by the Rose Ensemble of St. Paul, Minnesota. Their hard work on the ʻōlelo paid off handsomely.

Click here to go to the Wikipedia page with all lyrics, translation, and a beautiful color photograph of the sheet music published in 1867.

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Take 5: Ka Ipo Lei Manu

Hello Dear Readers! I have “Ka Ipo Lei Manu” on my mind a lot these days. It is one of the songs to be included in a book project that has been many moons in the making. (Long story for another time.) Just blitzed through a marathon over the last 3 days of mapping 45 different recorded versions.

My top 5 favorites:

#5 Dennis Pavao. From the album Wale No (Pilialoha Records), 1996.

Boy, Uncle could sing! His voice was set in a lush resonant mix of guitar with ʻukulele notes sparkling atop the arrangement. This was my favorite version for a long time. It still is a go-to when I need to reconnect with things Hawaiian (like after a semester ends).

#4 Brothers Cazimero. From the album Live (Mountain Apple), 1993

Iʻm a child of the 1970s. These are the Brothers Cazimero still scaling the peaks of their career as one of the premier entertainment groups to ever grace Hawaiʻi stages. What can I say? When two voices blend so evenly and soar so effortlessly, what more need be said? [I canʻt find a video on YouTube.]

#3 Danny Carvalho, ft. Jamaica Osorio. From the album Ke Au Hou (Lava Rock Music), 2013

So much going on in this track. For starters, Danny sings! Then on this track, he and Jamaica Osorio trade off solos and duet together. The tune that they sing goes back to the original published tune from 1892–very plain, letting the mele speak. The mele — it is complete here, all thirteen verses. Then the arrangement — a cumulative entry of guitar, then bass and drum rim shots, and then bass and drum kit in full swing on the haʻina verse, then pulling back to guitar by the end. And the voices–two plaintive voices for a plaintive song about love that turned into loss.

#2 (tie)

I am a scholar of music. So I get excited when I hear original moves. This is when I know that artists are not merely replicating what theyʻve inherited, but they are bringing thoughtfulness

Jeff Peterson & Riley Lee. From the album Haleakalā (Peterson Productions), 2008

This particular recording is really cool. In hula kuʻi songs are usually symmetrical–where each line has the same even number of beats. In this arrangement, the first line is 8 beats, but the second line is 6 beats. The words still fit, even though this track is all instrumental. But the other thing that is happening is the interaction and exchange between the shakuhachi gradually adding ornamentation that is echoed in the guitar. You have to hear this track. Apparently you can do so in the free tier on Spotify. (There are YouTube videos of Jeff performing the song live, but itʻs not the same arrangement as on this particular recording with Riley Lee.)

Steven Espaniola. From the album Hoʻomaopopo (SheGo), 2013

Another really really thoughtful musicianly innovation here. The symmetrical hula rhythm got traded in for a waltz-time. But because of heavy accenting on the downbeats, thereʻs a strong feeling of the three beat sets coming in groups of two. Then sonically — Stevenʻs singing is interlaced with kumu hula Kawika Alfiche chanting the less-sung verses. Way cool.

#1 Howard Ai ft. Natalie Ai Kamauʻu. From the album Kaleihulumamo (Ginger Doggie Records), 2008

My current most favorite treatment of this poignant mele. It is wrapped between the first verse and chorus of “Aloha ʻOe. The mele begins with daughter Natalie Ai Kamauʻu trading verses with father Howard Ai. The two vocalists build up the texture by gradually extending their range higher and higher, while cumulatively expanding their vocal flourishes. The voices are propelled along with the distinctive piano stylings of Aaron Salā, who embodies a clear understanding of the pianoʻs role to support forward momentum.

And there you have it. Six arrangements that soar. They carry me off on the winds and clouds of song. What about you, Dear Readers?

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Thinking about the term “hula kui”

Dear Readers, many of you know that my research has focused on historical aspects of the hula kuʻi tradition.

Many of you have asked me, over the years, why I use the term “hula kuʻi” even when Iʻm talking about songs, especially when it is not clear that some of those songs were actually danced as hula. Over the years Iʻve done the conventional scholarʻs tactic of formulating more precise yet cumbersome wordings like “mele in the format of hula kuʻi” and even “mele in the format of songs for hula kuʻi.”

And some have asked why I choose not to use the term “mele kuʻi” when Iʻm talking about mele but not necessarily about hula.

In cleaning out my email account last week, I came across email exchanges from twelve years ago, asking me these very questions. Hence I began to think about these questions again. Then I went back into my collection of sheet music, photographs, and notes. And the answer stared back at me.

cover

This is the cover of sheet music published in 1892. (I had the extreme fortune to win this item on eBay many years ago.) Both songs are labelled “HULA KUI“. Do we know whether “Ipo Lei Manu” was actually danced then? Queen Kapiʻolani composed it while King Kalākaua was in San Francisco seeking medical care. He died in San Francisco without hearing it. This 1892 publication is months after his death and funeral. Was it actually danced at that time? Hard to imagine, isnʻt it? And yet, when the sheet music is published, it is identified as “HULA KUI“.

A very esteemed acquaintance is fond of saying “when da tʻing stay staring you in da face . . . “

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2017: Much of note (so far)

Hello Dear Readers! Iʻve been quiet here for awhile, as my “day job” kept me quite occupied, and this past year was especially intense for all kinds of reasons. So I thought Iʻd start up my return here with some random observations.

So much continues to happen in Hawaiian music. Kalani Peʻa was the first Hawaiian artist to win the Grammy Award in the vexed Best Regional Roots category since it was rolled out in 2012. Social media was abuzz over that milestone . . . for better and worse. It is undeniable, however, that the musicianship and the production are original in fresh and welcome ways. The trio Keauhou swept the Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards in May with their commitment to perpetuating cherished notions of excellence.

One of the most exciting projects of 2016 is surely the viral video “Hawaiʻi Aloha 2016.” It is a collaboration of Mana Maoliʻs The Mana Mele Project in collaboration with Playing for Change. The production is best described as:

Much to appreciate in the focus on empowering and educating youth for the future of the lāhui.

 

 

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Gifts of Support 2016

Our lives and the world we live in are blessed and enriched by the presence of artists. These are the folks who render all manner of human experiences into visions–of truth and authenticity, of terror and horror, of connection and alienation, of groundedness, of aloha; visions that challenge as well as affirm our shared humanity, visions that inspire us to see beauty in the world and in each other.

We live in a time when artists face challenges to their livelihood, and to their very ability to continue making art. Thus at this time of holiday merrymaking and gift-giving, I am moved to make these recommendations because they call attention to artists who are making art in spite of the obstacles. This is precisely why their  efforts as well as artistry deserve our support.

The Natives Are Restless: A San Francisco Dance Master Takes Hula into the 21st Century (naleihulu.org)

hale-2016-natives-are-restless

A lavishly illustrated account of Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakane and his San Francisco hālau, Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu.  Kumu Patrick has achieved what a generation ago was completely unthinkable: He has built a hula school of note in San Francisco into a 350-person non-profit arts powerhouse in the cityʻs artscape. His singular vision of hula mua (explained by author Constance Hale as “progressive hula”) walks that fine line between preservation, perpetuation, and innovation. Honoring heritage and legacy, but also honoring a deep artistic impulse to be creatively generative, he “radically upends tradition and brings hula raging into the twenty-first century” (p. 21). Extending himself technically and administratively as well as artistically, his full-length theatrical productions have garnered critical acclaim not only in California and Hawaiʻi, but nationally.

These remarkable accomplishments are related by Constance Hale, a journalist of national stature who is also a haumana in the hālau. Although you can order the book on Amazon.com, please support Kumu Patrickʻs artistry by ordering it direct from the hālau at naleihulu.org.

The Haumāna Hula Handbook for Students of Hawaiian Dance, by Māhealani Uchiyama (North Atlantic Books, www.northatlanticbooks.com)

uchiyama-2016

For the hula student in your life! This is a well-written and well-presented compendium of basic information for those immersed in learning the dance. Because we all know that hula is not merely dance. It is much more than dance itself. It is protectively wrapped in ritual and protocol; it is saturated with culture and language; it is a vessel for the stories of  ancestral gods, warrior rulers, and kamaʻāina. Kumu Māhea is the founder and artistic director of the Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance as well as kumu hula of Hālau Ka Ua Tuahine in Berkeley, California. Her hula training includes years as a student in Hawaiʻi at Hālau Hula o Maiki as well as University of Hawaiʻi, culminating in study with renowned master Joseph Kahāʻulelio.

Hālau Ka Ua Tuahine has been featured in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival many times. Her commitment to excellence also deserves our continued support.

Kalani Peʻa. E Walea (Kalani Peʻa Music LLC, 2016)

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Singer/songwriter Kalani Peʻa brings new excellence to Hawaiian music in his debut album that invites us to “relax, enjoy, dance”– e walea. Kalani is of the generation immersed in ʻōlelo, having graduated from Ke Kula o Nāwahīokalaniʻōpu’u. Yet he is also a Hawaiian of the here and now, who brings soul and R&B into his singing. The album brings us eight new Hawaiian-language compositions, six of them by Kalani himself, as well as two English-language cover songs, translated into Hawaiian by–Kalani himself. Musically he surrounds himself with first-class expertise:  Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing co-producing as well as playing guitar and bass; steel guitarist Casey Olsen and pianist Iwalani Hoʻomanawanui Apo adding flourishes, and Dave Tucciarone co-producing and engineering.

E Walea has the exceptional distinction of receiving a 2016 GRAMMY nomination in the “Best Regional Roots Album” category.

Stellar production and a GRAMMY nomination are great. But this album and this artist deserve our support simply because of its excellence. He ʻoi aku, a he mea laha ʻole.

You can find this album on iTunes and Amazon, but please do consider supporting an independent Hawaiian business by ordering from  mele.com or Me Ke Aloha   (mkaloha.com), or stopping in at Nā Mea Hawaiʻi in Honolulu, Basically Books in Hilo, or Native Intelligence in Wailuku.

Happy Holidays, Dear Readers!

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Disneyʻs “Moana” — Musical Musings

The animated film “Moana,” Disneyʻs latest foray into the island Pacific, was released in the U.S. last Wednesday Nov. 23. In our present-day world saturated by social media, Moana sailed onto our horizons amidst swells of anticipation for Disneyʻs latest, but also tsunamis of criticism on issues of representation. Pacific Islander scholars and activists are legitimately concerned. On the one hand, we enjoy it when our little-known region has new spotlights thrown on our islands, our people, and our life ways. On the other hand, we are thrown into having to explain what is and isnʻt part of our islands, our people, and our life ways. Itʻs exciting when we get to say “yup, thatʻs how it is!” But historically our experiences have too often left us having to say “no, thatʻs not how it is!”

So what is there to say about the music of “Moana”? Well, for starters — It is NOT Hawaiian music, for a very fundamental set of reasons. The film is NOT set in Hawaiʻi. The story itself is NOT set in Hawaiʻi. The characters are NOT enacting an exclusively Hawaiian story. And therefore, there is no reason why the music should be Hawaiian music. So, guess what? The music in “Moana” is not Hawaiian music.

Disneyʻs story line draws upon legends associated with the superhero Maui, a character revered in island groups across the Pacific who now have distinctly separate cultures, languages, societies and histories. Maui is a “Hawaiian Suppaʻ Man.” But Maui is also a super hero known to Tahitians, Maori, Samoans. Tongans, Tuvaluans, and others. The legends of Maui date from epochs before many of our islands were even settled–before there were “Hawaiians” or “Tahitians”, for example. We can celebrate the fact that Hawaiians share Maui with our Pacific relatives. But Hawaiians do not have a monopoly on Maui, or how he should be depicted.

Moana–the princess, now thatʻs another story. Thatʻs where Disney steps in with a princess-able story that can sell movie tickets and merch. In time for  Christmas holiday shopping.

Polynesia — the setting. Moana is the daughter of a chief of a Polynesian tribe. DISCLAIMER: There is no traditional place named “Polynesia.” Polynesia is a region named by the French naval explorer Jules Dumont DʻUrville, who published his schema of Malaysia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia in an article in 1832 after circumnavigating the globe in the 1820s. There was no Polynesia before Dumont DʻUrville. Islanders recognize Polynesia as a region only because western scholars used Dumont DʻUrvilleʻs classifications, and we learned about Polynesia in school. Islanders use the name “Polynesia” nowadays, because it is often more recognizable to outsiders, so it becomes a point of reference for us to be legible. Get it?

Now letʻs get to the music in “Moana.”Disney needed two things, musically speaking: 1) a composed soundtrack to work in tandem with the plot; and 2) island-flavored music for a story set not in Hawaiʻi, but in “Polynesia.” So skipping Hawaiian music, Disney turned to the Pacific recording artist most well known on the world music touring circuit: the New Zealand-based band Te Vaka. Its founder and frontman is singer-songwriter Opetai Foaʻi. Opetaiʻs father is from Tokelau, and his mother is from Tuvalu. They met while attending school in Samoa, where Opetai was born. His early childhood was spent in Tokelau, where he was surrounded by traditional song forms, especially the fātele of Tokelau, but also the siva from Sāmoa, and the ubiquitous yet beloved ʻukulele-based pan-Pacific pop. The family moved to Auckland when he was aged 9. All these elements make their way into Te Vakaʻs music that is described as “south Pacific fusion.”

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Two signature elements of Te Vakaʻs sound–strong choral harmonies and lively slit-log percussion rhythms–are the framework for the filmʻs title track, “We Know The Way.” The lyrics are credited to Opetai Foaʻi and Lin-Manuel Miranda. This is Disney; might as well get the hottest Broadway dramatist on board, right? (“Hamilton,” for those dear readers not immersed in musical theater.) So there is one verse in Tokelauan language, but the main lyrics are in English. The better so that fans can sing along.

The featured vocal talent in the film are Native Hawaiian teen Auliʻi Carvalho who voices Moana, and athlete and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson of Samoan heritage who voices Maui. Their songs are in English. Auliʻi wails on Moanaʻs feature song, “How Far Iʻll Go,” and The Rock gets Mauiʻs song “Youʻre Welcome”–complete with Lin-Manuel Miranda rapping. These and other English-language songs on the soundtrack are delivered in the inimitable Broadway / musical theater style of singing. (Think “Let It Go.” Thatʻs the sound.)

This is all by way of noting that, aside from the Pacific sonic flavor from Te Vakaʻs drumming, the soundtrack is actually classic Disney musical. Nothing more, nothing less.

Dear Readers, I highly recommend visiting the Facebook page and archives of the community group named “Mana Moana: We are Moana, We are Maui.” The articles articulate the issues of representation and appropriation from a critical islander perspective.  They have kindly gathered key articles and commentaries in an archive.

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Aloha 2016!

Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou! Hereʻs wishing everyone the best in happiness and aloha for 2016.

Iʻm back. Resolution #2 for 2016 is to renew my commitment to Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure. (Resolution #1 relates to health & fitness, I journey I began in October and, I am thrilled to say, is sticking!!) After several months of figuring how to balance teaching and university obligations and have a life–while working on health & fitness, no less–Iʻve been observing all kinds of things happening in the worlds of Hawaiian music and hula. Iʻve also been observing all kinds of things that are not happening in the worlds of Hawaiian music and hula. And Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure has always been a place to set down some thoughts, and invite thoughts, reflections, contributions, corrections, amendments–anything to contribute positively to our collective listening and viewing pleasure.

grammy-awards-logo_20110621150950Above all, a HUGE shoutout to Kealiʻi Reichel and Natalie Ai Kamauʻu for the nomination of their CDS for the GRAMMY Award in the category “Best Regional Roots Music.” The awards will be announced on “musicʻs biggest night,” scheduled for February 16, 2016 on CBS.

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Lots more to come. Stay tuned, dear readers. Iʻm back!!

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