How to Choose Hawaiian Music Anthology CDs

Letʻs start with the Wikipedia definition of “anthology” as related to music:

In music, the term refers to a collection of works by an artist with a long and varied career. While the definition would include typical “greatest hits” sets, the term is used as a marketing device to indicate a collection that can include a performer’s best-known songs along with lesser known pieces, demos, live recordings, unreleased work, etc.

Established artists almost inevitably issue at least one retrospective “greatest hits” kind of album, and these albums can serve as excellent introductions for newbies to the artist. Increasingly, artists are avoiding the “best of” title in favor of titles that are more meaningful to them.  Examples would include Keali‘i Reichel, whose two anthology collections are titled Kamahiwa (Vol. 1) and Kamalei (Vol. 2), and the group Ho‘okena, with Treasure and Lei Pūlamahia (Treasure II). Another example is Poki Records, whose remastering of 1970s and 1980s LPs by label artists such as the Ho‘opi‘i Brothers, Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau, and Dennis Pavao are being issued under a series title, Nā Mele Henoheno.

There is also a more general definition of “anthology.” Also from Wikipedia:

An anthology is a collection of … works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs or excerpts. In genre fiction anthology is used to categorize collections of shorter works such as short stories and short novels, usually collected into a single volume for publication.

In this second sense of anthology—the collection of works chosen by a compiler, as opposed to the “greatest hits” of a single artist or group—there are at least two different approaches to compiling an anthology:

  1. By focusing on the artists: these anthologies are similar to compilations, in bringing together the work of multiple artists. However, there is a deliberate focus in an anthology that guides the selection of tracks. The artists whose work is featured share something in common—whether they be masters of a specific instrument, or artists who recorded in Paris in the 1920s—and that commonality is what the compiler is trying to illustrate.
  2. By focusing on the songs: the selection of songs may be either encyclopedic in scope, or all share a thematic focus.

The post below identifies some recommended anthologies. Other recommendations will be made  in the future.

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