SONGS: ‘Alika

As a scholar and researcher, I have had many opportunities to see and hear many different sources of information. Since I began blogging about Hawaiian music last August (2009), it has become more evident that this blog is a great way of sharing information. So with this post, I shall inaugurate a new series focusing on SONGS, and share various perspectives on songs and their histories.

And pulling a song out of the hat randomly, let‘s start with “‘Alika.” This song comes instantly to mind as the signature song of none other than Aunty Genoa Keawe, who would hold out the highest note in the tune, and stretch out her breath for over two minutes. Her secret, she said once, was “let your breath out s-l-o-w-l-y.” Yup, easy to say. For her, years of practice had developed her breathing muscles, enabling her to outlast would-be competitors a third or even a quarter of her age!

First, let’s look at a source of the mele text itself, from the newspaper Ka Lei Momi, published on July 1, 1893.  There are four mele here. All four begin with the same first line: “Aia i Alika o ka ihu o ka moku.” None of the four texts include the “Ha’ina” verse, but its inclusion was a convention of the time–performers knew to include it


.   Here is #1





. Here is #2






. Here is #3





.  Here is #4






Now let‘s look at recordings. The list compiled here draws on my own collection and Brett Ortone’s Island Music Source Book (now online at  the Music and Entertainment Learning Experience section on Ulukau Hawaiian Electronic Library).  This list is arranged in roughly chronological order according to approximate date of release. Dating Hawaiian records has been a challenge to scholars and collectors, so I make no claim to any authoritativeness. This list represents my best guess at this point in time. Because these recordings are still under copyright, I am respecting those rights by not posting music files here.

1932?:  Johnny Noble & His Hawaiians. (Brunswick 55061-B)

1944: Alvin Kaleolani [Isaacs] & His Royal Hawaiians (Bell LKS-58)

1955:  Andy Cummings & His Hawaiians. Decca 30275

195x: The Hilo Hawaiians, Splendor of the Islands

1950s: Genoa Keawe & Her Polynesians (49th State 144)

1965: Genoa Keawe, Party Hulas

196x:  Pauline Kekahuna & Her Hauoli Girls feat. Agnes Malabey (Waikiki 45-531)

1973: Leinaala Haili, Leinaala

1974: Genoa Keawe, The Waimea Music Festival

197x:  George Helm A True Hawaiian

1976: Tina Ka‘apana, Alania

1977:  The Hoopii Brothers, Me Ke Aloha Pumehana

1979: Genoa Keawe: Aloha to Aloha Grill

1993: Kanilau, He Hawai‘i Au

1996: The Ho‘opi‘i Brothers, Ho‘omau—To Perpetuate

1998: Free ‘n Easy, Simply Hawaiian

2001: Karen Keawehawai‘i, Do the Hula!

2002: Moana Chang, Boat Days in Hawai‘i

2003: Gary Medeiros, Aloha Festivals 4 Hawaiian Falsetto Content Winners

2004: Raiatea Helm, Sweet & Lovely

2005:  George Holokai, He Makana—75 Birthday Celebration

2009: The De Lima Ohana, Kupu A‘e

n.d. The Hawaii Calls Orchestra

n.d. Loea, E Hua

Given the fact that ‘Alika is a hula kui song through and through, it is interesting to note that the vast majority of these recordings have an ‘ukulele trio instrumentation at the core. For the most part, the tune is done in a moderate tempo suitable for hula dancers, although Andy Cummings’ recording stands out for its tempo at warp speed

This entry was posted in hula, recommendations, recordings, Songs. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to SONGS: ‘Alika

  1. Auntie Maria says:

    Mahalo nui loa for all your research, Amy! As for the George Helm version, my files list a 1977 release date. And there are even more recordings of `Alika over the years:

    19?? – Danny Kapoi Trio, AT THE SHERATON-MAUI
    19?? – Jesse, Emma & The Kukui’s, JESSE, EMMA & THE KUKUI’S
    19?? – Honey Kalima’s Royal Hawaiians, TROPICAL HEATWAVE 3 (from the Aussie label)
    19?? – George Paoa, TO MAKE YOU LOVE ME KU`UIPO
    1990 – Genoa Keawe, HANA HOU (anthology?)
    1995 – Free & Easy, SIMPLY HAWAIIAN
    2002 – Genoa Keawe, HULA RECORDS’ HITS (anthology)
    2006 – Genoa Keawe, 50 GREATEST HAWAII ALBUMS EVER (anthology)
    2009 – Kapala, IMPRINT

    And the only instrumental I found — another vinyl:
    19?? – Benny Rogers, DRIFTIN’ AND DREAMIN’ IN HAWAII

    Again, mahalo — not only for your work, but for your generosity in sharing it with us all.

    auntie maria

  2. Norman says:

    2005 – Waialea Hawaiian Band, “Back Porch Jammin'”

  3. Norman says:

    1983 approximately – “Zachary Helm with The K’Kai Trio”

  4. amykstillman says:

    Thanks Aunty Maria and Norm!! Hmm, now how on earth did those Tradewinds tracks escape me?

  5. 'Alika says:

    Aloha mai,

    Mahalo nui loa for the info. How many of the recordings from the 40s to the 60s are not out of print? I would love to hear lots of different takes on it.


    • amykstillman says:

      Hi Alika,

      wow, for this particular song, quite a few are still out of print. But perhaps a DJ / collector out there might make a project out of it? Norm? Bill? Don? Bill? Harry B? Bill? Your question tells me, too, that in a future SONGS post I should include that information, ʻeā? Quite a few recordings from the 1940s through 1960s have been remastered and re-released on CD. Check out my two posts on Vintage Recordings. (Click on “Index” in the menu at the top, and scroll down to “Recordings–Vintage Reissues.”) The 1960s material is mostly on Cord / HanaOla CDs, and they have been focusing on the 49th State Recordings tracks. Quite a few of the tracks listed here are on the Waikiki and Tradewinds labels, which have started to trickle back out into circulation again. These tracks, though, are too recent to have appeared on Cumquat CDs, and definitely outside the range of the Harlequin so far.

      aloha, amy k.

  6. JF says:

    I have the vinyl of Danny Kapoi@ the Sheraton-Maui. There is not a date on it, but the liner notes talk about Danny recording this after his release from the Army in ’63. “Alika” is credited to Charles Kaapa, and the players are Kapoi, Thomas Everett “Tutu” Kanaha, and Nicholas Awai, Jr.

  7. mary says:

    This blog is a treasure. And the Daily Mele another treasure. I am just learning about the familiar favorites, the old hawaiian hula/mele — Alika, Hula o Makee, Kaneohe,etc. This blog is such an invaluable resource, full of leads, people, songs to be discovered. Mahalo for your heart, scholarship and generosity! Mary

  8. Cynthia Morris says:

    Thank you for this. I am in a musicology seminar on 19th century romantic music. This class is filled with fellow grad student working on projects relating to Rachmaninoff, Mahler and Debussy. I am working on a Lili’uokalani project. I made an argument on how classical Hawaiian vocal traditions were passed on through oral tradition. I used Genoa Keawe’s Alika as an example of traditional Hawaiian vocal technique as it is utilized in 20th century music. The professor absolutely loved the recording but you can imagine the stir this created amongst the students. One of the other grad students wanted verification on when the song was written and when the recording was made. Thanks to your blog I will be able to provide him with a clearer recording date when we meet again this week.

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