SONGS: Kalena Kai recordings

In a prior post, I shared some images of notated scores for the song “Kalena Kai.” In this post I will muse about sound recordings. The list below shows recordings that I have identified of the sog “Kalena Kai”–which was also titled from the first line, ” ‘O Kalena Kai.” To the best of my ability to date recordings, the list attempts to be a chronological listing. (Any inaccuracies and omissions are unintentional, and simply a matter of what I have access to at this point. However, I am pretty confidence that any factual corrections are not likely to have an impact on the “big picture” that I am trying to convey.)

The song is a hula ku‘i song. It has verses; verses are separated by instrumental “vamps,” and the same tune is repeated of varied for each of the verses. Hula ku‘i, unquestionably. Also because every recording uses stringed instruments–guitar & ‘ukulele–in the accompaniment, rather than the ipu heke used in chanted hula ‘ōlapa. But note that at least four recordings use the strum that some hula people call the ” ‘ōlapa strum” which mimics the rhythmic patterns of ipu heke. The strum is associated historically with the song “Na Ka Pueo” recorded on 49th State Records in the 1950s

With the song “Kalena Kai,” the big story is about tempo. Both of the earliest printed versions that I shared in my earlier post date from 1916. Only one of them, in Charles E. Kingʻs Book of Hawaiian Melodies, includes a tempo instruction:  “Slow Hawaiian Tempo.” I was struck, upon listening to these tracks, by the wide tempo swings among the different records. I measured beats per minute using a free metronome at I make no claim that these measurements are all exact, but they are pretty much in the ballpark, so to speak. What is the range?  Kane’s Hawaiians, is the earliest recording that I have in my iTunes library, and it goes at a frenzied clip of 252 beats per minute. Who has the slowest version? George Helm at 72 beats per minute. What a range!! There are two areas where many of the other recordings cluster–one cluster is around 100-120 beats per minute, and the other cluster is around 144-160 beats per minute.

Interesting, ‘eā? The 1916 sheet music suggests (instructs?) “slow Hawaiian tempo”, yet the earliest recordings are among the speediest. Little wonder:  Kane‘s Hawaiians are engaged in that kind of Hawaiian guitar playing popular in the 1920s, all about wizardry, really. Then by the time Lena Machado and Bill Lincoln record their versions, the speeds have become more friendly to hula dancers. These hula-friendly tempos are maintained by recording artists whose recordings were popular among hula studios. The Aloha Pumehana Serenaders, with Darrell Lupenui singing lead, is classic for hula dancing. And who among Hālau Hula o Maiki students will ever forget the Kahauanu Lake Trio recording? Music for our Basic Hands routine, at the start of every class!

Dean Lum and the group Kapena both take the tempo up. Then another group of recordings bring down the tempo to a reflective and introspective speed that seems more in line with “slow Hawaiian tempo”–notably Tony Conjugacion, Russell Mauga (lead singer of the contemporary group Ho‘aikane), and the very mellow Kanilau.

Who, in the end, is to say what is right? Every recording artist had his or her reason for selecting a particular tempo. And the song remains a song marking a royal visit (ʻo ka lua o nā lani) to the area from Mokule‘ia around Ka‘ena point and toward Waimalu. So we can appreciate that musicians have kept this song in play since its first appearance as a mele in 1893 (see previous post about “Kalena Kai”).

The recordings:

1930s?: Kane’s Hawaiians 252 bpm
1930s?: Andy Iona 252 bpm !! Reissed on Fair Hawaii: Andy Iona vol. 6 from Cumquat Records (Australia)
1930s?: Lena Machado w/ Dick McIntire ca. 110 bpm. Reissued on John Marsden’s compilation Tickling The Strings: Music of Hawaii 1929-1952 (Harlequin Records HQ CD-28)
1950s?: Bill Lincoln, Waikiki 45-507.  126 bpm ‘ōlapa strum
??: Bill Lincoln. 90 bpm. A different track, reissued on the CD Nightclub Hula Hawaiian Style
1958: Hawaii Calls ca. 140 bpm. Hula: Island Favorites (Capitol T-0987)
?? Catamaran Boys with Mona Joy 124 bpm. Hawaiian Holiday (Aamco ALP-330)
1971:  Kahauanu Lake Trio,  108 bpm. He Aloha No ‘O Honolulu (Hula HS-533)
1974:  Leinaala Haili,  126 bpm. Hiki No (Lehua SL-2037)
1974:  Kawai Cockett 126 bpm, ʻolapa strum. Kuu Makuahine Nani (Lehua SL-7013)
1974:  Hui ʻOhana, 108 bpm. Ke Kolu (Lehua SL-7012)
1976:  Aloha Pumehana Serenaders,  104 bpm. Hula Gems (Poki SP-9013)
1977:  George Helm, 112 bpm.  At the Gold Coin (Gold Coin Records)
ca. 1977:  George Helm, A True Hawaiian (HanaOla 3000) 72 bpm
1977:  Nā Keonimana, 126 bpm. A Musical Delight (Poki SP-9026)
1982:  Dean Lum, 160 bpm. Falsetto Style (DLP-1286)
1990:  Kapena, 152 bpm. Satisfaction Guaranteed (KDE-1019)
1991:  Hawaiians Unlimited,  intro = 108 bpm / song = 160 bpm. Hawaiians Unlimited (Bluewater BW-935)
1992:  Brother Noland & Tony Conjugacion, ca. 86 bpm. (Tiki Talk 31167)
1994:  Keola Beamer, 92 bpm, instrumental. Wooden Boat (Dancing Cat 38024)
1996:  Russell Mauga, 96-100 bpm. He Kakahiaka Nani E (Shell SH-2004)
1997:  Kanilau, 84 bpm. Kanilau III (Nani Lawai NLR-0333)
1998:  Ku / Mau / Recaido, 144 bpm, ʻolapa strum. Mele Hula (M& 1104)
2000:  Brother Noland, 108 bpm. Hawaiian Inside (Tiki Talk TTK-8102)
2001:  Cindy Combs, ca. 96 bpm, instrumental. Slack Key Lady (Dancing Cat 38041)
2001:  Nahenahe, 108 bpm. Nahenahe (MKC 002)
2002:  Apela, 132 bpm. My Hula Baby (Poi Pounder PPR-7010)
2003:  Richard Ho‘opi‘i, 88 bpm. Ululani (Mountain Apple MACD-2096)
2004:  Clyde Halema‘uma‘u Sproat,  108 bpm, ‘ōlapa strum. Nā Mele Kupuna (Pololu PP-2004)
2008:  Ku‘uipo Kumukahi, 112 bpm. E Ku‘u Lei E Ku‘u Ipo (Ululani UR-1001)
2008:  Kalae Miles, 112 bpm. Ho‘opono (Aumakua AR-004)
2008:  Ledward Ka‘apana & Mike Ka‘awa,  ca. 74 bpm. Force of Nature

Other recordings that I do not have access to (at least at the moment):

3D, In Living Color
Ala Nui, Ala Nui
Aloha Nā Limahana, Aloha Nā Limahana
National Symphony of Hawai‘i, The Sounds of Hawaii
Vera Hussey-Forbes, Hawai‘i, My Heart
Jesse Nakooka on Jesse, Emma & Kukui Serenaders
Ka‘eo, From My Heart
Nā Kane Nui, It’a a Miracle
Ocean Side Band, Keep on Dancing
Uncle Sol, Hawai’i Aloha

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