Playlist for MUS 478B: Betty Tatar’s “Periods” of Hawaiian Music History

The publication of Hawaiian Music and Musicians: An Illustrated History (edited by George S. Kanahele) in 1979 marked a significant milestone. Under the auspices of the Hawaiian Music Foundation, Dr. Kanahele marshalled the efforts of dozens of authors and contributors to create an unprecedented encyclopedic volume. Among the scholars involved was Elizabeth Tatar, then a UCLA doctoral student working on her Ph.D. dissertation on Hawaiian chant. (Dr. Tatar now chairs the Department of Anthropology at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.)

In the introductory essay titled “What is Hawaiian Music?” Tatar engaged the question that continues to occupy Hawaiian musicians and fans alike, right up to the present. Tatar’s measured commentary was expressly NOT an attempt to answer the question, but was intended to map the range of criteria that made such a question the challenge that it is. Revisiting this essay over the years has continued to inspire conversation, and it has informed my own scholarship immensely.

Tatar organized her thoughts into a perspective of seven historical PERIODS, using influences from outside Hawai‘i that have impacted the practice of Hawaiian music.  It is sobering to realize that that kind of “taking stock” and “synthesizing an overview” exercise that produced the framework of Tatar’s presentation has not yet been superceded in publication. I have been working on a major project, but it is as yet unpublished. Honolulu magazine will be running a major article by senior writer Michael Keany in the November 2011 Holiday issue–look for it on newsstands!! But in the meantime, Tatar’s 1979 essay remains the most substantial exercise in fashioning an overview across all of Hawaiian music, from oli to local protest songs of the 1970s.

This Playlist is offered as a very cursory selection of soundtracks to accompany Tatar‘s 1979 essay. It is compiled first and foremost for the students in my Hawaiian music course at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. But it is also shared here because it was a sobering moment to realize that this particular essay, in its attempt to synthesize all of Hawaiian music, remains the “go-to” essay for scholars.

Note: The descriptions of each Period below are direct quotes from Tatar‘s essay. My Playlist selections incorporate Tatar’s suggestions.

Period I  (1820-1872)

[This period] represents the span between the arrival of the missionaries and the establishment of the Royal Hawaiian Band by Henry Berger. During this period there were two major musical genres: hymns and secular music. Visitors brought by the heavy sea traffic introduced stringed instruments: bass viol (brought by the missionaries), violin, guitar, and other instruments such as the piano, accordion, and flute. Ships’ bands performed popular songs, solo band pieces, and dance pieces, one of which, the waltz, was to make a marked impression on Hawaiian music. Visiting musicians, or “minstrels” as they sometimes were called in the newspapers, enjoyed attentive audiences. The church music was of American origin—unadorned, soulful, sober New England harmony. Secular music came from a surprisingly varied array of European and Asian sources: from Mexican, Italian, and German instrumental and vocal ensembles to Burmese singers.

Period II  (1872 – ca. 1900)

[This is] the time of Henry Berger, the Royal Hawaiian Band, and the royal music clubs . . . Pianos and zithers accompanied the prolific compositions of royalty. The common folk embraced the guitar . . . A new and very important music appeared—the hula ku‘i.

1.  “Ua Like No A Like,” performed by Thomas Carter and Kaai Glee Club. xxx. Reissued on The History of Hawaiian Music, ed. Yuki “Alani” Yamauchi.

2.  “Waialae,” performed by M. Harry Clark and Kaai Glee Club. xxx. Reissued on The History of Hawaiian Music, ed. Yuki “Alani” Yamauchi.

3.  “He Manao He Aloha,” performed by Kalamaʻs Quartette.

4. “Paahana,” performed by Mme. Riviereʻs Hawaiians [Rose and Tau Moe]

Period III  (ca. 1895 – ca. 1915)

This marks the beginning of the era of American urban music. Ragtime seeped into Honolulu and engulfed it. Hawaiian quintets, composed of a typically Hawaiian combination of strings, were in great demand as dance bands. In 1903 Sonny Cunha composed “My Waikiki Mermaid” with English words to an accompaniment of ragtime piano and hapa haole music was officially launched. The ‘ukulele was discovered.

5.  “My Waikiki Mermaid,” performed by Waikiki Hawaiian Orchestra.

Period IV  (ca. 1915 – ca. 1930)

A period filled with] “jazzed-up” Tin Pan Alley versions of hapa haole  music spread to mainland America, inspired by “On the Beach at Waikiki.” Johnny Noble followed with “Hula Blues.”

6. “On the Beach at Waikiki,” performed by Waikiki Stone-Wall Boys.

7.  “Hula Blues,” performed by Johnny Noble & His Hawaiians.

Period V  (ca. 1930 – 1960)

This is a golden age to many people. Hapa haole music had become Big Business. Full orchestras added a slick Hollywood sound to Hawaiian songs new and old. Radio, movie, and television coverage was at a peak. Large hotel showrooms across the Mainland featured Hawaiian revues with Hawaiian musicians who left Hawai‘i to make it in show biz. Mainland musicians adopted Hawai‘i and composed a new brand of big-band hapa haole music. The compositions of Harry Owens, Don McDiarmid, and Alex Anderson attained great popularity in Hawai‘i and on the mainland.

8.  “Sweet Leilani,” performed by Harry Owens.

9.  “Sweet Leilani,” performed by Bing Crosby.

10.  “Lovely Hula Hands,” performed by Dick McIntire & His Harmony Hawaiians.

11.  “Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai,” performed by Alvin Kaleolani & His Royal Hawaiians.

Period VI  (1960 – 1970)

[A period] characterized by a lack of interest in Hawaiian music. On Hawaiian radio, the amount of Hawaiian music played dropped to a dismal 5 percent. Rock and roll dominated. The music of Kui Lee and Don Ho became very popular in the islands and on the mainland.

12.  “Tiny Bubbles,” performed by Don Ho & The Aliis.

13.  “E Lei Ka Lei Lei” (Beach Party Song), performed by Don Ho & The Aliis.

14.  “The Days of My Youth,” performed by Kui Lee.

15.  “Iʻll Remember You,” performed by Elvis Presley.

Period VII  (1970 – present)

America’s social problems of the 1960s led to an avid search for ethnic identity in “accelerating urban envionments” in the 1970s. The movement on the mainland was reflected in Hawai‘i by an energetic revival of old (from the late 19th and early 20th centuries) Hawaiian music. The Sons of Hawaii and the Sunday Manoa with its “Contemporary Hawaiian Folk Music” led the revival.

16.  “Kawika,” performed by The Sunday Mānoa.

17.  “Waikiki Hula,” performed by Sons of Hawaii.

18.  “Ka Lae O Ka’ena,” performed by Sons of Hawaii.

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1 Response to Playlist for MUS 478B: Betty Tatar’s “Periods” of Hawaiian Music History

  1. Amy, Elizabeth’s choosing of the arrival of Berger for period II has always bothered me. I’ve always felt that the development of the hula ku’i and ‘olapa forms more signficant as they came from within, and were not marked by the arrival of a foreign form. Yes, it’s easier to date Berger’s arrival, but I’ve always felt that the syncretism of Hawaiian language with western musical styles more significant. Yes, there were the hymns, but feel like that is a shallower superimposition of Hawaiian language over not only western music but western perspective (Christianity). Your thoughts?

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