New Books on Hawaiian Music and Hula — 2012

Take note!! Lots of new knowledge dropping.

Aloha America: Hula Circuits through the U.S. Empire, by Adria L. Imada. Duke University Press, 2012.

This book first came to life as Imadaʻs doctoral dissertation in American Studies at NYU, and it is now published as a book. To quote from the back cover:

Aloha America reveals the role of hula in legitimizing U.S. imperial ambitions in Hawai’i. Hula performers began touring throughout the continental United States and Europe in the late nineteenth century. These “hula circuits” introduced hula, and Hawaiians, to U.S. audiences, establishing an “imagined intimacy,” a powerful fantasy that enabled Americans to possess their colony physically and symbolically. Meanwhile, in the early years of American imperialism in the Pacific, touring hula performers incorporated veiled critiques of U.S. expansionism into their productions.

At vaudeville theaters, international expositions, commercial nightclubs, and military bases, Hawaiian women acted as ambassadors of aloha, enabling Americans to imagine Hawai’i as feminine and benign, and the relation between colonizer and colonized as mutually desired. By the 1930s, Hawaiian culture, particularly its music and hula, had enormous promotional value. In the 1940s, thousands of U.S. soldiers and military personnel in Hawai’i were entertained by hula performances, mamy of which were filmed by military photographers. Yet, as Adria L. Imada shows, Hawaiians also used hula as a means of cultural survival and countercolonial political praxis.

Imada’s meticulous volume joins a fairly short list of rigorously researched and interpreted scholarship.

We Go Jam: How the Music of Hawai’i Shapes Who We Are, edited by Susan Yim. Hawai’i Council for the Humanities, 2012.

Hot off the press, available at Native Books Hawai’i. This collection of short pieces complements the programming by the Hawai’i Council for the Humanities at the 2012 Hawai’i Book and Music Festival. The Council presented a series of panel discussionss under the title “Aural History: How Music Shaped the Culture of Hawai’i.”

To quote from the back cover:

This collection celebrates our music, our soundscape, our Hawai’i through the “voices” of many of the Islands’ leading writers and musicians. Through memoir and essay, poetry and lyrics, fiction and oral history, they capture how Hawai’i’s music has shaped who we are and continues to shape who we are collectively and individually.

The ‘Ukulele: A History, by Jim Tranquada and John King. University of Hawai’i Press, 2012.

Hailed as “the most thoroughly documented research in to the history of the ‘ukulele” and “a gift of enduring scholarship,” this volume is the product of years of research. The late John King was a classical guitarist who taught at the college level, and who pursued his passion for ‘ukulele as a recording artist and author. He maintained an erudite blog, and together with collaborator Jim Tranquada, they published several articles that served as tantalizing hints of the book. There is extensive documentation of the arrival of Portugese luthiers in Honolulu in 1879. and the popularity for the little instrument modified from European models. Of the 178 pages of narrative, 135 pages bring the story from the 1880s to the 1930s, with astonishing details of recording artists and pivotal events. This is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in Hawaiian music in general, as well as the ‘ukulele in particular.

Ukulele Heroes: The Golden Age, by Ian Whitcomb. Hal Leonard Books, 2012

IMPORTANT: This book is NOT about the ‘ukulele in Hawaiian music; it is about ‘ukulele artists of note who worked in popular music generally. Nevertheless, the book will be of interest to ‘ukulele students for its fascinating stories. The writing is not academic, but that does not compromise the density of information presented. Here are excerpts from the blurb on the back cover:

Ukulele Heroes begins with the story of how the uke came to the United States from Hawai’i, inspiring a Tin Pan Alley song craze. We then meet, from the 1920s Jazz Age onward, heroes such as Ukulele Ike, Johnny Marvin, Wendell Hall, Roy Smeck, May Singhi Breen and Arthur Godfrey, followed by the British contingent led by George Formby and Tessie OʻShea–who later guested with the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. . . . Whitcomb describes how, as a 1965 British invader coming off a Top Ten hit, he ruined his rock heart-throb career by taking out his old Martin uke to record a 1916 novelty “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go with Friday on Saturday Night?” . . . The story of the golden age of the uke is brought up to date with an account of how todayʻs craze came about and is built to last forever.

Ian Whitcomb is the author of several books on the history of popular music, and several collections of music arranged for ‘ukulele.

The Hula, by Jerry Hopkins. Revised edition. Bess Press, 2012.

First published in 1982, this is a reissue that has been edited to address issues of accuracy and consistency lacking in the original edition. It is a general history of hula from ancient times right up to 1980. The basic historical chronicle compiled by Hopkins has not yet been superceded, hence the commitment by Bess Press to make this book available again. Disclaimer: Bess Press did secure all rights to the text and all illustrations.

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