on my mind: record labels

Iʻm kind of in limbo right now . . . between Honolulu last week, sitting in Ann Arbor right now, and getting ready to return to Honolulu again this coming Thursday . . . crazy-kind. Last weekʻs trip involved intense crate-digging at Jellyʻs–Kakaʻako and Aiea–and Book-Off– Ala Moana and Windward.

In the 10 days at home, I decided to revisit my CD collection of Polynesian musics outside Hawaiʻi, mostly Tahitian, with a fair dose of Maori, smatterings from Samoa, Tonga, Rapa Nui, and a handful of outliers. Some interesting dynamics going on in the world of CDs. Each of these places has local record labels that showcase local entertainers. In Tahiti: Manuiti, Oceane, Studio Alphonse, among others. In New Zealand, Viking, Kiwi and Tangata feature Maori and other Pacific musics, while Flying Nun is internationally recognized for showcasing New Zealand rock groups.

But each place is also a “destination” for the kind of record companies that compile series of sonic travelogues. “Air Mail” is a ubiquitous label whose signature visual image consists of the alternating red and blue stripes taken from airmail envelopes–surely an anachronism in this age of text-messaging and priority mail. The music is usually stereotyped and hackneyed. The Allegro Corporation has made a practice of packaging the same playlists on different “labels” with different artwork. Artists are usually not identified; it is the place name that is the discsʻ selling point. Or an alluring island beauty in full dance regalia.

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Then there are the scholarly ethnographic issues, again packaged and labeled by place rather than artist. Two major companies are Arc and Pan.

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Cool stuff, and I am grateful to have a few moments to reconnect.

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