Posts Tagged ‘SONGS’

PostHeaderIcon SONGS: Gabby Pahinuiʻs recordings of “Hiʻilawe”

In the last post I pointed to early printings of the mele “Hiʻilawe”–in a 1902 songbook (where the mele appears with two different tunes) and in the newspaper Ke Aloha Aina in 1906.

The song is now forever associated with singer/kī hō‘alu/steel guitarist Gabby Pahinui. He recorded it in the 1940s, then again in the 1970s. And most recently it has come back around again in the soundtrack to the motion picture The Descendants (2011).

There are at least five different recordings of “Hiʻilawe” by Gabby Pahinui. In chronological order, they are:

1. 1947: A 78rpm recording on Aloha Records (Aloha 810). This is the recording excerpted on the opening track of the 1972 LP Gabby (the “brown” album); the first two verses of “Hi‘ilawe” segue into “Lū‘au Hula.” The 1947 track is reissued in its entirety on four compilations:

The History of Slack Key Guitar (HanaOla HOCD-2400, p1995)

Aloha Hula Hawaiian Style (HanaOla HOCD-26000, p1995)

Legends of Falsetto (HanaOla HOCD-35000, p2000)

Territorial Airwaves (HanaOla HOCD-56000, p2004)

2. 1949: A 78rpm recording on Bell Records (LKS-505). This recording has reappeared on the folioing compilations:

Hawaiian Masters Collection Vol. 2 (Tantalus TR-1003, p1993)

Show Biz Hula (HanaOla HOCD-22000, p1995)

Lei of Stars (HanaOla HOCD-31000, p1998)

Yuki ‘Alani Yamauchi presents The History of Hawaiian Music (Office Sambinha RICE OSR-405, p2001)

Twilight in Hawaii (Sounds of the World SOW 90203, p2002)

3. 1961: from a series of recording sessions at Central Union Church. Those tracks and an insightful interview was released on the LP Pure Gabby (Hula HS-567) in 1978. This is the version of “Hiʻilawe” that is heard in the film The Descendants, and on its soundtrack album.

4.1972:  The complete song appears on the LP  (the “brown” album): Gabby (Panini PS-1002). This track was included on the compilation CD Pure Hawaiian (Quiet Storm QS-1010, p2001).

5. 1974: A live performance at the Waimea Music Festival, on the LP Waimea Music Festival (Panini PS-1006). This track was reissued on The Panini Collection (Panini Records 39476-2016-2, p2004).

Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure

PostHeaderIcon SONGS: Hiilawe [Hi‘ilawe]

Dear Readers, it has been a month since my last post. I have not been idle; like so many others, I am struggling to stay afloat in the riptides . . . Like so many others, I mourned Whitney Houstonʻs untimely passing; like so many others, I was thrilled to wiyetness Adeleʻs triumphant return to the microphone. All the while I continue to make progress on my discographical adventures . . . and promise stories to come. But in the meantime, here is an offering on a well-known song, “Hiʻilawe.”

The song is legendary, and for many fans, the renown of the song rests on the legendary recordings by Gabby Pahinui. His 1947 recording of the song has appeared on numerous anthologies and compilations within the past 20 years.

Letʻs look at some of the earliest sources of the song. Several months ago, one of the members of the amazing team of folks working on the Ho‘olaupa‘i newspaper digitization project posted an exciting find on Facebook: a letter dated April 13, 1906, and published in the newspaper Ke Aloha Aina on April 21, 1906, with the lyrics to “Hiilawe Song.”
















Although the letter writer is one “O. K. Poniaulani,” at the end of the song is the statement: “This mele is composed by Samʻl Kalainaina in the year 1892.”




1906 was not the first year that this mele appeared in print. This mele appeared in a songbook titled Songs of Hawaii, compiled by A. R. “Sonny” Cunha and published by Bergstrom Music in 1902. And even more fascinating: the mele appears not once, but twice in that songbook, set to two different tunes, with attributions to two different authors.

Bishop Museum Ethnomusicologist Betty Tatar first called attention to finding “Hiilawe” in this songbook, and mentioned this in the entry on “Hi“ilawe” on pages 125-6 of George Kanaheleʻs encyclopedic volume Hawaiian Music and Musicians (1979). Nerdy student that I was, I went to UH Hamilton Library and Bishop Museum Library (at that time), and looked up these songbooks. Sure enough–two different melodies, two different author attributions; both arrangements copyrighted 1902.

In the course of a series of IM conversations two years ago with Bill Wynne, he located in Google Books a copy of Cunhaʻs 1914 compilation titled Famous Songs of Hawaii, which I had reported in one of my earliest articles (1987) to be an expanded edition of Cunhaʻs 1902 volume. I quickly logged onto Google Books, found the volume, and enjoyed a hearty laugh. The copy in Google Books was from Harvard College Music Library. Just inside the binding cover was the “Date Due” slip. The last five date stamps were 1985-1987. The borrower was none other than me, back when I was a graduate student!! I was indexing the songbooks back then, and my analysis of the songbook contents is what was written up in that 1987 article.

Click on the link I inserted in the last paragraph, and you, too, can see Harvardʻs copy of Cunhaʻs 1914 songbook. Youʻll find “Halialaulani” by Mrs. Kuakini on page 36, and “Ke Aloha Poina Ole” by Miss Martha K. Maui on page 39. Both songs are arranged by Sonny Cunha, and you can see for yourself the copyright notices dated 1902, registered to Bergstrom Music Co. of Honolulu, T.H.

A comment on the author attributions: it was then (and still is now) the convention in U.S. copyright registration of songs to privilege the author of the music over the author of the lyrics. So the attributions to Mrs. Kuakini and Miss Martha K. Maui must be read as crediting these two women with tunes that are, indeed, distinctly different from each other. The letter writer to the newspaper Ke Aloha Aina confirmed that the author of the mele lyrics is Samuel Kalainaina–an attribution that did not have a precisely understood location on the page in the context of common practice in copyright registration.

“Halialaulani” on page 36 has 26 lines in the mele. “Ke Aloha Poina Ole” on page 39 has 14 lines. Those 14 links correspond to lines 1-14 in “Halialaulani,” notwithstanding variants among minor grammatical particles. In the 1906 printing in Ke Aloha Aina, the mele has 26 lines, and they correspond with “Halialaulani.”

So here we have it, Dear Readers, another excursion through multiple sources of documentation that confirm a thriving practice–that a mele can have more than one tune, and that interest in at least these two tunes warranted their being notated, arranged and published in a songbook that carried these songs across oceans and continents, and the mele was sufficiently beloved to survive in performance and memory and resurface four decades later on a sound recording that is now canonized, lionized–and treasured.

Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure

PostHeaderIcon Queen Liliʻuokalaniʻs Songs — Looking for Recordings?

In 2010 there are several posts about archival sources for Queen Lili‘uokalaniʻs songs. It was on my mind to complement those posts with a post or two (or maybe more) about recordings. Here, at long last, is a roundup of some LPs and CDs that are prominently (or entirely) feature the Queenʻs songs.

Jack De Mello. The Music of Queen Liliuokalani (Kamokila K-700). circa late 1950s / early 1960s. Jack DeMello, historian, musicologist, arranger extraordinaire, and conductor. Mr. DeMello conducts arrangements for full orchestra that are based on the melodies in Lili‘uokalaniʻs manuscripts. While the arrangements are model examples of mastery in the craft of orchestration (for which there is so little opportunity nowadays to challenge contemporary musicians), these arrangements respect the tunes by framing, rather than overshadowing, the original source material. There are no vocals on this disc. However, we hear the tunes as Lili‘uokalani herself notated them. (Many of the orchestral arrangements reappear as accompaniment to recordings by Emma Veary.)

Charles K. L. Davis with the Kawaiaha‘o Church Choir, conducted by Daniel Akaka. Songs of Hawaiian Royalty (Royal RY-111). circa 1960s or early 1970s.  Charles K. L. Davis is an operatically trained tenor with experience in musical theater as well. So this recording reflects the spirit of mele Hawai‘i art songs as they were being premiered in the monarchy era: in concerts and recitals in Kawaiaha‘o church, featuring singers and instrumentalists known in the community as music teachers as well as performers, or featuring choral arrangements rehearsed by church choirs. This album showcases Mr. Davisʻs impeccable diction, and his vocal skill is enveloped by a tasteful choral enhancement delivered by the Kawaiaha‘o Church Choir. To my knowledge, tracks from the LP album have not be reissued. The LP appears from time to time on ebay.


The Galliard String Quartet. Songs of Liliuokalani (Wa Nui WN-4501, 1995). Instrumental arrangements for string quartet, performed by classically trained musicians who were members of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. Very pleasant.


Ozzie Kotani. To Honor a Queen: The Music of Lili‘uokalani (Dancing Cat 38018, 2002). An all-instrumental album of slack-key guitar arrangements. Quite a different vibe from the world of musicians trained in classical music and the environment of the recital hall (not a criticism; simply an observation). Slack-key guitarists are highly accomplished instrumentalists, and many have extended the tradition from traditional hula ku‘i repertoire into original compositions. Furthermore, the extensive documentation of slack key initiated by Dancing Cat Records in the 1990s, and the concertizing and touring in support of the CD issues, has brought kī hō‘alu slack key playing from its rural and informal roots into the concert hall world. So Ozzie Kotaniʻs sustained treatment of an entire group of Lili‘uokalaniʻs songs in slack key arrangements brings this repertoire into another artistic realm.

Ku‘uipo Kumukahi & The Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders. Nā Lani ‘Ehā, 2007. A project of the non-profit organization Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The group produces annual galas to induct accomplished artists into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame; they have mounted informative exhibits in Honolulu on Hawaiian music history; and they are involved in statewide discussions to establish a museum of Hawaiian music and hula. The four royal siblings–King David Kalākaua, Queen Lili‘uokalani, Princess Miriam Likelike and Prince William Leleiohōkū–known as “Nā Lani ‘Ehā” have been adopted as the organization’s patrons. This recording, then, is a tribute project, featuring vocalist Ku‘uipo Kumukahi accompanied by The Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders, who are Isaac Akuna, Joseph Winchester, and organization president James Kimo Stone. The song selections include songs not recorded in recent years, such as “Kīlaue” and “Wahine Hele La o Kaiona.”  The presentation here is guitar and ‘ukulele strumming in the vein of Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai‘i. The CD received the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Album of the Year in 2008.

A Tribute to Nā Lani ‘Ehā: Music of the Hawaiian Monarchy (Poki SP-9075, 2010). This tribute album features songs selected and presented by a range of popular artists currently active in Hawai‘i’s recording industry and entertainment scenes–Del Beazley, Manu Boyd, Teresa Bright, Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, Louis Moon Kauakahi, and Cyril Pahinui. While four of the six artists have released albums on the Poki Records label and its affiliate, Pumehana Records, all of the tracks featured on this particular album are newly-recorded. The song selections are, for the most part, well-known favorites. Kumu Hula Kawaikapuokalani Hewett contributes two of the most well-known hula ‘ōlapa chants that honor Lili‘uokalani–”Lili‘u E” and “‘Anapau.”

Lili‘uokalani (Legacy Hula Vol. 3). (Daniel Ho Creations DHC-80081, 2010). Queen Lili‘uokalani’s reputation as a gifted and revered songwriter is renowned. So much so that the phrase “Queen Lili‘uokalani’s songs” usually does not bring to mind the dozens of her mele compositions for hula, as well as the dozens, if not hundreds, of mele composed in her honor. This project is a window onto that facet of artistic activity that delves into Hawaiian-language newspapers and unpublished manuscript sources from the 1890s. The settings are contemporary, by kumu hula who are members of Kūlia i ka Pūnāwai (Kumu Hula Association of Southern California). This CD includes a set of four mele composed by Lili‘uokalani in honor of her husband, Gov. John Dominis, as well as two other sets of mele composed by others in her honor.

Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure

PostHeaderIcon Early Hapa Haole Songs

The term “hapa haole song” usually brings to mind songs like “Lovely Hula Hands” or “Beyond the Reef” or “Blue Hawai‘i.” These three songs all share the same format of text and tune. Hum this to yourself:

Lovely hula hands, graceful as a bird in motion
And the swirling winds over the pali, lovely hula hands, kou lima nani e.

Lovely hula hands, telling of the rain in the valley,
Say to me again “I love you,” lovely hula hands, kou lima nani e.

I can feel your soft caresses of your hula hands, your lovely hula hands.
Every little move expresses so I’ll understand all the tender meanings

Of your hula hands, fingertips that say aloha
Say to me again “I love you,” lovely hula hands, kou lima nani e.

If you simply look at the text with no reference at all to the tune, it looks like there are four stanzas.

But if you sing the tune, youʻll know that the first and second “stanzas” have the same tune; the third “stanza” is a different tune, and the fourth “stanza” returns to the tune of the first and second “stanzas.” Some musicians would say “verse-verse-chorus-verse” or “verse-verse-bridge-verse.” Music analysts will often use alphabets to represent each different section of tune; this format would then be represented as “A-A-B-A.” Each “stanza” often has the same length, and that length is most often of 8 measures, and the entire tune would be 32 measures long. This 32-measure “AABA” format is used extensively in American popular music of the 1910s and thereafter, and musicologists often refer to it as “popular song form” or “32-measure AABA popular song form.”

The overwhelming majority of hapa haole songs by R. Alex Anderson, Harry Owens, Don McDiarmid, Tony Todaro, Sol Bright, and others conform to this 32-measure AABA popular song form. (There are exceptions, which is why I wrote “the overwhelming majority of hapa haole songs”.) This song form comes straight from the American popular music publishing industry that flourished in New York City in the late 19th- and early 20th centuries. Now marked by a plaque at West 28th between Broadway and Sixth Ave., the district earned the nickname “Tin Pan Alley” from the sounds of songwriters and jobbers at work drifting out the windows of the concentration of publishers within a one- or two-block area.

The 32-measure popular song form dominates in the work of Tin Pan Alley songwriters the likes of Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, George and Ira Gershwin , Gus Kahn, and Harry Von Tilzer, among many others. After the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, when Hawaiian music took off on national popularity, Tin Pan Alley songwriters churned out Hawaiian-themed songs filled with gibberish pseudo-Hawaiian lyrics and maudlin stereotypes–songs like “Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula,” “My Isle of Golden Dreams,” “Ukulele Lady,” “Honolulu Iʻm Coming Back Again” and “Oh How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wacki Woo.” (!)

Many contemporary Hawaiian would like to bury this chapter of Hawaiian music history. But here are two reasons why this part of history cannot be cut off like a dead branch:

  1. Many of these songs were recorded by revered Hawaiian musicians. No less than Alfred Apaka recorded “Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula.” And Robert Cazimero teamed up with the The Makaha Sons to sing the most unforgettable rendition of “My Isles of Golden Dreams” wrapped sublimely around Helen Desha Beamerʻs “Pua Malihini.”
  2. The 32-measure popular song form from Tin Pan Alley was taken up by Honolulu-based songwriters of hapa haole songs like R. Alex Anderson (who wrote “Lovely Hula Hands” above), Sol Bright, Harry Owens, Jack Pitman–whose song “Beyond the Reef” practically defines the category of hapa haole song), and Tony Todaro, among others.

So the 32-measure popular song form in hapa haole songs has its roots in Tin Pan Alley songwriting. BUT . . . if we look earlier than 1915, the hapa haole songs written by Hawaiian songwriters that have endeared themselves are not in the popular song form. Get ready for this:  the iconic hapa haole songs of Sonny Cunha are in the format of hula ku‘i songs!! So is the song that fueled the Hawaiian music craze after its introduction at the Panama Pacific Exposition:  ”On the Beach at Waikiki.” Hum this to your self:

  1. “Honi kāua wikiwiki” sweet brown maiden said to me
    As she gave me language lessons on the beach at Waikiki.
  2. “Honi kāua wikiwiki” she then said and smiled in glee
    But she would not translate for me on the beach at Waikiki.
  3. “Honi kāua wikiwiki” she repeated playfully
    Oh those lips were so inviting on the beach at Waikiki.
  4. “Honi kāua wikiwiki” she was surely teasing me
    So I caught that maid and kissed her on the beach at Waikiki.
  5. “Honi kāua wikiwiki” you have learned it perfectly
    “Donʻt forget what I have taught,” said the maid at Waikiki.

Every stanza has the same tune. Just like hula ku‘i songs. Back up further to Sonny Cunhaʻs “My Honolulu Tomboy” of 1905, and the songʻs last verse is “Haʻina ʻia mai ana ka puana / She is my dear little sweet little Honolulu Tomboy” and every verse is followed by a “vamp.” These early pre-Tin Pan Alley hapa haole songs, written by Hawaiian songwriters, were distinguished from hula ku‘i songs solely by language. 

Just to be clear: I am NOT saying that all hapa haole songs after Tin Pan Alley are in 32-measure popular song form. I am also NOT saying that all hapa haole songs before Tin Pan Alley are in the format of hula ku‘i songs. What I AM saying is that the category of “hapa haole song” has evolved, from an early pre-Tin Pan Alley use of hula ku‘i format among many songs, to a post-Tin Pan Alley use of 32-measure popular song form among MANY songs.

Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure