Thu, 30 October 2014
If Aunty Genoa entered the new decade with the delightful Hula – Volume One, surely fans must have posed the question… What happened to Hula – Volume Two? While there was never a follow-up album by precisely that title, I would argue that some of her fans think they own it regardless.
In 1992 Aunty Genoa went back into Commercial Recording in Kaka`ako for a series of shorter recordings – still then available only on cassette tape – with some (but not all) of the members of her regular working group of that era – including John Lino at the piano, Violet Pahu Liliko`i on bass, and Peter Ahia on guitar. The result was a dozen more classic tracks which were released as three cassette tapes of only four tracks each. But why? Because Side One of each cassette featured Aunty Genoa singing four of the songs, and side two of each cassette featured Aunty Genoa not singing the same four songs. Crazy, huh?
Crazy like a fox! These twelve songs across three cassettes represent Genoa Keawe’s ingenious entrée into the world of karaoke. All the rage at the time, karaoke, a neologism formed by combining the Japanese kara (meaning “empty”) and ōkesutora (meaning orchestra"), is a form of entertainment in which ordinary citizens (i.e. not professional singers) try their hand (or vocal cords) at singing popular favorites to recordings of those songs with the original vocal track removed. Later versions of the karaoke machine, invented in the 1970s but which only took off when restaurants and bars purchased these in droves to fulfill the 90s crazy, played the vocal-less audio track while simultaneously flashing the lyrics to the songs on a screen (a la the “bouncing ball” from conductor Mitch Miller’s Sing Along With Mitch television program of the early 1960s). But this would not be possible until karaoke machines transitioned from the cassette to the CD which could handle other kinds of data besides music.
But Aunty Genoa likely had a far more important mission in mind when she conceived of Sing Along With Auntie Genoa Keawe. With this series of cassette releases, she could teach a new generation of Hawaiians to sing Hawaiian songs and sing them correctly. All one needed to do was follow the lyrics inside the cassette’s “j-card” (the technical term for a cassette’s liner notes since removing them from the cassette box reveals that they are folded into the shape of a “J” to fit inside the bend-able case) and listen – carefully – to Aunty Genoa’s impeccable pronunciation. (This is a concept that dates back to the Music Minus One series of the 1950s on which legendary jazz musicians created recordings with and without the lead singer or instrumentalist in order for budding Frank Sinatras and Charlie Parkers to cut their teeth in the privacy of their own garages and basements.)
There were three cassettes in the series, but if we were to take just Side One of each of these and put them into a single release, for most Genoa Keawe fans this was Hula – Volume Two – the logical follow-up in style and substance to Hula – Volume One. But whether you think of them as one recording or three, they qualify for “OOPs” status (an “OOP” being a treasured “Out of Print” recording that we believe it is a mistake to keep out of circulation) for any number of reasons:
When speaking of “OOPs,” I often say that it is not a qualification of an “OOPs” that the recording be old. There are many fairly recent recordings that are for whatever reason no longer available. Aunty Genoa’s karaoke cassettes were only released in 1992 – barely 20 years ago – but are out of print nonetheless. Interestingly, these fairly recent recordings are so rare that the only references to them on the Internet point back to previous editions of Ho`olohe Hou.
While only a low-resolution MP3 copy of even lower-resolution cassette tapes, I hope you enjoy these rare recordings of Aunty Genoa and group performing “Ke Ala O Ka Rose,” “Wahiikaahuula,” and “Aloha Ka Manini.”
Next time: Aunty Genoa celebrates her Diamond Jubilee by entering the digital era with her first two CD releases – produced (most curiously) by a Japanese production company…