Sat, 29 November 2014
Readers will forgive me, I hope, if I am occasionally critical of the way that Hawaiian music and entertainment has (or hasn’t) been documented. It is the primary reason Ho`olohe Hou was launched: To attempt to correct the errors and oversights in documenting this critically important history for future generations.
The only encyclopedia of Hawaiian music, Hawaiian Music & Musicians, refers to singer/composer Iva Kinimaka in several entries. But in this same essential volume Iva’s tremendously talented and successful brother, Kalani Kinimaka, is not mentioned once – neither in the 1979 original printing (compiled by ethnomusicologist Dr. George S. Kanahele), nor in the 2012 update (edited by Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist John Berger). And I think to myself… How is this possible?
Kalani Kinimaka was an up-and-comer in the Hawaiian entertainment field in the early 1960s – palling around with such fellow up-and-comers as Kui Lee and Alex Kaeck (the latter another songwriter and arranger, formerly of Buddy Fo and The Invitations). Alex dubbed his friend “Prince” because of his somewhat loose connection to the last reigning dynasty of Hawai`i. (Kalani’s great-great grandmother was also the hānai – or adoptive – mother of King David Kalākaua.) Perhaps because of his affiliations with budding songwriters who were trying to capture the essence of Hawai`i’s youth in a trying time when maintaining ethnic identity in the aftermath of statehood was of paramount importance to that generation, Kalani leaned toward the Hawaiian entertainment scene’s more contemporary sounds. So it is somewhat ironic, then, that it was two Hawaii Calls regulars, Benny Kalama and Lani Custino, who encouraged Kalani to come over and do some guest appearances on a show which featured music nothing like what Kalani was performing elsewhere. But he reluctantly agreed to do a few guest appearances on the radio program between 1963 and ‘64, and by 1965, Prince Kalani was a Hawaii Calls cast regular – performing Hawaiian music in the style of yesteryear such as you hear in this set.
Although only a little over a decade old when Kalani Kinimaka performed it on this early 1960s appearance, “Lovely Hula Girl” harkens back to the hapa-haole style popular in the early half of the century. The song was co-written by Jack Pitman (who also gave us such hapa-haole classics as “Beyond The Reef,” “The Sands of Waikiki,” “Goodnight, Leilani E,” and “Lani” which honors Hawaii Calls’ own Lani Custino) and Randy Oness (the bandleader who gave Alfred Apaka his first job in show business as the “boy singer” with Randy Oness’ Select Hawaiians).
Although adopted by the Hawaiians as their own, “Sweet Someone” has its origins in Hollywood. The song was composed by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel in 1937 for the 20th Century Fox film Love and Hisses. Although the lyric content has nothing to do with island life, the feel of the song is not unlike hapa-haole songs of the previous era in Hawaiian music. The song landed in Hawai`i with the duo of Eddie and Betty Cole who recorded the song in 1959 and made it a staple of their sets when they were performing in Waikiki in the 1950s and 60s. Eddie Cole is the singing, piano-playing brother of the somewhat more famous singing, piano-playing Nat Cole. So I am compelled to point out here that a singer related to a king is performing a song made popular by a singer who was also related to a “King.”
Kalani would remain with the cast for a few more years – even appearing on some of Hawaii Calls late 1960s LPs. But he would go on to greater fame in the hotels and nightclubs of Waikiki in the 1970s – performing an eclectic blend of the Hawaii Calls-era Hawaiian music, light jazz, then current pop/rock, a few tunes from Brazil, and even a few of his originals. We will hear from Prince Kalani again when we continue to examine the Hawaiian entertainment scenein the 1970s…