Mon, 3 November 2014
Iva Kinimaka’s debut LP (1972’s eponymously titled Iva) featured the sound prevalent on record and in Waikiki showrooms during that period. Like Emma Veary’s LPs (and, for that matter, her live act) of this same period, Iva employed a larger orchestra complete with horns, strings, and even a harp. And it featured a mix of old school traditional Hawaiian songs, a traditional Japanese song, and a country-western hit, but very few compositions by contemporary songwriters (and only one, in fact, from Iva’s own pen). He followed it up a few years later with Swinger of Waikiki (for California record label Kolopa) which demonstrated that Iva was changing with the times. But it would be a decade before Iva would find the song and the sound that would “stick.”
Just as the ocean heats up and cools off more slowly than the land surrounding it, Hawai`i’s tastes in music have historically run the same way. Hawai`i embraced reggae in the 70s (a decade after the mainland U.S.) and its taste for the style still haven’t waned. Likewise, Hawai`i embraced disco in the 80s (years after the mainland U.S. had decried it as the most vile form in the history of music, even by those who were boogieing down under a mirror ball just a few years earlier). So while Iva Kinimaka’s disco-flavored release Just Singing It All may have been a little late for the rest of the world, it was just in time for local Hawai`i audiences. But it was a non-disco-flavored outlier that put Iva permanently on the map and earned him his rightful place in Hawaiian music history – an original that he wrote for his daughter, Chamonix. Since covered by more than a dozen artists as diverse as slack key guitarist Keola Beamer and sumo-wrestler-turned-singer Konishiki but with the most popular turn being taken by the Peter Moon Band, Iva struck a kind of gold that has no diminishing returns with the ever popular “He Aloha Mele.”
Arranged by guitarist Jimmy Funai (formerly of the Buddy Fo group but who was a recording session first-call through the 70s and 80s and who is still active today), “He Aloha Mele” – with its jangly acoustic guitars, vibes, and cooing female backing vocals – was a lullaby-like hint of calm in the sea of drum machines and synthesizers that was pervading Hawaiian music in the 1980s. (Actually, this one cut is reminiscent of Iva’s debut LP.) Despite that it remains a staple of such local Hawai`i radio stations as Hawaiian 105 KINE and that those living within earshot of a radio in Hawai`i can’t go a day without hearing it, I thought it was worth hearing again here – especially in contrast to his more disco-oriented take on the Sol K. Bright standard “Oni Aka Moku,” the modern sound that characterizes most of the rest of this album.
Next time: Some of Iva’s friends – and songwriting partners – do well for themselves on record and in Waikiki showrooms too… Plus more of the history of the local entertainers who graced the nightclub and showrooms of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel… And was Hawaiian music completely moving away from its roots in the 1970s?…