Sun, 13 January 2013
The post is inspired by my friends Claudia Goddard and Wanda Certo - each of whom have requested specific songs or albums since the launch of Ho’olohe Hou just a few days ago. Together they inspire a new theme/segment for Ho’olohe Hou which we will call “By Request“ (both because it as a common disk jockey turn of phrase and the title of a classic album by Hawaii’s “first lady of Hawaiian music,“ Genoa Keawe). I think of this as sort of a public service for those seeking more music by their favorite artists or hard-to-find songs. Mahalo for the inspiration, Claudia and Wanda!
Wanda Certo writes because Kihei and Mapuana de Silva will be exploring the song “Makapu’u Lighthouse” in an upcoming hula seminar, but few recordings of the song were ever made. I am aware of two.
A version by Genoa Keawe first appeared on the 49th State Records LP from the late 1950s, “Rhythm of the Islands” - a compilation album comprised of tracks by various different artists. This album - like most of the 49th State catalog - was out of print for many years. But “Rhythm of the Islands” - and numerous other 49th State label albums - have recently been reissued direct to MP3 by Cord International/Hana Ola Records courtesy of Michael Cord. You can find these recording on iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody, and other download services, or if you are “just browsing,” members of Spotify can listen to these for free as part of their monthly subscription fee. Sadly and with complete honesty and no malice aforethought, I cannot recommend these reissues because of their sound quality. Notice that I repeatedly refer to them as “reissues” and not “remasters.” This is because despite that Hana Ola Records was previously known for its diligence in bringing less than pristine masters up to more modern standards, in most ways the latest MP3 reissues sound no better than their vinyl originals - complete with clicks, cracks, pops, and scratches. The version I give you here comes from one of these reissued MP3s but not until I personally made an attempt at improving the quality.
The other version remains out of print - but shouldn’t be due to its historical importance. Kekua Fernandez’s version of “Makapu’u Lighthouse” dates to the early 1980s and was only ever available on cassette - which, for the most part, accounts for its poor sound quality (which I have also attempted to remedy). The album “Ka Momi O Ka Pakipika” is nonetheless a treasure. If we divide Hawaiian music into two camps - the music in the style aimed at tourists, and the kind one hears in backyards all over the islands - Kekua and his friends and family - great names of Hawaiian music such as Leilani Sharpe Mendez, Violet Pahu Lilikoi, Ainsley Halemanu, Noe Kimi Buchanan, John Lino, and steel guitar legend Billy Hew Len - play the backyard music that tourists will rarely hear as well as the songs that have long ago been forgotten such as “Makapu’u Lighthouse.” Of these Hawaiian music legends, only Noe and Ainsley remain and carry the torch of this pleasing old style. And “Ka Momi O Ka Pakipika” was one of only two full length albums released under Kekua Fernandez’s leadership. This is why it is all the more the pity that it has not been made available digitally for the next generation.
I needn’t tell you what “Makapu’u Lighthouse” is about since it is sung in English. But like many mele pana - or place songs - it extols the virtues of a locale that is very special to the Hawaiian people. I was excited to receive Wanda’s request because the lighthouse is a place very special to me and my family, too. The hike to the peak which is home to the lighthouse is breathtaking, and the observation deck of the lighthouse offers unparalleled views of Waikiki. It is a place we love so much that an entire wall in our home is dedicated to its splendor - including the photograph that accompanies this post. It is no doubt difficult to appreciate at its current resolution, but proudly I say that it was taken by my wife, Cherylann.
So, what, you ask, did Claudia request? More next time…