Sun, 6 January 2013
Hawai’i musician Keith Haugen and I agree on practically everything. One of these many things is that one of the great voices from Hawai’i of all time belongs to the lovely Wainani Kanealii Yim.
In the mid-1960s, Wainani recorded her one and only solo album - Songs of the Pacific - for the Sounds of Hawaii label. Featuring music of Hawai’i, Tahiti, New Zealand and beyond, the album continued to stretch the boundaries of Polynesian music. During this period, Hawaiian music continued to evolve to include elements of the burgeoning sound of rock-and-roll, and this is evident in the production of Paul Mark - a staple of the Sounds of Hawaii label - and the often hip arrangements of Lydia Wong. For example, it was still unusual to hear the sound of the slack key guitar atop the “snap” of the snare drum. The result is an exquisite melding of the traditional and - a term that had not been coined yet - contemporary Hawaiian music.
On this recording, Wainani’s voice is joined by those of Lydia Wong and Iwalani Kahalewai. And the slack key guitar is none other than at the hands of “Atta” Isaacs of the famed musical Isaacs family of Hawai’i. I love the song you hear here - Maddy Lam’s composition “Ke Anuenue” - because it incorporates all of these elements - the voices in typical Hawaiian harmony, the slack key guitar, and the gentle nudge of the drum kit. This song - as the rest of the album - signals a new era in the music of Hawai‘i.
Not too long ago I would have bemoaned that this beautiful album is no longer available. But Lehua Records - owner of the Sounds of Hawaii catalog - has been working diligently to make these recordings available again rather expediently - direct to MP3. Fortunately for all of us, Songs of the Pacific is now available from iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody, and Amazon.
And why Wainani, and why today, you ask? Because just yesterday Auntie Wainani celebrated a birthday. Hau’oli La Hanau e Wainani! And mahalo for your beautiful music.