Sun, 23 November 2014
Continuing our look at Haunani Kahalewai and the short-lived Hawaii Calls TV program…
Of the scant 26 episodes of the TV version of Hawaii Calls (which ran during the 1965-66 season), Haunani appears in more than half of them. With national recording contracts – first with Capitol, then with Decca – and her weekly appearances on the radio version of the show for nearly seven years at this point, Haunani was by that time a household name on par with Alfred Apaka before her. And host Webley Edwards capitalized on her fame by featuring her on the TV show as often as possible.
Haunani’s repertoire for Hawaii Calls mirrored the set list for her weekly engagement in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s Monarch Room. And one staple of her set was the Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs’ swinger “`Auhea `Oe.” If you are a frequent reader/listener of Ho`olohe Hou, then perhaps you heard Papa Alvin sing his own composition before in concert with his sons Norman and Barney. But I did not tell you much at all about what the song means. But do I really need to? Like so many of his compositions, here Alvin again dabbles in kaona (layers of poetic meaning or metaphor) to craft a song which reminds us where cuddling can lead. Except for the most part the kaona is not so discreet after all:
E huli mai ‘oe / You turn to me
Kūpono iho / Rise up and go down
I luna i lalo / Up and down
ʻIʻo ia nei / This is true love
Āhē nani ʻiʻo no / True love so beautiful
The English-language lyric – with its “yacka hicky” gibberish and reference to Chattanooga, Tennessee – is obviously not a translation of the Hawaiian. But, more surprisingly, its focus on the hula – still a curiosity on the mainland U.S. when this song was written – belies the original Hawaiian lyric’s more intimate nature. The song is a natural for Haunani who plays it relatively straight except for a bounce, a smile, and an occasional eye roll.
The group that performed with Haunani in the Monarch Room was – like Alfred Apaka’s group – comprised largely of members of the Hawaii Calls band including steel guitarist Barney Isaacs who always plays his solo differently (as evidenced by comparing the version here with the version from Haunani’s live LP, The Voice of Hawaii). But the TV version benefits from a second guitar solo – this one likely from Pua Almeida as that is certainly his jazzy style.
While Haunani made many appearances on the few episodes of the Hawaii Calls TV program, she often repeated her signature songs on multiple episodes. I have mentioned previously that the producers made some curious choices throughout the show’s history, and this is no exception: While they used the same pre-recorded audio track of the same song, they often filmed the visuals in two different locations. There is an alternate video of “`Auhea `Oe” in which Haunani is in a park strumming an `ukulele as she sings for a pair of hula dancers, but it uses the exact same audio track as the clip you see here. Again, this speaks to host Edwards’ assumption that mainland audiences would never know the difference – that if they had never seen the visual before, they would never know they were hearing the same song twice only a few weeks after the first time they heard it.
I hope you are enjoying seeing and hearing Haunani again. But as she did her best work on the radio version of the show, and as there is just so much material there to mine, we return now to closing our eyes and letting our ears do the seeing for us.
Next time: More of Haunani from the late 1950s and early 1960s from the live radio broadcasts…