Tue, 9 September 2014
Let’s continue to explore the innumerable compositions from the pen of the prolific Helen Desha Beamer…
The set opens with the unmistakable voice of Marlene Sai singing “Pu`uwa`awa`a,” a song Helen wrote for Mrs. Hannah Hind and her home at Pihanakalani. Like the Brown family of which Auntie Helen also wrote, the Hind Family was known for their love of entertaining family and friends. You might find numerous other Hawaiian songs written in their honor. “Pihanakalani” was the name of the Hind homestead – not to be confused with the Pihanakalani of Kaua`i, the mountainous region above Wailua River near the Wailua Fall which was home to that island’s ruling class in the days of the monarchies. This is from Marlene’s Hana Hou LP which – although once out of print for a very long time – is now available again as an MP3 download from iTunes, Rhapsody, and eMusic. (Fans of steel guitarist Barney Isaacs will be interested in this album since – despite being uncredited in the liner notes – Barney handled the steel guitar chores. Ironically, the vibes take the lead on this song, and the steel guitar is nowhere to be heard.)
Of the many voices Hawai`i lost too soon, perhaps my favorite – the one who has had the most influence on me as a falsetto singer in the modern era – is Sam Bernard. Here he performs Auntie Helen’s composition “Paniau” which she composed in honor of the seaside home of Al and Annabelle Ruddell who dwelled on the Kona Coast of the island of Hawai`i. This is from Sam’s 1986 Kahanu Records LP Mahie which – despite its influence on today’s falsetto singers – remains out of print. (Kahanu Records imploded shortly after this record was released – many of its artists losing access to their master tapes, most seized – so the rumor goes – by the IRS. We will no doubt get to the Kahanu Records story on this blog at some point. Until then, I hope y auditors are having a grand time enjoying Tony Conjugacion, Ho`aikanes, and Ka`eo.)
For the second day in a row I offer you a healthy dose of Nina Keali`iwahamana – this time with her family, singing sisters Lani and Lahela and even brother-in-law Joe Custino (Lani’s husband) on steel guitar. They sing a song that Auntie Helen wrote as a wedding gift for Charles Dahlberg – her soon to be son-in-law – and because Charles was a stranger to Hawai`i, Auntie Helen refers to him in the mele as “Pua Malihini,” or “stranger child,” which is also the title of the song. (Although “pua” is literally translated as “flower,” the term is most often used in Hawaiian poetry to refer to a person – especially a special someone. Now, go count the number of Hawaiian songs with “pua” in their titles.) Charles came to Hawai`i, met a lovely Hawaiian lady named Helen Elizabeth (Auntie Helen’s youngest child), fell in love with her – by most accounts, it was love at first sight for both of them – courted her, and ultimately took her as his bride. And from the moment he asked Helen Elizabeth to be his wife, she referred to him as “my darling.” Knowing this, Auntie Helen immortalized their love in song when she wrote, “Ku`u pua malihini, my darling.” But Auntie Helen wrote a song as a wedding gift for her daughter too: the Hawaiian standard “Kawohikukapulani,” a mele inoa (or name song) which refers to Helen Elizabeth by her Hawaiian name, Kawohi, a song which became a staple of Alfred Apaka’s repertoire. This recording is from the Hula Records LP – now CD and download – Na Mele `Ohana by the musical Rodrigues Family led by their matriarch, Auntie Vicki I`i. We will talk about this album at length at some point as the cover graces my wall because I consider it one of the twelve Hawaiian music recordings that changed my life and led me down my lifelong path of the pursuit of understanding Hawaiian music.
And, finally, Nalani Olds Reinhardt sings the lovely “Moani Ke Ala.” This composition represents a rare instance in which Auntie Helen only wrote the music; the lyric is by Mrs. E.A. Nawahi and honors Leimakalani Henderson and the home she shared with her husband Jim “Kimo” Henderson (mentioned yesterday and for whom Auntie Helen wrote “Kimo Hilo”) at Pi`ihonua in Hilo, Hawai`i. The song is from Nalani’s 1978 Pumehana Records LP simply entitled Nalani on which she is backed by some then youngsters who went on to become Hawaiian music stalwarts themselves – Haunani Apoliona, Eldon Akamine, Haunani Bernardino, and Aaron Mahi (who for some time held the esteemed position of leader of the Royal Hawaiian Band), or the group otherwise known then as Kaimana. The group is scarcely heard here on this selection as they are accompanied also by a string quartet. I last saw Auntie Nalani in September 2007, and she remarked at the time that she had not seen nor heard this LP since its release 30 years earlier. Hearing it again reminds me that I am overdue in keeping a promise to remaster this (and her second Pumehana Records release, `Elua, as well). In fact, this should bring me double joy as I happen to know this voice is a favorite of my good friend, Jason Poole, who has one song from Nalani in regular rotation on his iPod, the only song re-released on CD which appears on the compilation CD Hawaiian Classics.
Next time: The Brothers Cazimero honor Helen Desha Beamer. And if Helen was such an amazing singer herself, why haven’t we heard her voice?...