Sat, 5 January 2013
If a tree falls in the woods and there‘s no one around to hear it, does it still make a sound?
So many greats of Hawaiian music have passed unceremoniously from this life into the next. Sometimes all we remember are their names because their music has been of so little importance - at least commercially, since record companies are businesses, after all - their voices and the magical sound of their hands upon the instruments they mastered has been lost forever - gone with the demise of the vinyl record, never to see the light of day on a CD or an MP3.
To say that Hawaiian music has been a huge part of my life would be an understatement. Hawaiian music has been my life. Hawaiian music filled my home before I was born. My father is still a much called upon steel guitarist. My mother danced hula and played the bass. I was born into a home steeped in Hawaiian music. With instruments lying about the house, I learned to play ‘ukulele, slack key guitar, steel guitar, and bass. I learned to sing falsetto songs in the Hawaiian language by listening to the numerous Hawaiian music recordings stacked in dusty corners in the basement and the attic. And I researched the stories behind the songs in order to better understand them. The conundrum is that - try as I might - I cannot find anyone in my lineage who was of Hawaiian descent.
Over the last 40 years, I have amassed more instruments and more Hawaiian music recordings - many rare and out of print. I began making an annual mecca (and sometimes more often than that) to Hawai’i to learn more about this unique music and culture and to meet my heroes of Hawaiian music. The most beautiful thing about pursuing my interest in Hawaiian music has been the amazing friends I made. The more lovers of Hawaiian music I chatted with, the more I understood that there was no small number of treasures from my Hawaiian music collection that few in Hawai’i had ever heard. The advent of the internet made it possible to share these recordings with my friends in Hawai’i. And so six years ago - on a Twelfth Night in 2007 - I decided to launch a blog and a podcast which I dubbed - with the assistance of Hawaiian language expert Keith Haugen - Ho’olohe Hou, which means “to hear again.” The goal was to entertain and educate at the same time - a sort of NPR version of a Hawaiian music radio program. The show quickly gained a following - particularly among musicians in Hawai’i. But the program was immediately fraught with difficulties. On the personal front, producing a two-hour radio program each week actually took me in excess of 20 hours. I had no idea what I was doing, and the bulk of that time was spent on my learning curve and on remastering from archaic recording formats to make the music presentable for the 21st century. And then a number of friends and fans suggested that what I was doing was not entirely legal because of the complex web of copyright law - a web that has yet to be untangled. Fearing repercussions, I gave up the ghost after only nine episodes.
Then, a brief reprise for Ho’olohe Hou in August 2007 in the form of Las Vegas-based internet radio station 50th State Radio. Through that medium, my show could be broadcast legally and all royalties and mechanical licensing fees paid to musicians and composers. I was relieved, but that relief was short-lived. After producing and airing only an additional two dozen episodes, I learned that the station’s owner passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. And amidst the sadness, 50th State Radio and Ho’olohe Hou passed with him.
Finally, one more go at it. At the urging of ethnomusicologist Dr. Amy Ku’uleialoha Stillman, in August 2009 I started the blog again but not the podcast while podcasting royalties were still in a state of uncertainty. I quickly realized that writing a blog about music without being able to hear the music was like doing an interpretive dance about a fine dining experience.
So, why now? What’s changed? The thousands of recordings in my vast and ever-growing Hawaiian music collection are like so many trees in a dying forest. Here they sit, collecting dust in a mausoleum of Hawaiian music which is situated - most ironically - in New Jersey. They do not make a sound. Unless I spin one of them, alone - in which case they make a very lonely sound. Facebook was in its infancy when I last maintained Ho’olohe Hou. Although I was not a fan from the start, Facebook has become an invaluable tool for keeping in touch with my friends in Hawai’i on a daily basis and - much to my surprise - for making new friends who love Hawaiian music as deeply as I do. Whenever I post clips of forgotten Hawaiian songs and artists to my Facebook page, the “LIKES” are innumerable. I have also spent a considerable amount of time researching the concept of “fair use” of copyrighted materials for educational purposes. Fair use guidelines are not really “guidelines” at all. Any use of copyrighted material is subject to scrutiny by the copyright holder. However, there are a number of tests of what constitutes “fair use.” Most of these almost anyone can comprehend and abide by. The quantity of material shared publicly by an artist or composer in the name of “fair use” should be a bare minimum. The less shared, the more likely it would be deemed “fair use.” The material shared should not compete with material available commercially. This means that in order to be considered “fair use,” the material should not be available for purchase elsewhere - potentially jeopardizing the livelihood of the arists. The material should not be able to be retained by the listeners, such as through a download. This would surely violate the previous tenet of supposed “fair use” material competing commercially. And the material used as a “fair use” example for educational purposes should ultimately educate through critique or criticism of the music or artist - which had been the goal of Ho’olohe Hou from the beginning.
So, this is a new beginning, and this is my charter for Ho’olohe Hou: This blog and related Facebook page will continue to be dedicated to the preservation and sharing of rare Hawaiian music. Examples of music by artists and composers will be shared in the smallest possible quantities with an emphasis on music no longer commercially available so that no artists’ livelihoods are jeopardized through these efforts. However, occasionally more recent music samples may be necessary to illustrate the continuum - or juxtaposition - of the past and present of Hawaiian music. For this reason all music samples will be shared using a proprietary player which does not promote the downloading and offsite saving of this music so that these efforts do not compete with music which may still be commercially available. All music samples will be posted for the sole purpose of illustrating the various aspects of Hawaiian music and its evolution and will be accompanied by appropriate critique or commentary to provide each music sample with the appropriate historical context. And any parties claiming to be the artist or owner of the copyright of these materials may request to have samples of their work removed from this blog, and all such requests will be honored - no challenges, no questions asked.
Most importantly, I hope this will be the longest post on this blog for the here ever after.
I do hope that the intersection of the blog (hosted by Liberated Syndication, or Libsyn) and Facebook will serve as a springboard for stimulating discussion of our mutual interest: Hawaiian music. In the coming days, in addition to music posts, I will begin to jot down my ramblings about the themes I hope to explore here. If there are themes or artists you would like to hear more about or from, drop me a line at email@example.com.
Here’s hoping this grand experiment is a success once and for all. Mahalo for the continuing privilege and honor of contributing to the colorful and varied history of Hawaiian music and the entertainment industry in Hawai’i.
As I used to say to begin each week’s program… It’s time for more music and memories of Hawai’i. This is Ho’olohe Hou. Are you listening?
Me ka ha’aha’a,
Hawaiian Music Enthusiast
Category:Announcements -- posted at: 11:37pm EST