By Request - Makapu’u Lighthouse

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…

Direct download: Makapuu_Lighthouse_-_Two_Versions.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:43pm EST

Telephone Hula

Our tour of Hawaiian songs which reference the telephone ends with two versions of the sad song which by its very title implicates the device in a romance that ends badly.

In Hattie K. Hiram’s composition, “Telephone Hula,” an unanswered telephone signals a love that has gone astray. Like an episode of “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” our spurned lover sets out on foot in a huff to find out just where their partner has gone and who they might be with - except that unlike our previous example (“Aia I Kohala” - see last Ho’olohe Hou post), in this case it is the woman who has been unfaithful. The song - and Kimo Alama Keaulana’s translation - read as follows:

Ai `auhea, ai iho `oe, ai a ka po nei

Ai a ka tele, ai a ka fona, ai e `uhene ana

Ai i laila, ai aku wau la, ai kou wahi

Ai a ka pa’a, ai a ka puka, ai a aka laka `ia

Where were you last night?

When the telephone was ringing

I was at your place

And found the door securely shut

And it only goes downhill from there. But this song merited its own post for a number of reasons beyond the lyric content.

For starters, this is not the first incarnation of the song. A little research reveals that there was an earlier incarnation of the song - by the same composer - entitled “Aia A Hone Ana.” Sonny Cunha is known by some as the composer of the Yale Fight Song (“Boola Boola”) and by others as one of the father’s of modern Hawaiian music because of his penchance for incorporating the complex rhythms and harmonic structures of the jazz idiom into his arrangements of traditional Hawaiian songs. But like his contemporary Charles E. King (also mentioned in the previous post), Cunha is also known for gathering and publishing Hawaiian songs into some of what are the earliest commercially available folios of Hawaiian music. Here is a link to the 1914 edition of Cunha’s folio “Famous Hawaiian Songs” - fortunately available to all of us free of charge courtesy of the Google Books project. This link is indexed directly to the page where “Aia A Hone Ana” appears from which you can see that the lyric shares much in common with the song it became, “Telephone Hula,” but with a considerably different melody.

The two versions presented here - recorded nearly 40 years apart - show the evolution of the presentation of a Hawaiian song - the relationship of traditional Hawaiian music with what is most often called “contemporary Hawaiian music.“ The first is a mostly traditional approach to “Telephone Hula” recorded for the 49th State Records label in the early 1950s by Genoa Keawe and her musical mentor, John Kameaaloha Almeida, both of whose voices you hear. Like much of the music on this label, this version of the song at first appears to be intended for the hula - the verses threaded together with the two measure instrumental interlude often called the “vamp” which signals the end of one verse and the beginning of the next. But then we are surprised by a full instrumental chorus - a slack key guitar solo (one of the earliest on record). With the appearance of the instrumental break, this can no longer be considered music for the hula since the movements of the hula dancer follow the story told by the lyrics.  In short, no words, no hula.  But in almost every other facet most would consider this traditional Hawaiian music.

Now listen to the version from the 1990s by the venerable Makaha Sons. On several occasions I have had the privilege of sitting and chatting with the Makaha Sons’ musical mastermind, Dr. Louis “Moon” Kauakahi - endless hours spent better understanding Hawaiian music and his approach to it. In light of the Makaha Sons becoming - over time - a name synonymous with Hawaiian music around the world through their exhaustive touring, Moon once explained to me his philosophy of arranging for the broader world audience. He felt that the presentation of the song - the arrangement - should mirror musically what the lyrics were trying to say - especially for audiences that do not speak the Hawaiian language.  Essentially, Moon was saying that if the lyric spoke of passion, the music itself should be passionate; if it speaks of humor, the music should be equally humorous; and if it speaks of mischief, the music should be mischievous, too. Moon said the same a few years later to author Jay Hartwell in his book, “Na Mamo.” “I try to let the audience understand the meaning of the Hawaiian words by the feeling of the music itself,” Moon said. “If the audience can feel what the song is, they have more or less translated the song - into much more than what it literally meant.“ There are few better examples of this than the Makaha Sons’ arrangement of “Telephone Hula” - which is clearly not intended for the hula. Instead of the vamp (typically, in the hula ku’i song form, a II7-V7-I chord progression, or A7-D7-G in the key of G), Moon opts for something starkly different. As an intro, ending, and even in place of the expected “vamp” between verses, Moon utilizes a steady bass line - in the key of D - with an alternating pattern of D-major and A-minor chords and a melody of his own creation focused on the 7th and 9th tones of the scale. What does all of this mean to the listener? Well, listen for yourself. The alternating D-major and A-minor chords establish the mystery. You might hear the same in the soundtrack of a BBC-produced episode of  Sherlock Holmes or even “Murder, She Wrote.” The 7th and 9th tones pose a question because they do not offer any musical resolution. “Resolution” is the musical concept that songs or sections of songs come to some point of completeness that the human mind understands - even if one does not consciously understand harmonic concepts. As music is comprised of cycles of tension and release, resolution, then, is the musical feeling of relief or release - that there is nothing more to follow. 7th and 9th tones typically indicate movement from one chord to another. 7th and 9th chords are typically not a beginning or an ending; they are a transitional tool, a means-to-an-end. With this repetitive chord progression alternating between major and minor and the question posed by 7th and 9th tones, like the great classical composers Moon has set up the listener for a mystery that may never be solved. And what of the pahu drum that punctuates the introduction and is heard throughout? Could it be the incessant pounding on a door that goes unanswered? Or frantic footsteps in the night in search of the missing? This is Moon Kauakahi’s genius.

And with this stroke of genius Ho’olohe Hou concludes its weekend-long examination of the telephone in Hawaiian music.

Direct download: Telephone_Hula_-_Two_Versions.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:41pm EST

Whom Shall I Say Is Calling?

As Martin Short used to say in his recurring role as Ed Grimley on “Saturday Night Live” whenever the phone would ring, “The phone has such a sense of mystery to it, I must say.” He was so frightened of whoever might be on the other end of it and what they may have to say that often he ended up just letting it ring - never answering it at all.  As we’ve learned from “Downton Abbey,“ such is the angst that came with the installation of the first telephone: Who knows if it rings for good or bad? In this continuing series on the telephone in Hawaiian music, we find examples of both in songs that span more than a century of Hawaiian song.

The earliest reference to the telephone in Hawaiian song that I could locate dates back to the Hawaiian chant form. “Aia I Kohala Ka’u Aloha” may be found in Mary Kawena Puku’i’s book “Na Mele Welo.” A love chant set in the district of Kohala on the island of Hawai’i (often incorrectly referred to as “the Big Island”), it is also the first reference in Hawaiian song to the telephone as a harbinger of bad news. I use the term harbinger since - like Ed Grimley - we cannot be sure if the fear that the singer’s lover - and husband of her six children - has taken a new lover results from some gossip shared via the telephone or if it was because our singer was calling her lover incessantly and - like Ed Grimley - he never answers. The chant says…

Na ke kelepona au i ha`i mai

Ua noho hope `oe no ko lei

It was the telephone that told me

That you are again with your darling

…before - as the chant goes on to say - tears begin to fall. This is the beauty of Hawaiian song:  More often than not, it insinuates - not states - leaving any number of interpretations to the listener.  Because this mele ho’oipoipo -or love chant - may date back more than 100 years, one would be hard-pressed to find a recording of it. However, it was performed as recently as 2005 at the Merrie Monarch Festival by Maile Francisco of kumu hula Sonny Ching’s Halau Na Mamo O Pu’uanahulu - a performance so inspired that it garnered Maile the coveted titled of Miss Aloha Hula. I encourage you to check out the performance here.

Alice Rickard wrote “Kaimuki Hula” some time between 1928 and 1942. How do we know this? The song appears in one of many volumes and printings of  “King’s Songs of Hawaii” compiled by composer Charles E. King. Ethnomusicologist Amy Ku’uleialoha Stillman explored these invaluable volumes with me - explaining that there were numerous editions of these over the years, not all of which contain the same songs. My copy of King’s “Green Book” dates to 1950. In it, the reader can clearly see when songs may have appeared in multiple volumes because they receive multiple copyright dates. Most songs in my edition have a 1942 copyright, but those that were published previously and which appear in an earlier volume also have a 1928 copyright date. So I am essentially triangulating the date of “Kaimuki Hula” based on its most recent copyright date and the copyright dates of other songs appearing in this volume.  The song speaks of an affair which was supposed to have been a secret but which likely wasn’t - as evidenced by the recurring refrain hu ana ka makani e, which means “the blowing of the wind” but which is no doubt a Hawaiian-style poetic reference to gossip. There is a mention of the telephone here too:

He aha nei hana a ke kelepono la

Ke kapalulu nei o ke aumoe la

Is that the sound of the telephone?

Ringing so early in the morning?

This is likely a reference to the lovers arranging a meeting at an hour when nobody is likely to hear the details of their impending rendezvous. There are too few versions of this song, but I chose to share one by Myrtle K. Hilo from her album “The Singing Cab Driver” which is still available for purchase or download.

My second favorite composer of Hawaiian songs (I dare not rank them, but I have a most favorite which I will talk about at length in due time) is the legendary Lena Machado. Dubbed “Hawai’is Songbird” because of her powerful voice, Auntie Lena is best remembered as a songwriter who composed both rollicking uptempo numbers filled with kolohe - playful or even naughty - wordplay and love ballads worthy of Cole Porter and Richard Rogers - occasionally in English, but more often in the Hawaiian language. Lena was also a foremost exponent of Hawaiian music - traveling around the world as an ambassador of Hawai’i and its unique culture. My favorite Lena Machado composition is entitled “Aloha No.” Now, let us not confuse the meaning of “no” in English and its sound-alikes in almost every other language which typically mean “no,” “not,” “negative” or “opposite.” In Hawaiian, “no” is a modifier, an intensifer - like an adverb - which means “really,” “truly,” or “a whole hell of a lot.” So “Aloha No” might be translated as “This is the real deal!” According to the the book “Songbird of Hawai’i” by Pi’olani Motta and Kihei de Dilva, “Aloha No” is one of many songs Auntie Lena wrote for her husband, Luciano. It dates to 1949 when one of her many tours took her to San Francisco and away from Uncle Lu - for while he had previously been one of the musicians in Lena’s traveling group, Lu was by this time staying behind at home to care for the children. (In this way her family life - like her music - was most progressive.) Auntie Lena simply couldn’t sleep without Uncle Lu beside her side, and the song speaks of their frequent telephone conversations in which she longs to know that he can’t sleep either.

Ho`ohihi ko`u mana`o ea

I ko leo ma ke kelepona

E haha`i ana i ko moe `ole i ka po

My thoughts are caught up

By your voice on the telephone

Telling me of your sleepless night

I love that this is the rare Hawaiian song which promotes the use of the telephone as an instrument of keeping love alive when two are apart. And yet it has been too rarely recorded. There are versions by Tony Lindsey in the 1960s, Robert Cazimero in the 1970s, and the most recent version by Ata Damasco in the 2000s. But I share with you a version by Kanilau from their out-of-print CD “Ka Lihi `O Ka`ena.” My mind shoots to this version because of my recent exchanges with one of Kanilau’s members, kumu hula Tiare Noelani Ka`aina, who inspires her friends and followers daily on Facebook.

And finally, the latest entry I could find in the catalog of Hawaiian songs referencing the telephone - this one with words from P.K. Kuhi and music by Ken Makuakane. “Aia I Waimanalo Ko Nu’a Hulu” appears to be at the same time a modern love song and one of the continuing cycle of chants for Queen Kapi’olani. (And I confess to having difficulty researching this, and so I have called on none other than Ken Makuakane for assistance. I will update this post with any new information.) It would at first blush appear to be another of the many Hawaiian songs of illicit affairs of the heart with its references to entrancing thoughts, the royal flag which flutters proudly, and traversing a forbidden sea (references to the sea and sea spray being among the most common references to love-making in Hawaiian poetry).

‘Iniki welawela a ka ‘ehu kai

Lamalama ‘ula i ka lani ali‘i

Li‘ili‘i na hana a ke kelepona

Ha‘iha‘i ‘olelo me ka huapala

You felt the sharp pinch of the sea spray

That are brightened by the beauty of royalty

It takes only a minute by telephone

To start a conversation with a sweetheart

Here again the reference to the telephone is likely as an agent in brokering the meeting that will end in delight for those on both ends of the line. This song can be found on Ken Makuakane’s beautiful 2010 CD release “Kawaipono” - available at the iTunes Store or wherever Hawaiian music CDs are sold.

Are there other references to the telephone in Hawaiian song?  Indeed, there is one more of which I am aware. A story for another time - very soon.

Direct download: Telephone_Songs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:27am EST