Thu, 31 January 2013
George Manoa Huddy III was born January 31, 1927 in Kapa’a, Kaua’i. Little is known - or, at least, little is documented - about Huddy’s life and work. All we have are his beautiful compositions, and there are even too few of those at that.
If you are a fan of Hawaiian music, you have no doubt heard one or more of George Huddy’s compositions and didn’t even know it. Of the handful of songs he composed, most were instant classics and are still performed today. It seemed only appropriate on his birthday to share some of these songs so that those who might hear this will forever after associate the songs with George Huddy’s legacy. And while I would often tell you a great deal about the songs and the artists, on this occasion I am going to let all of that remain a mystery that unfolds when you press the “PLAY” button. For the most part, the voices should be as familiar as the songs.
This may be an opportunity for our readers to share your remembrances of George Huddy with your blogger. If you knew George Huddy or his family, I would love to learn more about a man whose work I admire so much and ultimately share any discoveries about him here on the anniversary of Huddy’s birthday next year.
Wed, 30 January 2013
There are some songs in the vast Hawaiian canon that are too rarely heard and even less often recorded. While there are Hawaiian standards that have been recored literally dozens of times, if we scour the song folios dating back 100 years, some of the most beautiful lyrics and melodies have been recorded a scant once or twice. Many have never been recorded at all.
The contribution of Charles E. King - whose birthday would have been celebrated yesterday - as composer, collector, and publisher of Hawaiian songs cannot be underestimated and cannot be covered in a blog post or even a week’s worth of blog posts. So we will return to his legacy when time and space permit. But for now, suffice it to say that King published at least two invaluable folios of Hawaiian songs. Both titled as “King’s Songs of Hawaii,” they are referred to affectionately by Hawaiians by the color of their covers - the “Blue Book” and the “Green Book.” “Ka Hana Ia A Ke Aloha” is one of these lovely oft forgotten King compositions.
Another out of print classic by Kihei Brown - whose birthday we also celebrate today - is the Hula Records release “Right On Keia” on which Kihei and his trio give us a stirring rendition of “Ka Hana Ia A Ke Aloha.” As I listen, I am looking at the score of “Ka Hana Ia A Ke Aloha” in my 1950 edition of King’s “Green Book,” and the “stirring” is more the work of the composer than the trio who reproduce the composer’s intentions pretty faithfully. One might think that the dramatic changes in tempo are a feature of the arrangement. But the score indicates that the tempo changes are a feature of the composition - interpreted just as King notated them in the score. It is these tempo changes that create the “drama” in what is otherwise a vaudevillian chord sturcture.
Kihei Brown’s version of this song was the only one to be heard for more than 40 years. But then enter the young Hawaiian music group known as ‘Ale’a who recorded “Ka Hana Ia A Ke Aloha” for only the second time for their 2004 CD “Kaulupono.” Who is to say whether or not the gentlemen of ‘Ale’a ever saw the Charles E. King score of the song? So we are left to ponder whether their stirring rendition is the result of faithfully adhering to the score or following the recorded example set by Kihei Brown and his trio 40 years earlier. (Because Hawaiian music is part of a larger oral tradition, many Hawaiian songs are handed down simply by hearing and repeating rather than by the printed sheet music - which in many cases does not even exist.) In either case, the group recognizes the vaudevillian character of the chord changes and plays them up with the addition of the piano - ably handled by Aaron Sala in the unique tradition of Hawaiian-style piano discussed here previously.
What better way to connect past and present then hearing two versions of the same song by two different artists recorded nearly 40 years apart? And what better way to celebrate the birthdays of Kihei Brown and Charles E. King?
Wed, 30 January 2013
Thomas Kihei Desha Brown was born January 30, 1925 into the very musical Brown family of Hilo, Hawai’i. His musical career began by singing with the famed Haili Choir of Hilo which spawned two groups: the Hilo Kalimas and the Hilo Hawaiians. With both of those groups - both family affairs including cousins Bunny and Buddy Brown - Kihei became best known for his beautiful falsetto voice.
Like many other Hawai’i artists of the 1950s and 60s who were making a splash beyond its borders - Alfred Apaka, Haunani Kahalewai, Charles K.L. Davis, and George Kainapau come to mind - Kihei and the Hilo Hawaiians were signed to a mainland recording contract with Decca Records. The upshot of such an arrangement is that while the recordings these artists made with such a prominent label received worldwide exposure, ironically very few of the records were shipped to the islands. So while you will find Hilo Hawaiians LPs in flea markets and swap meets across the U.S., you would be hard pressed (no pun intended) to find one in Hawai’i…
…Except for one. Kihei and the Hilo Hawaiians made one album in 1960 for an organization - Hawaii Hosts - that promoted tourism in the wake of Hawai’i’s then recent statehood. Early pressings of “Honeymoon in Hawaii” were accompanied by tourist information and a 40-page booklet filled with pictures of “paradise.” The combination of music, images, and words were enough to send anybody to their nearest travel agent. The question is how was this recording distributed? Record stores? The tour company? It is a question worth pondering because there would seem to be more copies in circulation of this one recording from Hawai’i than any other. In any record store on the mainland U.S. - from Los Angeles to New York City to Lincoln, Nebraska - you will unearth not one, but several copies of this gem. Fortunately for all of us - through a labor of love - “Honeymoon in Hawai’i” is again available on a beautifully remastered CD. According to a Honolulu Magazine article, John Tsukano, Jr. personally financed the rerelease of this classic recording in honor of his father who had produced the original recording. After his father’s passing, John found the master tapes among his father’s things. And given that “Honeymoon in Hawaii” had recently been named one of the 50 all time greatest albums of Hawai’i by Honolulu Magazine, John knew that it was his obligation to the group and to his dad to bring the music back again for a new generation. The first song you hear - “Nani Waialeale” - is from one of many well worn and loved vinyl copies of the album I have amassed over the years. (I have so many copies that I could open my own record store and stock it with only this record.) The song features the steel guitar of Arthur Kaua.
“E Hilo Nani E” is from one of the Hilo Hawaiians’ two Decca Releases - “Memories of Hawaii” - and features Kihei Brown’s beautiful and lush falsetto. Both this and the other Decca LP - “The Splendor of the Islands” - remain out of print.
Like the two Decca Releases, the Hilo Kalima‘s “Your Musical Trip Around The Island of Hawaii“ (besides possibly winning the award for Hawai‘i LP With The Most Syllables In Its Title - I‘ll have to check on that!) also received distribution across the country and around the world. Hula Records - the oldest continuously operating record label in Hawai’i - frequently licensed its master tapes to other labels to further the distribution of Hawaiian music. Recordings by Gabby Pahinui, Eddie Kamae, Genoa Keawe, and the Hilo Kalmias - to name just a few - were licensed to London International Records. So you will find titles such as “Your Musical Trip“ with both a Hula and a London label. “Kona Hema” is taken from that LP and was so popular that it also appeared on the Hula Records compilation LP “Hawaiian Stars.” Notice the use of the ‘ukulele as the lead instrument here. This was a rather new concept in Hawaiian music which ushered in the 1960s - a trend led by such ‘ukulele wizards as Eddie Kamae and Jesse Kalima who felt that Hawaiian music did not necessarily require a steel guitar to be considered “Hawaiian.”
I can locate a half dozen Kihei Brown releases, but only one - “Honeymoon In Hawaii” - remains in print in any format. This is so very sad given Kihei’s talents and contribution to Hawai’i. But this also means you’ll be hearing more from Kihei Brown on Ho’olohe Hou, and soon…