Wed, 13 August 2014
In 1983 Robert and Roland – known collectively as the Brothers Cazimero – released a forgotten classic of contemporary Hawaiian music. Among Cazimero releases, “Proud Family” was a bit of a “sleeper” which did not contribute all too many songs to their “Best Of” collections or frequent fan requests. (The LP is probably best remembered for the radio hit “Tropical Baby” and for their cover of Ken Makuakane’s “Maui On My Mind.”) What “Proud Family” did not feature was all too many of Robert and Roland’s more radical takes on a traditional Hawaiian song. Almost every Cazimero release up to this point had taken one or more staples of the Hawaiian canon in which the duo consciously infused their unusual (and still then considered unorthodox) influences from rock, jazz, or other musical idioms. But “Proud Family” was fairly straight-ahead Hawaiian music for its time – perhaps even (by Cazimero standards) a little behind its time.
Robert and Roland chose not one, but two of Auntie Alice’s compositions for the sessions that led to “Proud Family” which are offered up in this segment of Ho`olohe Hou. One can only wonder if Robert and Roland were in the studio reflecting on Auntie Alice’s accusation that they were “bebopping the music” when they arranged the songs – one in a rather traditional mode (almost exactly as it was written) and one almost nothing like Auntie Alice composed it.
Auntie Alice composed “Hanohano No `O Hawai`i” for the Hawai`i island float in the 1958 Kamehameha Day Parade. In her own words, “Now they all want me to ride float, so I will make a new song for it.” In this mele, she extols the beauty and pride of her home island. If there is anything unorthodox about the Cazimero recording of “Hanohano No `O Hawai`i,” it is not merely the use of the 9th chord throughout (instead of the expected major chord). It is more importantly and strikingly the end of each verse. Auntie Alice wrote something very typically Hawaiian at the end of each verse – a chord progression from secondary dominant to dominant to tonic (or V7/V-V7-I, or in the key of F, G7-C7-F). But Robert and Roland do something more rhythm-and-blues oriented with this section – a progression of Bb7-Ab6-F9. This is not unlike something you might hear Howling Wolf or Muddy Waters (or, later, Keith Richards) play. I have spent 30 years wondering what Auntie Alice thought about this. But something tells me that Robert and Roland know. Despite Auntie Alice’s private and public admonishment of the directions in which the young lads were taking Hawaiian music, the Brothers Cazimero continued to grind the past and the future against each other to find an acceptable evolutionary compromise. We understand now that this was their unique role in the history of Hawaiian music.
The brothers take a far less confrontational approach to Auntie Alice’s “Aloha Ko`olau” which she composed while taking a drive with her nephew from Punalu`u down O`ahu’s windward coast. Parsing out the mele, students of the Hawaiian language might be quick to believe that the lyric is filled with the poetic technique known as kaona – or veiled meanings – and that this is not merely a song about a drive, but also a love song. But those who knew Auntie Alice have pointed out that she exclaimed repeatedly that her songs mean exactly what they say – that her compositions did not possess kaona unless she said they did. And perhaps her response in itself was the kaona since the true spirit of that art form dictates that only the composer will ever really know who and what the song are about…