Tue, 28 October 2014
As you likely already know, at Ho`olohe Hou an “OOPs” is not a mistake. In fact, it is just the opposite (because we speak our own language here). An “OOPs” is a very important recording of high quality that may be culturally or historically important but which is inexplicably no longer commercially available. “OOPs” is our short-hand for “Out of Prints” – those recordings that cannot be obtained in any modern format. They are the musical equivalent of the tree in the old “tree falling in the woods” analogy: There are plenty of us in the great big forest of Hawaiian music forest waiting to hear, but there is no sound forthcoming.
Such is the case with the first (of what are regrettably many) Genoa Keawe “OOPs.” In 1974, Genoa Keawe went into the studio with her then current working group – Val Kepilino on bass, John Lino on piano, Herbert Hanawahine on steel guitar, and the voices and `ukulele of Pua Rogers and Peter Ahia – to produce a record some consider a classic. All Time Hula Favorites featured more of what Aunty Genoa specialized in – as the title implies (as did many of her titles previously), music for the hula. What is conspicuous about this LP, however, is that while Aunty Genoa had years earlier started her own record company, GK Records, she and her group recorded this album for rival Poki Records. Perhaps GK Records was dormant through this period. Or perhaps Aunty Genoa was so busy with performing and touring that she could not wear the many hats that GK Records required of her. But whatever the reason, All Time Hula Favorites appeared on Poki for a brief shining moment on vinyl LP and has not appeared since. (Forget about CDs and MP3s for the moment. I do not even recall this album ever being released on an 8-track or cassette tape!)
Whenever we discuss “OOPs” here, I carefully elucidate the criteria I have used when affixing the moniker. And there are four very good reasons (even though I only ever need one good reason) why All Time Hula Favorites qualifies:
The record is considered so essential by some collectors that as of this writing there is currently a copy on eBay listed for $95.
Ho`olohe Hou lovea a good mystery. So until we discover why Aunty Genoa temporarily abandoned her own label (she did not record for GK Records for another five years in 1979) for a competitor, enjoy two of my favorite selections from this forgotten out-of-print classic: “Panini Puakea” (composed by Genoa Keawe’s mentor of years earlier, Uncle Johnny Almeida) and “Paliakamoa” (from the pen of falsetto singer and hula master Bill Ali`iloa Lincoln).
Next time: Aunty Genoa – already more than 30 years into her music career – finally resolves to wax a live recording, but the occasion for which it was intended was a bittersweet one…
Tue, 28 October 2014
On August 16, 1970, in the remote town of Hana (anyone who has ever been knows how difficult it is to get there) on the island of Maui, Hawaiian music offered up its first large-scale music festival. Featuring such popular artists of the moment as Gabby Pahinui, Eddie Kamae, and the Sons of Hawai`i, Sonny Chillingworth, Palani Vaughan, Kihei Brown, the Farden sisters, Leina`ala Haili, hula master `Iolani Luahine and chanter Ka`upena Wong, and – of course – Genoa Keawe, the Ho`olaule`a O Hana (or Hana Music Festival) was captured for posterity in the PBS documentary film Hawai`i Pono`i. It was a sight to behold – hundreds of appreciative fans making the trek to this remote town to hear the artists they rarely have an opportunity to hear (because the musicians were based on O`ahu and played the clubs in and around Honolulu). It looked like a sunnier, happier Woodstock, and both were held in the most unlikely of locations. But surely the Hana event lacked the scale of the New York state event that brought so many artists to rock-and-roll stardom.
A more Woodstock-like concert event would take place nearly four years later on May 19, 1974 at Paniolo Park in Waimea on the island of Hawai`i. The event still could not match the scale of the sheer numbers of Woodstock, but the location was easier to access than Hana, and so the event drew thousands. It was even more like Woodstock still in that music fans had to contend with winds, rains, and mud as the price of admission to hear Hawaiian music legends and for the glory of saying “I was there.” The Waimea Music Festival featured some of the same artists as the previous event in Hana including Gabby Pahinui, Sonny Chillingworth, and Genoa Keawe, but with the addition of then up-and-comers Dennis Kamakahi and a group that raised as many eyebrows as it garnered new fans to the Hawaiian music genre: The Sunday Manoa.
Even the name of the group was unlike anything that had come before it – a seemingly meaningless combination of English and Hawaiian words but which clearly had meaning to these young men (paving the way to similarly confusing group names as Kipapa Rush Band). But it was their music that set them apart. Multi-instrumentalist Peter Moon – a young master of the slack key guitar and `ukulele, but who brought to the Hawaiian music palate such interesting new sounds as the tiple and requinta – had been looking for a sound for many years with a number of different combinations of musicians. But he found pure magic – and similarly forward-thinking blokes equally interested in revolutionizing Hawaiian music – in a pair of brothers – Robert and Roland Cazimero. Together the irreconcilable force of The Sunday Manoa was a blessing in disguise which most conspicuously gifted Hawaiian music to a new generation of fans who may have lost interest in their history and culture – by cleverly and tastefully combining past and present, tradition and radical innovation – and almost single-handedly (or six-handedly) lit the spark that would become the inferno that has since come to be known as the “Hawaiian Music Renaissance.” They did it by combining every influence they had ever heard – from Hawaiian chant to chamber classical to the Rolling Stones – into a uniquely Hawaiian idiom. But while it all seems so tame now 40 years later, The Sunday Manoa were controversial in their time. Like the Richard Kauhis and Kahauanu Lakes that came before them, The Sunday Manoa deliberately experimented within the boundaries of tradition (and some would argue stepping over the line, and others still might say altogether erasing it), and the young men took heat for it both publicly and privately – publicly from the critics of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser, and privately from such guiding forces as Hawaiian cultural expert Alice Namakelua who supported the boys while trying to reign them in at the same time. You might say the group weathered the criticism like your typical fan weathered the Waimea Music Festival – the mud forever in their minds as they trudged forth with their next innovation, even after the untimely demise of the all-too-short-lived Sunday Manoa and their too few three albums, even as they split into the two new aggregations which with exponentially greater force would continue to rattle the foundations of Hawaiian music – The Peter Moon Band and The Brothers Cazimero.
What does any of this matter in the scheme of our story about Genoa Keawe? Aunty Genoa would not take her working group of that period to Hawai`i island with her for the festival in Waimea – perhaps because they could not get away from home for so long, perhaps because of the expense, or perhaps because there was a bounty of fine musicians awaiting her on her arrival. Instead, she would perform with whatever groups might already be there. Who knows if this was prearranged or if – in the Hawaiian style – she got off the plane, made the drive to Paniolo Park, got out of the car, and exclaimed, “Who’s going to back me up now, boys?” Either way, she ended up with a backing group that would create a whole new sound for and with her, the past and the future meeting literally and figuratively on stage for a brief shining moment and making magic. And fortunately for the Hawaiian music loving world, that magic would be captured on tape by Panini Records (the record label home of many of the festival’s artists), and so we can forever enjoy the unlikely pairing of Genoa Keawe with The Sunday Manoa.
When Ho`olohe Hou was a radio program, I featured an occasional segment I called “Precious Meetings.” In my mind, this moniker is appropriate for those rare moments on stage or in a recording studio when two artists that would seldom (perhaps never before or since) be captured together on tape and a historically important moment resulted. I think of such pairings as Nina Keali`iwahamana and Bill Kaiwa or Marlene Sai with Buddy Fo and The Invitations. The last time this blog offered such a pairing was January 2013 when Maunalua (a group which in its time should be considered as earth-shatteringly innovative as The Sunday Manoa) took their mentor Leina`ala Haili into the studio. The pairing of Aunty Genoa with Robert, Roland, and Peter prompts me to revive this segment for this unlikely combination of artists did result – like the unlikely combination of chocolate and peanut butter (mahalo e H.B. Reese) – in the quintessential “Precious Meeting.”
In this segment you hear Robert on bass, Roland on guitar, Peter on slack key guitar (although he had a barrage of instruments on hand that day in Waimea, including a banjo), and – a bonus “Precious Meeting” within a “Precious Meeting” – a little boost from Atta Isaacs on a second slack key guitar – all in the service of lifting Aunty Genoa to even greater heights and potentially (albeit unintentionally) presenting the then already 30-year veteran of the Hawaiian music scene to a new generation of listeners. Here this unlikely combination offers up the lengthy medley of “Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua” and “Mauna Loa.” It is not merely one of my favorite musical moments on record. It is in this writer’s opinion one of the most historically important moments in the history of Hawaiian music.
The Waimea Music Festival would spawn numerous large-scale festivals like it or even bigger, better ones – including festivals dedicated to each native instrument of Hawai`i (an `ukulele festival has been running for nearly 40 years, steel guitar festivals have sprung up – everywhere from Honolulu to Joliet, Illinois to Winchester, Indiana to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and more recently Maui and – as recently as this week – Denver, Colorado – sponsored by the steel guitar preservation associations, and long-running annual slack key festivals including one on Maui and another on O`ahu named in honor of Gabby Pahinui and Atta Isaacs) as well as festivals anchored by a particular artist or record label (Tropical Music’s “Tropical Bash” became the Makaha Sons’ “Take A Walk In The Country,” there was Peter Moon’s wildly successful “Kanikapila” series named for the record label he started in the post-Sunday Manoa era, and now a new festival every August in Waimanalo organized primarily by Gabby’s, son Cyril). But one can argue that none of these would have been possible if not for the Waimea Music Festival just over 40 years ago, and one might unravel the tradition even further to a muddy day in Hana in 1970.
Next time: Aunty Genoa inexplicably makes a temporary departure from the record label she owns and operates to wax an album for a competitor label…
Tue, 28 October 2014
You have already read that after her separation from Hula Records, the entrepreneurial Genoa Keawe – with a little funding help from some good friends who truly believed in her – went into the record business for herself. Thus Genoa Keawe Records (or, as the label logo reads, simply “GK”) was born. Aunty Genoa was practically a one-woman corporation – serving in every role from distributor to bookkeeper. But the most important hat she would wear would be that of A&R (artists and repertoire) and producer – giving several up-and-coming artists and some deserving old-timers the opportunity to make their mark on the Hawaiian music scene on record. Unlike other record companies which focused on quantity – churning out as many records as humanly possible in a year in order to maximize revenue – GK Records focused on quality – producing very few records throughout its history, but focusing on artists with broad and lasting appeal and songs to match. As such, like Aunty Genoa’s first two LPs for her own label, pretty much everything else she produced for her own label was an instant classic – recordings which can still be found in Hawaiian music collections to this day on glorious-sounding digitally remastered CDs. Here are just a few songs from these beloved recordings.
Perhaps the best loved of all of the GK Records output – arguably even more than Aunty Genoa’s own recordings – may be Peter Sings… by Peter Ahia. A member of Aunty Genoa’s working band of that period and a young man she was grooming for his own stardom, Peter did leave an indelible mark on the Hawaiian music scene with his light and airy tenor voice that simply floated across the room. With good looks to match the voice, Peter was a sensation. Sadly, his life would be cut short, but not before leaving us this classic of Hawaiian music found in nearly every thorough collection. With Peter on this recording you hear most of the members of Genoa’s regular working group including John Lino on piano, Val Kepilino on bass, and the too seldom heard Herbert Hanawahine on the steel guitar. I chose a Val Kepilino composition, “Mele O Lana`i,” to share because it is favorite of one of Hawai`i’s youngest up-and-coming artists who only just happens to be Aunty Genoa’s great-granddaughter. This is for you, Mālie Lyman.
A great friend of Aunty Genoa’s until the end, Kealoha Kalama cut one sole classic LP for GK Records. Simply entitled Kealoha Kalama & Her Hawaiian Echoes, the group was comprised of founders Peter Mendiola and Arthur Hew Len, Larry Ah Sing, and – once again – steel guitarist Herbert Hanawahine. (The group predates the addition of Kalama who was originally their featured hula dancer before she was their featured singer.) The selections on the album are perfect for the hula – which is only fitting as Kalama is now recognized as one of Hawai`i’s great hula artists and teachers. Here she sings Lena Machado’s composition “Pua Mamane,” the origins of which you read about previously at Ho`olohe Hou.
Some of those up-and-coming artists Genoa felt should have the opportunity to be heard on record also just happened to be her sons. Gary, Sam, and Eddie – known on their recording debut as The Aiko Brothers – laid down the tracks for the recording that would be the biggest departure for GK Records as it did not feature music for the hula. The aptly titled Hawaii Now featured the boys’ vocal harmonies on a number of originals by then neophyte on the Hawaiian music scene, Gordon Broad, as well as their unique take on a movie theme (“I Am Hawaii”), one contemporary song from Hawai`i (Kui Lee’s “The Days Of My Youth”), and another contemporary selection from a songwriter who would soon relocate from his mainland home and make his mark on Hawaiian music (“Goin’ Out Of My Head” by Teddy Randazzo, a former teen idol who would come to Hawai`i and produce iconic albums for the Beamer Brothers and Marlene Sai). The brothers Aiko even give us an interesting read on the usually very serious “Old Man River” arranged a la Count Basie. But the only traditional Hawaiian song the gentlemen tackled was Charles E. King’s “Leilehua” heard here. The liner notes (written by the Honolulu Advertiser’s Wayne Harada) referred to the Aikos as “hip Hawaiians” offering up “a hybrid of contemporary kanaka.” But the experiment was not entirely successful. The sons’ vocals rivaled the best vocal groups in Hawai`i (such as The Invitations or The Surfers) or anywhere, for that matter, but the arrangements simply did not stand the test of time. It is likely for this reason Hawaii Now is one of the few GK Records titles which has not been rereleased in the CD era.
One of Aunty Genoa’s fellow artists going back to the 49th State Records days, Joe Keawe (no relation) returned to the recording studio at Genoa’s urging after a nearly two decade absence for the 1977 GK Records release appropriately titled “Hawaii’s Falsetto” Joe Keawe Returns. Featuring all hula standards – just like the records they waxed in the 49th State days – including three from the pen of Lena Machado, Joe Keawe Returns is another invaluable addition to any Hawaiian music collection. It also features some outstanding musicians too rarely heard on record including “Little Joe” Kekauoha (formerly of Lena Machado’s group) on percussion, Jake Holck on guitar, Jesse Kalima on `ukulele, Genoa’s son, Sam Aiko, on bass, and Hawaii Calls steel guitar legend David Keli`i (one of the recordings Keli`i made in the modern era, so his steel can really be heard well here). Uncle Joe and the gang perform a Hawaiian favorite, “Kaimana Hila,” a song that dates back to the earliest edition of the Charles E. King songbook but the melody for which has been altered over the years to sound nothing like the original song sheet. (The alterations are often credited to Andy Cummings.)
Again, if you’re wondering why we’re listening to these recordings from my scratchy old LPs in low resolution 128 kbps MP3s, it’s my subversive way of encouraging you to run out and pick up these recordings in digitally remastered CD format. (Click on the link to any of the album titles above for purchasing information from mele.com.) You deserve to hear these beautiful tracks in all of their hi-fi splendor. While Ho`olohe Hou often shares music gratis, this is usually in cases where the music is no longer commercially available and there are few other means of finding and hearing it. But GK Records lives on and has gone to the effort of remastering its catalog for a new generation of listeners to enjoy, and we should support those efforts whenever possible. Mahalo!
Next time: Aunty Genoa briefly puts down her bookkeeper’s pen, picks up a microphone, and gets captured live on record for the first time – with a most unlikely backing group…