Yes, it’s Hawaii time ! As you may have gathered I am a bit of a fan, having , in the mid 90s, spent more than is entirely sensible or sane on several trips to these lovely tropical islands. Today, children, we are going to concentrate on the music of this blessed ( and cursed a bit too) land. My thesis is that Hawaiians have played a bigger role in the development of our music than most people realise. Several elements that we regard as traditional American things acutally developed way out in the Pacific in the days when Hawaii was still an ( sort of ) independent state. Not least guitar based music, slide guitar, “Slack key” tuning and, by extension, electric guitars ( the first electrics were slide guitars).
So onwards we go , plunging forth like an experienced surfer into the (musical) waves ( doest that work as a metaphor ? I’m not sure it does…)
I really do not know very much about Hawaiian Music but I had a lot of fun discovering things I wanted to share with everyone. The variety of things going on in Hawaii was really surprising, and it I think the mix of US and Pacific and Asian influences with traditional influences also make this a very interesting place to visit on our travels. It is going be a lot of fun ! ! !
Pairubu - Kai Davis- Kihei
Some very typical Hawaiian elements here, slide guitar, ukes, falsetto vocals and a song rooted in “place”. Kihei is on Maui, the island I think of as the “fun” island. It’s the one that attracts honeymooners and vacationers from all over. It’s very lovely, of course, with a spectacular “mountain” ( actually a dormant volcanic peak) from which the views are truly stunning ( hint- take a jumper. It’s quite a surprise to step out of the car in a T-shirt to discover the temperature is only just above freezing !).
This is quite a fast tempoed song, the kind that is often used for hula dancing ( of the wiggly-wiggly kind*, the more stately Hawaiian style is much slower)
* technical term
I just love all the typical Hawaiian elements in this. As soon as it starts I feel like I am on holiday ! ! ! I love the vocals in this and of course I do not understand the words but somehow they sound so cheerful ! ! ! They actually really remind me of the vocals style in some Okinawan folk songs. I love the the hawaiian guitar parts I think they are simply perfect and they match the vocals perfectly . The rhythm is relaxed and perfect for dancing to and It certainly makes me want to wiggly wiggly *
* technical term
Sakura - B.E.T. – Don’t Stop
One of the nice and surprising things I discovered when I was researching Hawaiian music for this post was how big the Regaee scene is in Hawaii. The style is called Jawaiian and is a really nice easy laid back dance style that I fell in love with instantly ! ! ! B.E.T are my favourite so far. They are duo and have been active in the Jawaiian scene for a long time now. This is one of my favourites and it just makes me fell so happy as soon as it starts ! ! ! I think it is good example of Jawaiian reggae.
Ah ! Jawaiian they call it. It actually makes a lot of sense when you are actually there, sitting under the palm trees sipping a Pina Colda. I’m not sure it “travels” as well as the Jamaican variety though.
I think the problem is the subject matter, (I had this discussion with some locals once), Reggae ( Jamaican style) is often rooted in tribulation and religion. The Hawaiians are singing about the sun, sea and beach ( most of the time). When I asked the local guys what they had to worry about they had to admit that, on the whole, life was pretty good and they didn’t really have a lot of worries to sing about !
Pairubu - Ho’opi’i Brothers – Koke’e
My favourite Hawaiian artists, a pair of brothers ( duh !) from Maui singing about my favourite place in all the islands. What’s not to like ?
Koke’e is a very special place, it’s upland rainforest on the island of Kauai where it rains…a lot…in fact by some measures the peak of Mount Wai’ale’ale gets more rain than anywhere else in the world ( it’s just around the corner from Koke’e).
The area is home to plants and birds found no where else in the world and it feels very remote in places but, being American, there’s also a cozy lodge where you can get coffee and food and buy tacky souveniers and a museum full of stuffed birds.
It’s very special and was the main draw for me that kept me going back again ( when we had the money !). The song, basically, lists various “towns” and areas locally, you may hear “Waimea” mentioned ( scruffy town, spectacular canyon) and Poipu ( tourist hot spot,dry and dusty) among others. A hymn to Kauai’s lovely South shore.
It would not be Hawaii with out a Ukulele ! ! ! I love this track and the ukulele makes a perfect “rhythm guitar” in this track. The vocals seem to me at places to have a gospel influence as Mr P says it certainly feels like a hymn. I think Island peoples form deep attachments to homes in away that mainlanders seem not to. Maybe it because you can really know the total of your island in a way you never can on the mainland. There is always the next town, the next valley, the next river. On an island you hit the sea pretty quick and you feel the boundaries and you sense the protection of the land and this makes a deep connection. I love the feeling this song has for the place and the connection to it.
Sakura - Ohta-san - Waipio
I wanted to include a ukulele track when I new we would be doing Hawaii and of course my first thought was Jake Shimabukuro but I decided to share a track from Ohta-san. Ohta-san is a Hawaiian of Okinawan descent and actually there is a very big Okinawan community in Hawaii. He is a really great ukulele player and over the last many years he has really done a lot to show the potential of Ukulele. He has actually recorded over 100 albums ! ! ! He also appeared in concerts all over the world and has been a big influence on maybe the most famous Ukulele player today Jake Shimabukuro. I think this track really fits the instrument and conjures up the images we all have of Hawaii, sun. palm trees, and beautiful scenery. Some how I find this track really very nostalgic and romantic, it reminds me of 1940 decade films actually.
Stap me ! That guy can play ( damn his eyes !) and make it look so easy too. I want to weep when I see players like this, my own inept fumblings on the the uke are like unto an chimpanzee with boxing gloves on in comparison. I could watch and listen to this type of stuff all day
( and still be totally unable to play even 1/10th as well ).
Pairubu - Squeeze Kamana and Simeon Bright- Hawaiian Scotchman
Can’t resist putting this one in ! At first glance one of the strangest musical stories ever. It turns out that in the early 1900′s Scots singer and comedian Harry Lauder ( no relation to Estee) travelled to Hawaii and was a big success, so much so that he went several times.
Here we have a musical tribute to him and his songs but performed in Hawaiian style !
The steel guitar mimics the bagpipe and the “scots” inflections in the vocals are a thing of wonder.
It isn’t actually that odd, when you learn more about the history of Hawaii. The Scots feature large in many aspects of Hawaiian life and you’ll find many a scottish name on buisnesses and in the phone book.
It is a bit odd though, as we discovered, to come across a field full of people dressed in kilts and reciting Burns in the scorching sun.
I love this track, it’s wild , weird and , above all, historic. Real “human” music.
I was reminded of a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby film actually when I heard this for the first time ! ! ! It is great that music captures the history and different traditions of places in such a fun way. I really did enjoy this track. It has a really nice jazz feel to it in places and Hawaiian guitars are great in this track. I must admit the Scottish references I found a little strange but somehow it seemed to all fit together. But men often wear skirts in the tropics so I can imagine kilt made from a nice light cotton would be very nice, actually I can not imagine wearing one in the cold of the Scotland ! ! !
Sakura - Hi’ilawe – Sudden Rush & Gabby Pahinui
I really like the Hawaiian slack key style of guitar playing and Mr P said in the introduction this has been a very influential style in music around the world. I chose this track as it features Hawaiian rapper Sudden Rush. I love the way that Sudden Rush honours his roots and adds something unique and modern to a traditional track and the two artists collaborate to create something really special. Hawaiian music seems to have always been a fusion of tradtional and modern. For example the first use of electric guitars and slack key tuning and this track for me is a continuation of the innovation within the tradition. I really liked and I hope you do also ! ! !
Not sure about this one. The two elements, I think, would be fine on their own but don’t really work together for me. I suspect it’s because the Gabby Pahinui track is so familiar and iconic. It seems almost rude to mess with it !
Pairubu - Ho’opi’i Brothers- Hawaiian Roughriders
Ahem ! Yes, I can count but I couldn’t decide which song to leave out , so I’ve gone for an extra one ( sorry Sakura !).
Mainly because I love the song but also because I find it so interesting. How many people realise that the Paniolo or Hawaiian cowboys even exist ? Well they do and that’s what the song celebrates.
They caused quite a sensation on the rodeo circuit in mainland America when they first appeared. No one was expecting Hawaiian riders to be so good. If you see the terrain they have to deal with and ever have the chance to see the clips of film of the men scaring Tiger Sharks away from the cattle then you will know that these guys were not only highly skilled but tougher than the toughest tough.
I do not mind at all Mr P ! ! !
I really like the faster tempo of this track and the ukulele is just wonderful in it. The Swiss yodelling is also really great and gives the track a really cheerful feel and reminds me of the songs in some of the old cowboy films actually, which I suppose was what they wanted to do ! ! ! I think this is a great track to finish with as it has all the elements of great Hawaiian music that I love. Ukuleles, Hawaiian guitars, cheerful yodelling and great rhythm. What more can you want ? ??
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We both really hope you have enjoyed reading the post and listening to the tracks. Hawaii for such a small island has been very influential in world music. It sits right on the border between the west and the USA and Asia and has influenced both streams of musical development and been influenced by them. I was touched to notice how common some of the themes were between Okinawan music and Hawaiian and I was reminded that Island peoples every where share some of the same challenges but that music often is so cheerful and possitive it is easy to forget how tough life can be on an island. The sense of fun comes through in all these tracks more than anything and we both hope you fun listening to them ! ! !
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About He Said – She Said
We have had a lot of fun making this mini series and we hope that you have enjoyed it. We do plan to continue with some He Said – She Said posts in the future but unfortunately we are both quite committed at the moment. But we will be back shortly we hope ! ! !
Well that’s all for now, folks ! I hope that Sakura and I will be able to do a few more posts soon. I think we both really enjoy doing them. Unfortunately that damned “life” thing gets in the way sometimes.