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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews

July 2004




“Territorial Airwaves” (Hana Ola/Cord Int’l.)

“Music of the Islands” – Volume 1: “Twilight in Hawai`i” (Moonlite/Cord Int’l.)

“Music of the Islands” – Volume 2: “Beyond the Reef” (Moonlite/Cord Int’l.)

“Music of the Islands” – Volume 3: “My Isle of Golden Dreams” (Moonlite/Cord Int’l.)

“Music of the Islands” – Volume 4: “Hawaiian Memories” (Moonlite/Cord Int’l.)


Nostalgia is a strong element of any culture; in recent years, classic music of Hawai`i has been getting time in the spotlight. There have been CD remasterings of long out-of-print vinyl releases from the musical renaissance of the 1970s-1980s, compilation discs of hits, and archival recordings from some of the true musical masters of the Islands. Let’s take a look (listen?) to a handful that have come out within the past few months.

Anyone who has listened to Hawaiian radio within the past quarter-century is likely to be familiar with the “Territorial Airwaves” program, hosted by Harry B. Soria, Jr. (currently airing on KINE, after being on KCCN until 1999.) Presenting an exhaustively researched and highly informative weekly show, Soria (whose family has been in the radio business in Hawai`i for generations) spins one of the best samplers of classic Island music (Hawaiian and hapa-haole), ranging back to the 1920s. Soria has also been producing anthologies for Hana Ola – this is his 20 th, and it celebrates the 25 th anniversary of his show. The hour-long disc has a few trademark sounds from the show, including an opening montage, and a mid-point break where he moves the “program” from mono to stereo recordings.

The detailed liner notes are a wonderful guide to this strong collection, which includes (in the mono segment) Lena Machado’s first recording of “Kauoha Mai” from 1935, the original 1937 version of “When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop” from Clara “Hilo Hattie” Haili Inter, and performances from Andy Cummings (“Waikīkī”), Genoa Keawe (“E Mama E”), Gabby Pahinui (“Hi`ilawe”), and several different bands that all used “Hawaiian Serenaders” in their name. The stereo years feature Hui Ohana (“Sweet Lei Mokihana”), Buddy Fo (“Maila My Tita”), and Melveen Leed (“Crazy”), among others. Alfred Apaka’s classic take on “Aloha Oe,” from a 78-rpm, closes the “show.”

Continuing with the long-successful concept of having radio personalities pick the songs, Cord International (the Hana Ola folks) have recently tapped the internet show host Aloha Joe to start producing compilations for them. He’s been responsible for their two “A Place Called Hawai`i” volumes, as well as the “Legends of the `Ukulele” disc, and now he’s turned to dozens of classics for four volumes in a “Music of the Islands” series (individual titles listed at the top of the column.)

If you want to build up a great collection of Hawaiian standards, this is one of the best places you could start. Artists include Alfred Apaka, Buddy Fo, Melveen Leed, Barney Isaacs, Genoa Keawe, Ohta-San, Emma Veary, Marlene Sai, Andy Cummings, Lena Machado, Nina Kali`iwahamana, Makapu`u Sand Band, and so many more. You’ll find standards like “Pua Mana,” “Kaulana O Hilo Hanakahi,” “Lovely Hula Hands,” “You’re at a Lu`au Now,” “Beyond the Reef,” “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” Hukilau,” “Blue Hawai`i,” “Chotto Matte Kudasai,” and 31 more.

This is also an inexpensive project; the CDs are only ten bucks each – but even keeping them at that price, much more could have been done with them. There are only ten songs per disc when they could have fit twice as many (each disc runs about a half-hour long), and there are no liner notes to provide any details about this historic material. In the Islands, these collections are being marketed heavily to tourists, but they should also be popular with anyone who wants to have a healthy piece of Hawaiian musical history in their homes. (If you can’t locate them in stores, try www.alohajoe.com.)

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