The Real Top Five List

eddie-kamae-03

Another day, another list of the top fifty Hawaiian music albums, or the ten best Hawaiian songs or top five essential ukulele albums. While these lists are valuable in exposing outside audiences to Hawaiian music artists and albums they may have otherwise not heard about, they still are far from comprehensive in my humble opinion. As Hawaiian music, and the ukulele in particular, continues to be pushed into the limelight outside of the islands, the more people without the proper knowledge of Hawaiian music history are trying to define what is the “best” most “important” and most “significant”. And while I usually ignore these lists, two in particular I came across this week really drew my attention, so I felt it was time for a little clarification and education from my own perspective. The two lists I am speaking of are the following: The All-Time Best Hawaiian Playlist and Ukulele Magazine Five Essential Ukulele Albums.

The first list I can ignore because it say it was reader generated, so looking at that lit I would assume they no nothing about Hawaiian music or its historical significance. While there are some nice songs on there, any list without a song by the Sons of Hawaii, Hui Ohana or Kahauanu Lake Trio is meaningless.

The second list I would like to ignore as well, but this one I feel needs a rebuttal, and here’s why. That list was published by a reputable ukulele magazine. By attaching the word “essential” to their article, people doing basic internet searches will probably come across this list and think they have found the true answer to the question of what are the top five Hawaiian ukulele albums. But I am sorry to say they have missed the mark. I do want to give kudos to them for attempting to make a list that is presented as a “those other than Jake Shimabukuro” list. And looking at the list they were going somewhat in the right direction with the inclusion of the Sons of Hawaii, Kahauanu Lake Trio and The Sunday Manoa. But if you want to talk about essential UKULELE albums, there are some glaring omissions. (author note: after posting this on their discussion board the writer of the Ukulele Magazine article responded by clarifying as such “I have to say, this piece is not a ranking —- it’s only five (out of dozens? A hundred?) of great Hawaiian ukulele-driven records — and one that makes no claim, anywhere, that it’s the ‘Top 5.'” I would like to note I appreciate and acknowledge this clarification and feel it is important to point out this distinction by the author).

But before I start, I think it is important that I qualify myself if I am going to make such broad judgements about lists made by such “reputable” sources as Ukulele Magazine concerning the historically complex and comprehensive body of work that is Hawaiian music, and the recordings of ukulele music. First off you can refer to my detailed blog post here where I discuss the history of the ukulele as part 4 of an eight part series of the history of Hawaiian music. From there I would recommend that you link to the other parts in my eight part series on the history of Hawaiian music. For your convenience they are as follows part 1, part 2, part 3, part 5, part 6, part 7 and part 8. In referencing those posts I think you can see that I have familiarized myself with the history of Hawaiian music and I am not sharing my thoughts simply as a matter of providing further uninformed chatter, but rather as an interested contributor to the proper documentation and perspective of Hawaiian music in the realm of world folk musics.

So I would like to present to you in a very particular order, the most significant, important, essential, monumental, ukulele albums in the history of all time. I hope to include those words throughout this blog post in hopes that I will catch some internet or google search algorithm along the way and introduce people to these oh so essential, important, monumental and historically significant ukulele albums.

1. Eddie Kamae “Heart of the Ukulele”

I have written extensively about this album in two separate blog posts here and here. I would highly recommend you refer to them for my comprehensive analysis of this important album. To summarize, no ukulele album has done such a thorough job of redefining the instrument in terms of technique, song selection and tonal delivery. Here Eddie Kamae is firing on all cylinders, presenting the ukulele as diverse instrument that can shine in a variety of genres and moods. Not only does Kamae solidify himself among the greatest ever through those elements, but it is all done in a tasteful musicality that should tickle the year of the most discriminating musical critics. And I still believe to this day that no one has still yet been able to top this album. Much like Wilt Chamberlin’s 100 point game in the NBA in 1962, it is possible the apex of individual performance was reached some 50 years ago, the rest of the world still vying to catch up to this masterful performance.

2. Jesse Kalima “Jess Uke”

Around the same time as “Heart of the Ukulele” came this almost equally as impressive and complex album. And in terms of breathe and scope this album is every bit as close to being on par and an equal to the Kamae’s ukulele album. So while this album does have the advantage of a clearer and higher fidelity recorded sound compared to that of Kamae’s album, and in addition is does feature many of the same techniques that Eddie showcase in the “Heart of the Ukulele” album, Kalima just falls short in terms of song selection and emotional depth. The clarity of his picking lines and well as the precision of his tremelo picking is there, right along side Kamae’s, but Eddie had that unmistakeable ability to find a song typically found outside of the traditional voicing structure of the ukulele, and get it to sing a new way under his deft and careful ukulele manipulation. Kalima’s album is chalk full of complex, careful and exact technique in the realm of traditional Hawaiian tunes, but it is not able to find that other gear in the environment of an American standard or Latin ballad. For those reasons I have to place this very significant and compelling album right behind Kamae’s.

3. Herb Ohta Sr. (Ohta-San) “Pacific Potpourri”

Time after time I am amazed that people who should be in the know are not familiar with this album. Some ten years after Kamae’s and Kalima’s albums were released, Ohta-San comes back with the album that borrows upon the forward thinking application of the ukulele demonstrated by those two masters and updates it with the additional orchestration of electric piano, guitar, electric and standup bass, congas, steel guitar and drums. This creates a very modern yet vintage sound. Here the ukulele finds its new found place as the true solo lead instrument. Rather than being a “solo” instrument in the sense that it is performing a solo piece with rhythmic accompaniment, the ukulele is now the feature, developing a distinct and separate voice within the environment of a full band. Like the lead saxophone or trumpet of a jazz quartet or quintet, Ohta-San shows the ukulele is the true star. The techniques put forth to vinyl by Kalima and Kamae are now refined and carefully placed within the melodic framework of a specific song so it can be showcased and enjoyed for what they are, true revolutionary presentations of never before heard instrumental technique much like Ornette Coleman or Eric Dolphy did with what Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins had done with the saxophone previously.

4. Gabby Pahinui and the Sons of Hawaii “Music of Old Hawaii” 

While it may seem repetitive to include another album with Eddie Kamae’s playing, it is important that this album’s significance be recognized in the development of the ukulele. While Ohta-San and Jesse Kalima and Eddie Bush (more on him later) took what Kame laid down and continued to develop and refine it, Kamae moved in a new direction. With a renewed love for Hawaiian music, Kamae abandoned the Latin ballads and American standards and instead focused on redefining not only the ukulele in the realm of Hawaiian music, but string instrumentation in Hawaiian music in general. The fact that he used the ukulele to accomplish this, makes for a very very important album indeed. What you will hear on this album is the ukulele not only taking the instrumental lead solos, but also providing sonically interesting musical interludes and vamps in the beginning, middle and ends of songs. Here the ukulele finds a third life, now not only as rhythm and solo instrument, but important member of a string ensemble. Without this important realization and application, the music of Peter Moon and Moe Keale in later recordings in the later 60s into the early 70s is not possible. Here the ukulele finds a way to supplement and compliment the slack key and steel guitars. Now the ukulele has become not only the quarterback that throws for numerous touchdowns a la Bret Favre and wins Super Bowls a la Joe Montana, but can run out side the pocket and use his feet to scramble and gain yards as well a la John Elway. Finally the ukulele has reached its fullest potential and has now expanded itself to its farthest reaches. What Eddie Kamae has done with this album in addition to “The Heart of the Ukulele” is put to record the blueprint for all to follow.

5. Eddie Bush “A Man and His Ukulele” (I can’t link to this album as it is out of print, does pop up on ebay in vinyl)

This was probably the hardest place to decide on. And here I would like to praise Ukulele Magazine for attempting to pay proper homage to some fantastic and historically important albums. Yes it is true Kahauanu Lake Trio was extremely significant in creating a sound and role for the ukulele that places it as an important musical element of a Hawaiian group much like Eddie Kamae did with the Sons of Hawaii. And yes it is true as well that Eddie Kamae and Moe Keale do a lot of this as well on the “Folk Songs of Hawaii” album. And thirdly yes it is almost blasphemy not to include Peter Moon’s work on “Guava Jam” as what he does on “Kawika” should be recognized for what it is, an extremely high level of ukulele instrumentation. And if “Pua Lilia” was on the “Guava Jam” album rather than “Cracked Seed” I’d be very tempted to put that album on this list, but it isn’t, so I just don’t think as a whole “Guava Jam” can make the cut. Many of you might be thinking Eddie Bush? Really? Yes really. While this album is out of print and hard to find, it is important that we recognize what was done on this record. Along the same vein as Kalima’s and Kamae’s two ukulele albums of 1962, this album from 1969 has all the same ukulele techniques found on those records. Sometimes it is in an environment that is more hapa-haole or pop orientated, but it is none the less the same equally complex and precise. Where Kamae succeeded in his variety in song selection, and Kalima succeeded in presenting versions of traditional Hawaiian numbers, Bush’s work on this album lies somewhere in between. Other than for the lack of cohesion maybe between the numbers, Bush proves himself to be every bit the ukulele master as anyone else to have ever picked up the instrument, he just fails to get the recognition. To me he is a Harmon Killebrew or Jimmy Foxx of the ukulele. He may not have the name recognition of a Babe Ruth, Willie Mays or Hank Aaron, he can still slug with the best of them on any given day of the week.

So there you have my definitive top five greatest, best, most significant and important ukulele albums ever recorded. And I could keep going and still not make it to Jake. Obviously Jake is an amazing talent, but until he can present the complexity and depth of innovation and inventiveness shown by these players, as well as by Lyle Ritz, Gordon Marks, Byron Yasui or Benny Chong, he will just be searching for his sound. But when he finds it watch out. And who knows, maybe on this upcoming album he does find it, I hope so, otherwise we will be pigeon holed by various internet top ten lists about the best this and the best that and never really get the full picture.

As always, my theme for these posts is “Ho`analu; To Go Beyond Known Boundaries”. Unfortunately with some of these lists, because they often have to pander to outside audiences with a limited view and scope of Hawaiian music, they present stock lists that don’t think beyond the normal confines of how we can define music and present the components of a specific genre or category of musical expression. I feel it is my job as a teacher and writer to present a differing view point to better help in painting a fuller picture. As always, HO`ANALU: GO BEYOND THE KNOWN BOUNDARIES!

Five Days of Johnny Cash: Day 3

I have a very special announcement coming this Thursday, so this is day three of my five days of Johnny Cash blog in which I will post a significant song that contributed to my understanding, love and appreciation for Johnny Cash the artist, musician and man.

As I set out on my professional music career it was as an `ukulele player that I found my niche. I had spent a number of years studying and practicing the instrument and I found myself playing in a Hawaiian music trio supporting singer Bruddah Smitty. On my own time I was continuing my explorations as a singer mostly influenced at this time by two artists: Sonny Chillingworth and Johnny Cash. Performing in a Hawaiian music group, anytime I was offered to lead a song I would choose one of Chillingworth’s classics, like “Kila Kila Na Roughrider” or “Pua Lililehua”. At times I would throw in a Hawaiian standard from the Gabby era like “I Ka Po Me Ke Au” or “Makee Ailana”. I also enjoyed pulling from Sonny Chillingworth’s lesser known songs from his work with the Sons of Hawaii like “Sunshine Between the Rain” or “So Sad and Blue”

One night while doing a gig Smitty requested I play something “I like play”. Like I said, I would usually chose a song to fit in with the  Hawaiian music we were playing, but I think he was trying to get me to come out of my shell a little bit and add something else to the group. For whatever reason I wanted to do a Johnny Cash song so I called out a key and kicked into “Walk the Line”.

And the crowd went crazy.

Whether it was a combination of me finally getting my feet more firmly planted in what I was doing, the sound of twelve string guitar and ukulele playing Johnny Cash or the simple fact that Cash is pretty popular int his paniolo town, the people ate it up. I was getting hana hous and people wanted more. So I kicked into another Johnny Cash song and another. And from then on that’s all people wanted to hear from me.

It was a transformative moment. I had finally discovered what I can do. I finally was able to represent something that was authentically me and real to what I enjoyed doing and felt. I loved every second of it. Soon Smitty was calling me “Johnny Trash” or “Keoni Opala” for fun and people were specifically requesting I do “Walk the Line or “Folsom” or “Ring of Fire”. I felt I had arrived. I felt I had something to offer and to bring to the table rather than just the novelty of being the tall haole `ukulele player.

I felt this simple little love song from 50 years ago gave me an identity. Now I was the `ukulele playing, Johnny Cash singing tall haole guy, and it felt good.

The World Cup That Is Hawaiian Music Part 5: From Prussia With Love

royal hwn band

One of the most influential people on the sound of Hawaiian music came from an unexpected place. Having being chosen by the king of Prussia to be sent to Hawaii by request of King Kamehameha the Fifth, Henry Berger changed the face and direction of Hawaiian music for many generations to come. After the death of his father when Henry was four years old he went to live with a talented musician uncle. Under the tutelage of this uncle who was well known as the preeminent village musician and exposure to music in church, Henry went on to join the German army where he was trained in military marches. It was through this schooling that he gained the skills that impressed the king enough to choose him over ten other applicants to fill King Kamehameha the Fifth’s request for a band leader.

Soon after arriving in Honolulu in 1872 Henry went immediately to work. It is reported that he gave a piano recital the very next day and conducted a band concert within a week. He quickly befriended future queen Liliuokalani and by 1877 and assumed full leadership of the “King’s Band” which was to later renamed as the “Royal Hawaiian Band.” In 1879 he became a naturalized Hawaiian citizen of the Kingdom. He worked closely with Liliuokalani helping her arrange her songs. Later, starting 1893 he started the band program at Kamehameha Schools. And he also started what was to be later known as the Honolulu Symphony. During his time as band master he conducted over 32,000 concerts. The Royal Hawaiian Band is still functioning today and is the oldest municipal band in the United States. (For more information on the history of the Royal Hawaiian Band go here for a detailed history by David Bandy).

But these posts are not history lessons though. Rather, I would like to look at how the outside cultures influenced the music that was being made in Hawaii and how these elements influenced modern Hawaiian music. First if we look at the German military march of the mid to late 19th century we hear music set to a strict tempo with an oom-pah beat-like quality. A bass drum or a low brass plays the down beat with a high snare and the alto brass playing the off beat. The final strain is extremely lyrical with a blustery ending.

We do know that Henry worked very closely with Liliuokalani during the 1870s and 1880s. It was during this time that she composed a large number of her songs. If we compare her compositions before and after the arrival of Henry Berger we can hear a marked difference. Compare for example the songs “Pauahi O Kalani” and “Ka Hanu O Hanakeoki” Now, I know we are comparing a choral arrangement and a recording by the Sons of Hawaii, but I choose these two because they are faithful reproductions of the original. One, a choir from the Kamehameha Schools and the other by the leading Hawaiian music group playing an arrangement carefully researched by leader Eddie Kamae.

“Pauahi O Kalani” was written in 1868 before the arrival of Henry Berger. The melody is lofty and lyrical. It is full of romanticism and lofty ambition. This is the type of song that shows signs of influence from the church and their hymnal culture (see my previous post “The World Cup That Is Hawaiian Muisc Part 2: The Church). In comparison “Ka Hanu O Hanakeoki” written in 1874 is driving, with a fixed rhythm. The melody builds from a secure start in the lower registers and constantly rises to the upper registers, finally the song ends with a flourishing crescendo. These elements line up well with those found in the German military marches that were so familiar to Henry Berger and that he surely shared with Liliuokalani.

This is not to say that Liliuokalani’s compositions before Berger’s arrival didn’t have elements of European marches. Through the church and European cultural influences before Henry Berger, Liliuokalani had exposure to musical elements found in the European marches that had seeped into to much of the music created on that continent. Also, Liliuokalani did continue to compose beautiful songs with hymnal qualities after Berger’s work with her. The point is through working with Liliuokalani, Berger made these elements more formalized in her composing. Through his work directly arranging her compositions for the Royal Hawaiian Band, Berger had his direct hand on her songs. It is Liliuokalani herself that called him “The Father of Hawaiian Music.”

One song in which we can point at a direct correlation to a European march is in what was to become Hawaii’s anthem “Hawaii Ponoi.” It is documented that the lyrics were set to the melody of the Prussian hymn “Heil Dir Im Siegerkranz which was loosely based on the English anthem “God Save the Queen. Hear the similarities?

It can’t be underestimated either the influence Henry Berger had on the direction of Hawaiian music through his work with the Kamehameha Schools from 1893-1903. By now Henry Berger had made formalized arrangements and standardized sheet music for many many Hawaiian songs. It was now during his work at the Kamehameha Schools that he taught and spread these standardized arrangements. During his time there he taught hundreds of students of Hawaiian ancestry how to read music and to play various band instruments. Many of these students went on to perform with the Royal Hawaiian Band and further more many of these musicians were some of the first Hawaiian music recording and touring musicians in the 1910s and 1920s. And on top of that just to show the extent of Berger’s influence, many of the off spring of these musicians went on to enroll at the Kamehameha Schools and continued this tradition. Ask any professional Hawaiian music artist of today and almost all of them have some connection to music through the Kamehameha Schools. I cannot site all the examples here as that would take up an entire blog post in itself.

So I don’t feel Liliuokalani was exaggerating when she called Henry Berger the father of Hawaiian music. From Berger’s work with Liliuokalani, to the arranging of the Hawaii state anthem, and his tireless dedication to song documentation and teaching at Kamehameha Schools, his hands are all over the development of Hawaiian music in the 20th century. We can still hear the steady tempos, low down beat with high off beat and bombastic endings in Hawaiian music today. And all these elements originated in the military marches of 19th century Prussia. By the 1920s there existed in Hawaii a unique melding of American Hymnal church music, romantic Mexican Ranchera ballads and the European March. All played on Spanish guitars and the newly invented Hawaiian ukulele which was based on Madeiran folk instruments. Rather amazing don’t you think?

This all set up the next change in Hawaiian music as Hawaiian musicians began to travel around the United States and spread this newly created blend of modern music. Next the sound of Hawaii continued to HO`ANALU….to go beyond known boundaries as it began to incorporate elements of American Ragtime and Jazz, American Big Band Music, American Country and Folk Music and Caribbean Reggae Music. Those things will be covered in my next posts. Keep coming back!

Hōkūle`a, Star of Gladness

hokulea at sea

With the highly anticipated launch of Hokule`a and Hikianalia from Hilo tomorrow, I thought it appropriate that I discuss some of my favorite mele about sailing and navigation. With the prevalence of interest in Polynesian navigation and wa`a I am surprised that there isn’t more music centered around this topic. While these concepts are deeply imbedded in Hawaiian chants, as the wa`a was a central theme in the culture, much is lacking in the realm of modern Hawaiian music.

What is interesting is that there are a lot more songs about modern sailing vessels than the traditional ones. This isn’t too surprising as Hawaiians were pretty intrigued about most modern things that were introduced here and tended to write songs about them. One of the first mele that comes to mind is “Na Ka Pueo”  This is a widely recorded song about a cargo ship that sailed between Hana, Maui and Honolulu. This song has made its way as an early falsetto recording by Genoa Keawe and Bill Lincoln to modern slack key interpretations by Ledward Ka`apana. I would recommend checking out Martin Pahinui’s version on his little known album Martin Pahinui. His falsetto is so reminiscent of his father’s it gives me chicken skin. This album along with sound samples can be found here.

Another one of my favorites about modern boats is “Moku Kia Kahi.”  This is a unique recording in Hawaiian music as it modulates between the minor and major keys between the verse and chorus. It’s a really tricky number, but when you see a group able to nail all its changes, it is magic for the ears. The lyrics of this song cover some of the basics behind handling a ship, from the timing of getting the right winds, slacking the lines, setting the anchor and lifting the paddles. While many Hawaiian mele are metaphors for love making, it is especially more so with songs about ships, so you make the connections! As for recorded material, the true masterful version of this song is by the Sons of Hawai`i. This album is a must for any serious Hawaiian fan. The instrumentation is truly amazing, with interactions between the ukulele, bass and steel guitar that is nothing short of masterful. Also, don’t miss out on George Helm’s version from the album  A True Hawaiian. Get a taste here. Now that album is a MUST. That one is definitely on my ever growing list of future blog topics.

What I can add here is the beautiful song Hawaiian Soul written about this prominent man in the cultural renaissance of the 1970s.

One other from the Sons of Hawai`i is “No Ke Ano Ahi Ahi.” As the opening track to Folk Songs of Hawai`i, also known as the faces album, the opening lines “E na luina! E huki mai i ka heleuma! Ho`omakaukau e holo aku!” is a call to the sailors to pull the lines and get ready to set sail. And sail they do, well almost, as this song recounts the anticipated voyage of King Lunalilo to America that he unfortunately never made. Either way the song mentions the unfurling of the sails, the lifting of the anchors and the fluttering of the flag that would have taken place had he not died from tuberculosis at the too young age of 39.  Here’s a little sample.

But it is Hokule`a and Hikianalia that are setting sail, so why all this talk about 20th century boats!?! You’re right, I just wanted to give a little background to some other songs that do cover sailing in case there were some important songs you weren’t familiar with. And there are many more, but those are some of the more important ones. So onto the traditional sailing vessel, the wa`a, the ones that will carry our spirit and our drive for a more sustainable earth for all, the ones that will carry the message of Malama Honua to all corners of the Earth!

I’d like to start with a recording that was first released in 1977 by Roland Cazimero, during the time of the first launching of the Hokule`a voyage. The album Hokule`a – The Musical Saga was co-written with legendary chanter Keli`i Tau`a. The songs are pleasant musical compositions in the vein of much of the Cazimero’s music, but the magic lies in the lyrical content. As this was an important step for modern Hawaiian composing that put into song the contemporary goings on of the Hawaiian people. This spirit is at the core of Hawaiian composition, to capture what is happening in song. That is the essential trait of Hawaiian music, to put into words and music the historical events and the observations of what is happening with the people. This album somehow got lost with time and I myself just recently discovered it.  It is not hard to find, being available on mele.com here and on iTunes as well.

A more well known composition concerning the first voyage of the Hokule`a is the song “Star of Gladness” originally by the Makaha Sons of Ni`ihau and later by Israel Kamakawiwo`ole as a solo artist. What’s really great about this song as it was composed by an actual member of the Hokule`a sailing team, Boogie Kalama. There is some useful information about him and the composition of this song here. The recording by the Makaha Sons of Ni`ihau is from their album Puana Hou Me Ke Aloha which was released in 1984. This album is readily available on iTunes and mele.com as well. Also, from that same album is the song “Mo`olele O Lahaina” which talks about another wa`a that was built on Maui and has been used as an inter island source of sailing knowledge and mobile educational source. But one final note on “Star of Gladness” is that is was, as mentioned later, recorded by Israel Kamakawiwo`ole. What is cool is that there is footage available of him performing this song in Miloli`i available on youtube. This is important, as this small fishing village in South Kona was the launch point for a voyage of Hokule`a to the South Pacific in 1985. Some details about Mau Piailug’s time in Miloli`i is explained in great detail here.

One final number of importance is “Hokule`a Hula”  by Carlos Andrade. The specifics of this song is covered in detail here and I would recommend you take the time to read this description for the background of this mele. What I can tell you is that this song is well recorded with notable versions by Peter Apo and Carlos’s group Na Pali. A full version of Carlos Andrade’s version is available here for a listen.

With the launching of Hokule`a and Hikianalia we have reached a significant point in the history of Hawai`i where we have a central theme to focus our energies to Malama Honua, or take care of our Earth. Here is where we can incorporate HO`ANALU….to go beyond known boundaries into our lives. As these wa`a sail around the world exchanges of information are available like never before. By incorporating social media and the modern informational exchanges available on the internet, it is possible to stay in touch digitally and spiritually. Visit the facebook page, the website or join their google+ community site. Either way, it is easy to get involved on this historical voyage.

A beautiful thing about the culture of Hawai`i and its music is how it is ever changing and evolving. From the original oli about the journey from Tahiti to Hawai`i, to the mele of the late 19th and early 20th centuries about the modern sailing vessels, to the modern rediscovery and rebirth of the Hokule`a voyaging canoe, the music has been this bind that holds the journey together. Join us as we sing these songs together, swaying and bobbing with the music as the wa`a does along the deep and vast oceans of our Honua. EO!

Kou Aloha Mau A Mau

                 palaka-fabric

 

The palaka print is for the Reverend Dennis Kamakahi, who joined the Sons of Hawaii in 1973 replacing Gabby Pahinui. He played with the Sons until 1995 and for a time with my mentor Uncle Braddah Smitty. Uncle Eddie supported Dennis’ song writing and encouraged him to blaze his own path and put his own stamp on the group. He wrote such beautiful and classic numbers as Wahine Ilikea, Pua Hone, Koke`e, Ka `Opae, Sweet By and By, Aloha Mau A Mau, Golden Stallion, Kanaka Waiolina, Honeymoon Hotel, E Hihiwai, Hualalai, and on and on and on…

Of course he went on to a magnificent solo career, but it was with the Sons that he got his start expressing himself as a song writer, something I deeply respect him for. I was very privileged to get a first hand account from Smitty about the composition of Wahine Ilikea as he was with Dennis when he wrote the song. The art of Hawaiian song writing is an under appreciated art and Dennis was a master at it. He will always live in my heart and in my mind as I compose mele.

Thank you Uncle Dennis for inspiring me. Thank you for reading this, if you are not familiar with the Reverend Dennis Kamakahi I suggest you listen to some of his recordings which are widely available. He was a true true master artist in the world of music. You will be missed, your enduring spirit was valued. Your originality and expression of the Hawaiian way through your mele is truly remarkable. Aloha mau a mau, aloha ke akua.