Hawaiian music - An intro for novices

Growing up in Hawaii, there was always Hawaiian music around, either on the radio, or as background for TV commercials or in doctor waiting rooms. And when I say Hawaiian music, I don’t mean only songs in the Hawaiian language, I’m talking about the genre of music created in Hawaii. For many mainland residents that only visit Hawaii through luau-filled week-long family trips using a friend’s time-share condo, Hawaiian music is the stuff you hear at the Maui airport and during the luau hula show. But in fact, you probably haven’t been exposed to the songs that the locals have deemed “classics”. That’s what I hope to provide to you.

Hopefully you can find these on i-tunes or some other legitimate music sharing site. I know others may disagree with what I consider Hawaiian music classics, but this is only one man’s opinion. I’ve provided links to song samples where I could find them. (Song samples will pop-up in a new window.) These are in no particular order:

  • “Kuu Home O Kahaluu” by Olomana - This song is by one of the all-time great Hawaiian groups. The guitar picking is called “slack-key” and is something that is distinctly Hawaiian.
  • “Goodtimes Together” by Cecilio Rodriguez & Henry Kapono - These two guys have so many songs in their discography, that it’s hard to choose the few to make this list.
  • “Honolulu City Lights” by Keola & Kapono Beamer - A song that talks about departing on a night flight from Honolulu and from the plane, seeing memories in all the lights of the island.
  • “Far Too Wide For Me” by the Peter Moon Band - This song was used for a long-distance telephone commercial for years when I was growing up and I always picture it when I hear this song. This ballad describes some of the feelings people get being seemingly trapped on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
  • “You Don’t Write” by Ka’au Crater Boys - This song is more upbeat and incorporates the ukulele (a small 4-string guitar-type instrument). If you like this type of synchopated beat, I suggest you check out other songs by the Ka’au Crater Boys (I’d suggest the songs “Surf” or “Opihi Man”)
  • “You Ku’uipo” by Willie K - A Hawaiian ballad that demonstrates the falseto style of singing that Willie K is quite skilled at. Willie K also has hints of a jazz in his guitar licks, which come out in this song, as well as “Ho’okipa Surf Song” and “Katchi Katchi Music Makawao”. Ho’okipa was a very close 2nd to Ku’uipo, both are favs of mine.
  • “Makee Ailana” by Brothers Cazimero - These guys have many great songs, all which have a wonderful harmony. This one is more traditional Hawaiian and while you may not understand what they’re saying, it still puts you in a relaxed mood listening to the guitar strumming and their vocals.
  • “Kanaka Wai Wai” by Melveen Leed - This song is considered a standard, done by many different artists. I like Melveen’s version, since her vocals are powerful and she does an English and Hawaiian verse. When I hear this song, it reminds me of my Uncle Danny and how we know he’s walking in paradise.
  • “Flying with Angels” by Na Leo Pilimehana - This 3-female group has great harmonies and a contemporary sound of Hawaiian music. They have a fun song called, “Taro Patch Twist” that I enjoy as well.
  • “White Sandy Beach” by The Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau - Many of you may know Israel Kamakawiwo’ole from his version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” used in many movies and commercials. Before he ventured on his own, he was a part of The Makaha Sons.
  • “Live a Little” by The Hawaiian Style Band - Although the name of the band sounds generic, this group had a good number of hits and this is definitely one that is a fun listen. This group also is known for “Love and Honesty” and “Happy Just to Be With You”.
  • “Island Style” by John Cruz - This song talks about a lot of local traditions and living as locals do. It has a good melody and a cool guitar background.

I hope you check some of these out and maybe you’ll get to enjoy some of the great music from the 50th state. Aloha!

3 Responses to “Hawaiian music - An intro for novices”

  1. Meri Says:

    You just know that will prompt others to add their favs! How bout Fish and Poi by Sean Na’a'ao, Waimanalo Blues by Country Comfort, He ono and Tropical hawaiian day by Ka’au Crater Boys, Molokai Slide, Hele on to kauai, Hi’ilawe by Gabby, although Willie K does a great version, Nightbird and For you I’d chase a rainbow by Kalapana, Guava Jelly and Cane Fire by Peter Moon, Makua by sistah robi, Kawaipunahele by Keali’i Reichel. Ok maybe some of these aren’t so old but still Classics in my book.

  2. Mark Says:

    Great additions! I agree that there are definitely others that should be added to the list. Kawaipunahele is a solid add. Fish & Poi is also great. Many artists have more wonderful songs than I listed, but hopefully I can get readers to check out the artists and gain a little appreciation for Hawaiian music. Songs don’t have to be “classics”, just good music, that’s what I’m aiming for. I’m all for people adding their ideas, since sharing ideas helps to evangelize the music that truly deserves accolades.

  3. mom Says:

    My vote is for Kawaipunahele by Keali”i Reichel and also don’t forget I remember you by Kui Lee.

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