“Party Hulas” by Genoa Keawe - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1965Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

To get to know Aunty Genoa Keawe is to love her; quite apart from being an extraordinary singer and an infectious ukelele player, she was born with a smile on her face, a twinkle in her eye and a natural warmth that compelled all Hawaiin families to claim her for their very own Aunty. The beloved performer was gigging to the very end of her life, even when she was wheelchair bound at the age of 89!

By 1965, in her mid-40s, she hadn't released an album for a number of years, her only label 'til now having been 49th State Records which had ceased to operate some years earlier. At this time local producer Don McDiarmid, Jr. was looking to revive the fortunes of his Hula Records company; securing a deal would prove to be beneficial to both the artist and the label.

Genoa went all out to make a success of the comeback, selecting a great many of the upbeat classics that would be sure to hit a chord with dancers and record buyers, locals and tourists alike. Although English is her first language, she sings in Hawaiian throughout (having become a fluent native-speaker thanks to her mother-in-law) accompanying herself on the ukulele. Lately, she had been the regular headline act at her own Club Polynesia, and it's four of her friends from the live group who make up the super-group for the long-player. Regarded as the finest talent on the island, each of the well-known players had already established their expertise in various aspects of the traditional music of Hawaii. As introduced on the front-cover of the LP, they were: Violet Pahu Liliko`i (upright bass, vocals), Vicki I`i Rodrigues (first rhythm guitar, vocals), Pauline Kekahuna (second rhythm guitar) and Benny Rogers (steel guitar).

Jaunty opener “Noho Paipai” - charmingly described in the sleeve notes as “the rocking-chair built-for-two hula” - wastes no time in introducing Genoa's expressive falsetto technique, a strangely beguiling thing of beauty, landing halfway between a yodeler and an opera singer, wonderfully controlled and never over-bearing. This is followed by the magnificent “‘Ahulili”, full of hip-swivelling sexiness on a slight bed of rhythm n blues. The album’s liner notes reveal that it’s a traditional piece and explain a little about the meaning: “You might call this ‘you gotta see mama every night or you don’t see mama at all’… Hawaiian style! The name Ahulili means ‘plenty jealous’.” The same rhythm gets me hooked on the sweetly sung “Mauna Loa”, a lament for a love lost, using the Mauna Loa ship (named after the Hawaiin volcano) symbolically in the way of Robert Johnson and his train in vain. The Mauna Loa carried passengers from the Islands to the States in the 1930s, before being commissioned for wartime service, fated to be sunk early in 1942. There’s no happy ending for this romance! “‘Alika” (translation: Alaska) is a bit of a signature song and gives a taster of her trademark ability to hold high notes for over two minutes, although she doesn’t quite stretch that far in this particular instance.

Ten war horse hulas trotted out on every imaginable occasion. Everyone knows them. Plus two dark horses [“Kaneohe” and “Ua Nani Moloka‘i”] known only to those who cherished and preserved them.” The liner notes sell it well and there's no disappointment. Simply, a must-have for anyone even remotely interested in the music of the Pacific.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:58] 7.2.png Genoa Keawe - Noho Paipai (Johnny Almeida) Pacific
A2 [03:06] 9.3.png Genoa Keawe - `Ahulili (Traditional) Pacific
A3 [02:26] 7.4.png Genoa Keawe - Papalina Lahilahi (Traditional) Pacific
A4 [03:30] 6.9.png Genoa Keawe - Ka ‘Ano‘i (Traditional) Pacific
A5 [04:08] 9.1.png Genoa Keawe - Mauna Loa (Helen Lindsey Parker, Traditional) Pacific
A6 [02:39] 6.5.png Genoa Keawe - Ku‘u Lei Hoku (Traditional) Pacific
B1 [02:47] 6.8.png Genoa Keawe - Hula O Makee (Traditional) Pacific
B2 [04:32] 7.8.png Genoa Keawe - `Alika (Charles Ka‘apa, Traditional) Pacific
B3 [02:52] 7.0.png Genoa Keawe - Na Ka Pueo (Samuel Kalani Kaeo, Traditional) Pacific
B4 [02:14] 7.4.png Genoa Keawe - Green Rose Hula (Johnny Almeida) Pacific
B5 [03:26] 7.3.png Genoa Keawe - Kaneohe (Abbie Kong) Pacific
B6 [03:23] 5.2.png Genoa Keawe - Ua Nani Moloka‘i (Traditional) Pacific

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