Some of you may have noticed the little countdown widget on my site, that says “Honolulu Bound” and the date is for February of 2015. Well, that little countdown widget was a lot of fun for the weeks and then days leading up to departure, and it has become a unique little keepsake of some great memories.
Spending 10 days in Honolulu, Hawaii was the opportunity of a lifetime to spend time with other Uke enthusiasts, learn from Hawaiian musicians, do some sight-seeing, ride the Waikiki Trolley, do some A-B-C shopping and stroll the famous Waikiki Beach. Heck, we even ate at the world-famous Duke’s on Kuhio Beach – literally! Our table was in the sand, ON the beach, and guess what? there was a sunset, too!!!
One thing we enjoyed each day was making our way over to the Moana Terrace on Kalakaua, located at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort, directly across from the beach, offering guests plenty of unimpeded sunset views over Waikiki. Every night they had local Hawaiian entertainment of some kind. Sometimes it was a singer with back-up band, sometimes a duet, and sometimes a family band, and each member contributed a talent to the songs. We sometimes ate right there in the padded lounge chairs, sometimes we just ordered an after-dinner tea or coffee. But every night, right about dusk, buskers would appear on Kalakaua street and play their instruments. I was especially interested in those playing Ukulele’s. It took me a while to get it downloaded to Youtube, but here is the video I took of two Hawaiians playing Lovely Hula Hands. About half-way through you might notice a lady donating money to them. That was my travel companion, Barb.
Here is my arrangement of the song for those of you who missed the posting: Lovely Hula Hands.
Today’s musical offering is On A Coconut Island, composed by R. Alex Anderson in 1936. Before I tell you about Alex Anderson and some of his famous works, I have to first give you a blurb to read explaining the musical genre known as “hapa haole”.
“Hapa Haole” Music Genre
Definition = Hapa is a Hawaiian word that was originally part of the full phrase hapa haole, which was a derogatory term for someone half Hawaiian and half “white foreigner.” Today, the phrase has been shortened to simply “hapa” and generally refers to anyone part Asian or Pacific Islander and part Caucasian.
Haole = a person who is not a native Hawaiian, especially a white person.
*Music term = a type of Hawaiian music in which the tune, styling, and subject matter is Hawaiian, but the lyrics are partly, mostly, or entirely in English. This style was born during the mid-to-late 1800’s when Westerners began settling on the Hawaiian islands, and producing songs in some combination of English and Hawaiian language. They started gaining popularity outside of the Territory of Hawaii between 1912 and 1919. During the Depression years this song genre exploded in composition because the North American population yearned to hear songs full of nostalgia and far-away places; and the distraction of the silly antics of native Hawaiians (On the Beach at Waikiki; Little Brown Gal). The era of the War Years generated still more composition of hapa haole songs because people wanted to hear songs that re-affirmed the peace and war movement, and songs about Hawaii were a reminder of survival after the attack on Pearl Harbor and while also embodied the promise of return. Popular songs were those that evoked nostalgia and yearning, yet reassured us.
Examples of composers of this genre: Sol K. Bright – Sophistocated Hula; Harry Owens – Sweet Leilani; Jack Pitman – Beyond the Reef; Bill Cogswell, Tommy Harrison and Johnny Noble – (I Wanna Go Back to My) Little Grass Shack; Don McDiarmid, Lee Wood and Johnny Noble – Little Brown Gal.
R. Alex Anderson ~
R. Alex Anderson was an American composer who wrote many popular Hawaiian songs within the Hapa Haole genre including Lovely Hula Hands (1940) and Mele Kalikimaka (1949), the latter on of the best known Hawaiian Christmas songs (in the U.S.).
Alex Anderson was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, June 6, 1894, and died on Oahu on May 30, 1995. (Note: Just shy of his 101st birthday!!)
He attended the Punahou School on Oahu where he wrote the school’s anthem in his senior year. He went on to graduate from Cornell University in 1916 with a degree in mechanical engineering, but returned to his home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu for the rest of his life.
During his career he wrote in excess of 200 songs on piano and ukulele. *He is considered the “most Hawaiian” of the Hapa Haole song writers.
A frequent visitor to the Hawaiian islands, and to Alex Anderson’s home, was Bing Crosby who was frequently his avid golf partner. Bing Crosby had recorded Mele Kalikimaka and it went all around the world on the B-side of Crosby’s hit song, White Christmas on 45’s.
When Anderson wrote On a Coconut Island in 1936 it was immediately recorded by the world-famous crooner and trumpet player, Louis Armstrong. Lovely Hula Handswas recorded by Harry Owens and the Royal Hawaiian Orchestra in 1940, Teresa Brewer in 1961 and Bing Crosby in 1963. Don Ho included it on his world-famous album, Hawaiian 30 Favorites in 1979.
On A Coconut Island ~
One of the things I love about this song is it’s simplicity. It has a swaying quality to it as you go back and forth between C7 and F for the verses. Of course, Louis Armstrong’s version has a lengthy instrumental part, presumably for hula dancing LOL – but you can play the song as slowly or quickly as you like, just play it twice through and tag the ending a couple times. Of course, I’ve got a Hawaiian vamp to open it with, and you strum once downwards on C7 and let it ring as you sing those first three magical words, “On a coconut…”.
R. Alex Anderson wrote this song with an innovative way of rhyming the lyrics. Not just at the end of each stanza – heck no that would be too obvious! – but in mid-stanza with the word “island”. How many words in the English language rhyme with “island”? None to not many. Instead, he chose to break up the word between two measures so that you sing it as “eye land”, which has many rhymes: “while and”, “mile and”, “smile and”, etc. and so forth.
I have found different wording for the chorus on the internet. I am using the wording from R. Alex Anderson’s original composition, and the last verse is the wording from Louis Armstrong’s recorded version of the song in 1936. A sort of homage to Louis, if you will.
A good choice for a solo performance when you are out with your ukulele group as the entertainment for a Hawaiian luau is Lovely Hula Hands, by R. Alex Anderson, 1940. This is a great “hapa haole” composition featuring wonderful prominent Hawaiian imagery and the Hawaiian translation for the title, “kou lima nani e”.
Currently, these are my choices for solo-ing, and even better if you can get the wildest dressed guy in the group to dance a little hula for you: Pineapple Princess, Ukulele Lady (as a duet), Beautiful Kaua’i and Lovely Hula Hands.
Of course, we can’t always have Betty Boop doing a hula for our solo’s. Wouldn’t that be great?
Luau’s are my favorite. I get to dress up in a flowered dress or skirt, or my muu muu, put a flower lei around my neck and flowers in my hair.
That being said, my experiences entertaining at luaus here in Canada have been quite limited. I’ve participated with a group at 6 of them, and they were so much fun, and at one they even provided the food for us! Through researching Hawaiian music, it is really interesting to take note of the difference between Canada and the US in regards to being Hawaiian, and of growing as a nation with the creation of Hawaiian music being part of your actual (US) history.
For the past month I have been searching the internet and downloading as much Hawaiian tunes arranged for ukulele as I can find, and the majority of them seem to be in the Hawaiian language.
Even more surprising was how limited my knowledge of Hawaiian songs is. Pearly Shells and Tiny Bubbles. Oh, and Hawaii by the Beach Boys. The ukulele songbook, Jumpin’ Jim Goes Hawaiian, was invaluable, and also, illuminating!
Many good songs in this one, including an original composed by Jim Beloff entitled I’m Carrying a Tiki Torch for You. I wish I knew how it goes because the lyrics are great!
When I was in Honolulu in March last year, the street performers come out at dusk and play songs on the prominade all night. There’s a short wall that is the perfect height for sitting on that goes along the edge of the sidewalk on the street by the beach in Waikiki – Kalakaua – plus trees and bushes. This is usually where they congregate, one or two per block all up and down Kalakaua avenue. Barb and I had taken a liking to an eatery up above street level called the Moana Terrace where they had some form of live entertainment every single night. Sometimes it was a one-man band, other times it was a duo or a family group playing the old authentic Hawaiian tunes in the language and having a nice time and good time. One of these such bands actually took requests from the audience. So one night, right at sunset over Waikiki Beach, Barb and I happened upon a Hawaiian musician sitting on this wall on the sidewalk, playing his electric ukulele, accompanied by a guy on a drum. And they were just a rockin’ this Hawaiian song called Lovely Hula Hands. I had never heard it before so I got my phone out and recorded the performers.
If I can ever figure out how to upload it from my smart phone I will for sure post it on my site. For now, we’ll just have to enjoy my arrangement: Lovely Hula Hands.
It’s barely a week past the holidays and with the New Year fresh upon us I am still working on songs for the ukulele. This week I am focusing on getting all of the songs I arranged in 2015 into a PDF document to be posted. Not quite there yet! I found that I had arranged 31 but had posted around 40 using free online sources. Before I post it however, there is an issue I had to resolve regarding the song, “Beautiful Kaua’i”.
A friend of mine forwarded a copy of “Beautiful Kaua’i” to me that had an embellishment right on the first line: a three chord turn around. Another friend of mine emailed me to say that there are other versions of the song using different words for the chorus, notably the word pertaining to the Falls of Wailua.
But first, I want to address the issue of the spelling of the name of the Hawaiian Island of Kaua’i. If we consult with websites and published books dedicated to the correct spelling and pronunciation of the Hawaiian language, then we should be spelling it with an ‘okina before the “i”. (If you want to learn something interesting about the name “Hawaii” itself, just Google it, or go to Wikipedia. Very good explanation of it.) Now, if you realize that Kaua’i is pronounced kaw-AH-ee, then singing the song will be a lot easier for you.
I first encountered this song on my trip to Honolulu in February/March 2015. The organizers had emailed everyone to see if they wanted to contribute 4 or 5 songs towards a group strum happening on one of the nights. We did this song then, and a couple nights later we enjoyed a group strum with a local family group, who regularly host kani kapila, and we did this song again. I loved it! They also did a real funny one about a General Store. Most of the songs were in English, but the ones in the Hawaiian language were just as sweet and enjoyable.
After my two friends emailed me, I took up an internet search. First I tried to find the words as written by Rudolph “Randy” Haleakala Farden. As stated at http://www.huapala.org/B/Beautiful_Kauai.html, they claim that their version of the words to the song are confirmed by ohana, or family members, to have been composed and copyrighted by Randy Farden in 1965.
They have the chorus of the song as follows:
In the midst of Fern Grotto, Mother Nature made her home,
And the falls of Wailua, where lovers often roam.
The SUPA (Seattle) website has this song identical to those words, even using the correct spelling of Kaua’i. You can find a copy at seattleukulele.org, in the Key of C, with an interesting use of 2 beats on C and 2 beats on C7 to form a 4/4 measure. Also, their verses forsake the use of Dm or D7 for “Beautiful Kaua’i, beautiful Kaua’i”. They hold on C, go strait into G7, then hold on G7 and go strait back to C. It sounds a bit different from what I was introduced to while in Hawaii, and I am by NO means at all an expert with this song, but if you play it and you like it, then that is all that matters.
Unfortunately for me, once I learned of the existence of other versions, the English major in me reared it’s ugly head and just had to analyze! The words of the chorus as written above do not make a grammatically correct sentence. There! I said it! The problem is with the word “and”.
My second version of this song I will give you is from the Mele Ohana website. It is actually the last version I found in the Key of C, and the most embellished, but I’m putting it second in line because it also uses the correct spelling, and the same words for the chorus as stated at the huapala website. This arrangement is for a children’s school or choir, and the director has written her notes on it. She has taught her players the second position of the C chord and embellished a line in the chorus for “Mother Nature made her home”, by using 2nd position C for 2 beats over “Nature”, B for 2 beats over “made her”, and returning to that C for “home”. It sounds very pretty but be aware that the 2nd position C chord is much higher sounding when played this way compared to 1st position, or what we think of as normal, C.
The next version of this song that you can look at is available online, as BEAUTIFUL KAUAI, from what calls itself “the Moonlight Beach Strummers”, but you download it from Lanai City Rentals. Somehow. This version also claims it is by Rudolph “Randy” Haleakala Farden, but the wording of the chorus is different. This version was emailed to me by one of my friends. It has the nice little three chord turn around at the end of the first line, and uses the progression from A7 to D7 to G7 back to C for the “Beautiful Kauai, beautiful Kauai” lines.
The wording for the chorus in this version is as follows:
In the mist of Fern Grotto, Mother Nature made her home,
To the Falls of Wailua, where lovers often roam.
They are still using the word “In” but we are now in the “mist”, and we are going “to” the Falls of Wailua. They have the chorus written out twice, and modify the second one to “From the mist of Fern Grotto.” If that’s the case, then have we changed the meaning to say that Mother Nature made her home from the mist? Or is it a location of Mother Nature’s home, occupying a geographical area from Fern Grotto to the Falls of Wailua?
Searching for answers to these questions we go to (yet another) website, http://www.squareone.org/Hapa/b1.html, who say Randy Farden composed this song on the Garden Isle in 1967, and a wonderful recording can be found on a CD called Aloha Pumahana Serenaders, Hula Gems, 1968. According to that recording, the words to the chorus are as follows:
In the midst of Fern Grotto, Mother Nature made her home,
‘Neath the Falls of Wailua, where lovers often roam.
Which also happens to make the most grammatical sense to my way of thinking. I have also heard (via Youtubing) the word “near” instead of “neath”, which still makes sense. Despite my discoveries, songlyrics.com has the lyrics by Don Ho as “In the midst” and using “and” for the Falls of Wailua. Another lyrics website has credited Kawai Crockett with the lyrics the same as Don Ho’s. It’s interesting because Hawaiian performer Mark James has recorded this song with the chorus as found above, same as at the squareone.org website.
And now, for The Big Reveal: I have taken all of the embellishments and applied them to my original version, posted many months ago, and modified the wording in the chorus (which some might say is just a bridge) to the ones that I as the English major prefer best. However, I have put both mist and midst in the first line, and I have “Near” typed above ‘Neath on the third line. Using the Mele Ohana’s embellishment of the second line in the chorus as my inspiration, I substituted B7 (instead of B) when using the regular C chord, or 1st position C. It also sounds good using the Hawaiian D7 so I leave it up to the player to choose their preference. Lastly, I incorporated an ending I admired from the Mele Ohana version.
Two or three years ago my friend Cheryl approached me to play some ukulele tunes in Norwich for her church’s pie auction fundraiser – stop already, you had me at “pie auction”!!
And it was really fun. The spokesman would announce an entertainer – who was allowed no more than 10 minutes – immediately followed by auctioning of baked goods by the pastor.
Of course, Cheryl’s husband Bill was always trying to get something for “two bits!” Cheryl said that as the years went by the talent show part of the fundraiser kept growing so that the time of the event kept moving back. So the first time I attended with her I think it started at 4 p.m. and I think it went on til 9 p.m. at night and the place was packed.
The songs we did that year were Ghost Chickens, which I made available in my first Song book, and Side by Side. This year our “hit” was Ukulele Lady as performed by Cheryl’s brother doing the hula in a grass skirt, wig and coconut bra. Who doesn’t want a pie after seeing that??!!!!
Here is Side By Side, from the online ukulele songbook Hits of the Blitz, available from the Worthington Uke Jam website:
under the Songbooks tab. They have many songbooks available to download.
Cat’s favourite “Ukulele Lady” version:
Cheryl’s favourite version:
This “Ukulele Lady” version for soprano ukulele we doctor’d to suit ourselves for performing at the Pie Auction. In the first verse you’ll see a C-G7 above “a-long”, which is a slide off C up to the G7 and you sing it by going up with your voice from C up to G for the word “long”. In the chorus, the triangle symbol before the words “Maybe” means a pause, so you strum the new chord first and then start singing.
Aloha dear followers! I almost had a song ready to post today when a friend called and caused me to re-route my efforts to Beauitful Kauai.
This song was composed and copy-righted in the 1960’s by Rudolph “Randy” Haleakala Farden. It was a hit and made famous by Don Ho in 1967 or 1968. I believe it can be found on his Tiny Bubbles album. This information can be found at the following 2 websites: http://www.huapala.org/B/Beautiful_Kauai.html and http://www.squareone.org/Hapa/b1.html.
Recently I was in Hawaii for 10 or 11 days as part of a group of ukulele enthusiasts who went around to ukulele factories and store and had several workshops with famous Hawaiian artists, etc. We were sent a large document of about 30 songs beforehand that were to be used at a big group jam. This song was one of those provided.
The video is by Mark James, and if you print out my sheet you will find that my chords correspond almost perfectly with his rendition of the song. I can’t help you with the hula dancing though! This song became a hula dance standard thanks largely due to the efforts of Kawai Crocket and the Lei Kukui Serenaders.
Taking a break from working on my next country song (which by the way will be Zac Brown’s Toes), I found the time to perfect my strumming pattern for this great Hawaiian song by Jack Johnson. It was the featured song for the movie CuriousGeorge in 2006 and I have always loved it.
I found a download that semi-explained the strum with X’s that I could not make sense of, plus it was in a key that was difficult to play. Not that the Key itself was hard to sing in, I never ever sang the words because I had to concentrate too much on the complicated chords.
One day I was fooling around on my uke with the chords for Drop Baby Drop and it just started to sound like Upside Down, so I looked for my notes on the strum. Naturally I became obsessed with perfecting this “double strum” pattern, which is played out over two sets of 4 beats, or as I wrote in my notes, “8 beats”. Ha. I guess the only one who could tell me if I have that right would be the man himself – wouldn’t that be cool if Jack Johnson himself commented on my blog? Ha!
Well, it proved impossible to get onto one page, and also I can’t seem to perform it without using measure bars, which will not be supported by WordPress’ formatting likely, so you will have to go to the download of my sheets, here: Upside Down A.
NOTE or SIDE BAR: I don’t want to go on the record as saying that I believe that all Hawaiian songs should be played in A. Not true at all! It just happens to be part of the chord progression that worked for me and I found I could sing along with that progression. I don’t even know what key Jack Johnson had recorded it in, but I believe it is a couple of keys lower than A.
It has been brought to my attention (via Comments) that I have mistakenly confused one chord for another, and furthermore that I have committed this act in one of my songs in my 2014 song book.
I now realize that some players take their ukulele chords SERIOUSLYand others are just like, laid back, y’know? “It looks like C plus A minor.” “It’s the G7 chord moved over one set of strings to the 4th, 3rd and 2nd.” “I bar everything so I don’t have sore fingers.” And more, oh yes! I have heard alot about how other players get by and get around.
The problem chord is in Drop Baby, Drop. I had it from the MUD4 Festival I attended in Lansing, Michigan last year. They had the chords used as A, Bm, Cm and E7. How was I to know that it was not actually Cm? The chord actually used has been identified as C#m. I did notice when I went looking for chords for Grow Old With You that it was the same key and used the same chords, except for one: C#m. For Drop Baby, Drop I changed it to Bm7 because I never play the 4th string in the 4th fret for the Bm chord. So I just looked up whatever the name would be for barring the second fret, and I got Bm7.
Logically, that would mean that the 4th fret barred would be Cm7, right? Wrong! Oh, so wrong!
Now, herein lies an even bigger source of confusion. Chord charts. They are a uke player’s best friend – or are they? The Kiwi one I am so fond of, has two different names for those chords, and also has a completely different configuration for C#m. Great!
So, WOW do I ever have a sheepish grin. I just spent a couple of days pouring over chord charts trying to figure them out. The easiest way to insert chords into Drop Baby, Drop is to use D6 and E6. Furthermore, Bm7 and D6 are the same, and E6 and C#m7 are the same as Dbm7. Wow: I just play them as 2nd fret barred and 4th fret barred!
The chords I prefer for Grow Old With You are A, Bm, C#m, D and E.
So the chord charts definitely contribute to chord confusion and chord name confusion.The one I am not using in the future will be Ukulele Chords by Ron Middlebrook. The only useful part of it left is the information for the Intros and Endings. The Kiwi online chord is still my go-to choice for chord boxes.
We have been back from our 12-day adventure for roughly 2 weeks now. I am still sorting out the pictures on my computer, discarding the crooked, the blurry and the ugly…. and intend to put together some kind of blog posting, or postings, as soon as I can organize my notes and thoughts.
Meanwhile, time is slowly ticking away and I keep thinking about how I need to get a song posted. One of the songs I am most excited about from the trip is from the night we had the group jam. This was an organized ukulele jam held on the first Friday night, and it was referred to as “informal jam”, ha ha! Many of the participants had been asked ahead of time to email 5 or 6 songs to trip organizer Donna Curtis, who then forwarded them to her hubby Harry. Harry and his friend Cheryl, who was also coming on the trip, organized the songs alphabetically into a big document for us to print out and bring with us (or just keep on our tablet).
So one of the songs available was the lyrics to a song by a famous Hawaiian performer called “Willie K” called You Ku’uipo. It was contributed by Sarah and George from Oregon. I really loved it, and was similarly enamoured with Beautiful Kaua’i, which we heard almost every day no matter where we went.
Willie K is credited with the song, but in reality he put music to an already published poem. The song actually started out as a poem written by Gilbert Belmudez, who wrote numerous poems and prose upon moving to the Island of Maui in the 80’s. Belmudez wrote You Ku’uipo to express his love for the beauty of Hawaii, and share his pet name for his new island home, “ku’uipo”, which means “sweetheart”. Eventually Belmudez had to move to mainland USA in 1988 where he began copy-writing and publishing his collection of prose and poetry.
Willie Kahaialii aka Willie K was a famous Hawaiian musician, singer and performer on the island of Maui who also hosts the Maui Blues Festival. He has several international CD’s and recently starred in a movie based on Hawaiian lifestyle called “Get a Job” that won awards at the Detroit Windsor Film Festival. In 1990 Gilbert Belmudez approached Willie K to put music to his poem “You Ku’uipo”, and the rest is history. You can read all about these guys, mostly by Googling them, or you can check out Willie K’s discography and view the movie trailer at his website: Willie K.
Below is the song and I have 2 great Youtube video’s to go with it.
Words by Gilbert Belmudez. Music by Willie Kahaialii – “Willie K”, in this key.
Intro: D7, G
On this Island I found the [D7] ways,
To see the beauty in passing [G] days.
Flowers that impel my [D7] love
Moments that some only [G] hear of – [STOP]
Loving under a water-[D7]fall
Hearing the owl’s midnight [G] call
Whispers from the ocean [D7] shell
Whispers that you and I can [G] tell – [STOP]
And you, Ku’u-[D7]-ipo
Bring these moments to my [G] mind.
For you, Ku’u-[D7]-ipo
Are an Island one of a [C] kind….. [D7]// [STOP]
[tacet] One of a [G] kind.
(Ending: Tag “One of a kind…. Cha Cha Cha)
In this land I found the [D7] ways
To feel the beauty of passing [G] days.
Rainbows jewels of a misty [D7] crown,
Craters covered with a silken [G] gown – [STOP]
││: Stars that always shone so [D7] bright
Scatter throughout the lovely [G] night.
Where true love befell my [D7] soul
True love that came upon a grassy [G] knoll – // [STOP]
This Ukulele Journey in Hawaii Tour is offered through the Ottawa-area based Captain Sandy’s Holiday Cruise Holidays & Ottawa Travel West on February 26 to March 6 2015. The price includes accommodation, a tour of Pearl Harbour, a tour of the KoAloha ukulele factory, meet-ups with ukulele musicians, local ukulele clubs, kanikapila, a luau, several lunches and dinners and 2 half-day ukulele workshops with famous ukulele instructors – Kimo Hussey and Roy Sakuma Jr.
All you have to do is contact Donna Curtis at Captain Sandy’s travel agency, and put down the $300 deposit. The rest is due on December the 1st.
Don’t have a travel companion? Just ask Donna when you book the tour about sharing accommodations with someone from her “share list”. You might make a great friend who automatically shares similar interests with you – playing the uke!
We will be staying at the beautiful Waikiki Beach Resort on Koa Avenue, one block from Waikiki beach and Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu. The Resort is within walking distance of the International Marketplace on Kalakaua, the Waikiki Town Center on Kuhio, and the famed Kapiolani Park, the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium.
In addition to several open afternoons and evenings, there is an excursion option to the Polynesian Cultural Center with an Ali’i Luau on Wednesday, March 4th. PCC Ali’i Luau