Thursday, January 19, 2012

HAPA - gateway drug to Hawaiian Music

My first purchase of a "Hapa" CD falls into the category of albums purchased because of the cover art. Browsing through the world music section at Borders many years ago (When the Borders at North Ryde was new and different) I came across this album and was immediately struck by the contrast between the two figures. The figure on the left looks pretty unremarkable for an album of Hawaiian music but what is with the guy on the right? From the sunglasses to the kilt and the black boots everything was different from the expected. And the guitar, not just the violin style head and tuning keys but the strange angle it was being held at. A quick check of the track list on the back confirmed my suspicions. Besides tracks with Hawaiian titles there were some old surf classics (sleepwalk and europa) plus a cover of the U2 anthem Pride(in the name of love). So expecting some fusion/melding of Hawaiian Music with other influences I purchased the CD.

I'll admit that some albums I have purchased based on the covers have not been great successes musically. This is certainly not one of those. This album remains a favourite (and no surprise to regular readers) I have since purchased every available album by this duo.

It turns out that the groups name "HAPA" in Hawaiian means "of mixed blood, person of mixed blood" which fits perfectly with the album cover, the set list and the groups overall approach. Which is not to say everything is a mixture or dilution of Hawaiian culture and music. It is more a case of Hawaiian Music being approached with the reverence and respect that it deserves and some Hawaiian influences being applied to other music and vice-verse. 

This album is perhaps the least traditional of the Hapa albums and the unusual U2 is pretty much the only track on any of the CD's that does not have some Hawaiian connection. Each of their other albums has a unique character, they even did an album of Surf Music but the combined Guitar and Vocals on the Hawaiian tracks are the standouts.

I recommend this album in particular but all of the "Hapa" albums are well worth a listen. Just beware, after listening to these albums you may find yourself going in search of more Hawaiian Music and end up in a ukelele band wearing a grass skirt, (worse things could happen)

If you want to catch some of their other work the track olinda road is featured in episode 20 - series one of the new Hawaii-5-O

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Heat Wave and more tropical music

With the second straight day of Summer here in Sydney I'm thinking about tropical songs.

I'll be posting about some authentic Hawaiian music later in the week but for now I'm thinking about the not so authentic kind. (and I don't mean Elvis in A Hawaiian shirt doing "Rock-A-Hula")

Big production numbers, where full orchestras and scores of dancers appear from behind palm trees. Songs where the heat mentioned is not the kind they have when the sun is out.

Exhibit A to clarify the genre is this clip of Marilyn Monroe doing "Heat Wave" from the movie "There's No Business Like Show Business". Complete with Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor, this clip is from the time when Marilyn's navel could not be shown on screen, but I think the message is still pretty clear. The Song starts around the 2:40 mark.

Continuing with this theme I'm reminded of some albums under the name of Don Tiki which are all coconut drinks, grass skirts and full orchestration. The first CD I purchased was "The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki" which was apparently "recorded in PULSATING POLYNESIAN POLYPHONICS" on the TABOO records label. I don't think I need to tell you there is little surfing or fishing going on in the tracks on this album. On the back cover a bartender is preparing some exotic drinks while no fewer than 23 pineapples can be seen stacked on the bar ready for the evening rush. Tracks such as "Barbi in Bali" and "Hot Like Lava" are just some of the delights.

  The next album is "Skinny Dip with Don Tiki". This time I've shown the back cover where the full glory of the Tiki theme can be seen. Don Tiki himself is nowhere to be seen on any of the albums and is just part of the well maintained illusion of a south pacific fantasy. Including tracks such as "The Natives Are Restless" followed by "Primitiva" and "Heat" this album contains more of the fully orchestrated music which reminds one of the islands of Hollywood movies. More of this type of music can be found by searching for "Martin Denny"

More can be found on the Don Tiki Website:-

Find yourself...loose yourself

Anyway, certainly worth a listen late one (warm) night with some frozen umbrella drinks.

And for anybody who is still wanting some he is:-

Album Links at

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Summer is last.

January 1st 2012 and summer has finally arrived in Sydney Australia. (well at least for a couple of days) After what seems like an eternity of below average temperatures and rain we have warm weather and blue skies predicted for the next few days. I'm sure that by February we will have weeks of warm weather and will all be complaining about that instead but for teh moment the arrival of Summer is to be celebrated.

Summer Music, what to play ?  Summer and driving were always the domain of mix-tapes and now the playlists have taken over its time to create new playlists for this summer.

Old Favorites will always be a large part of any summer playlist for all except the youngest teens and in many ways nothing says summer more that The Beach Boys. I have never mastered either the surf or hotrods (but then again neither has Brian Wilson) Yet the songs have been played so many times in Summer tehy are now linked forever in my brain.

The "Sounds of Summer" album contains 30 Beach Boys tracks most of them remastered in 1999 or 2001. From the original classics such as  "California Girls", "I Get Around", "Surfin' USA", "Help Me Rhonda" and "Surfer Girl" To later tracks such as "Kokomo" from the soundtrack for the movie "Cocktail" this collection has them all (some in glorious mono)

After dusting off last summers playlists and discarding most of the new tracks added last year it would be time to add whatever this years Summer hit will be. A little difficult at this stage because summer has only started today and the big hits of Summer 2012 are yet to emerge. However that is one of the advantages of playlists over mix tapes. As the summer progresses you can add in and shuffle your playlists to keep them fresh.

The best summer songs often have summer in the title as with this track from 2007 by Kid Rock:-


As this song pays homage in a big way to the 1974 track "Sweet Home Albama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd we may as well revisit that, add both tracks to one of our playlists and marvel at the outfits and debate the significance or otherwise of the Confederate Battle Flag in the background:-

One more favourite of mine goes back even further back to 1972 and a track by The Raspberries before they broke up and launched Eric Carmen onto his solo career. The video here is not of the band themselves but a slideshow put together by another fan:-

These tracks and more beside seem to make it to my summer playlists most years.

What are your favourite Summer Tracks?