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Archive for November, 2011

The Crooner’s Weekly “TOP 5″ (11.30.11)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ukulele Croonerʻs Weekly TOP 3 iPod Jason Poole Accidental Hawaiian Crooner

Aloha kākou!

I always have my iPod with me. It’s my personal jukebox.

Living in New York City, I spend a lot of time traveling underground via subway–and those rides can be long and boring! But having a collection of great music with me at all times keeps me from losing my mind. I can escape to a tropical isle with the push of a button. Portable paradise!

Here are the TOP 5 SONGS from my iPod this week:

1. Hanohano ʻO Maui (Kealiʻi Reichel’s recording on the album Melelana)

Written by Kahikina DeSilva and Moe Keale, this wonderful song celebrates the natural beauty of the island of Maui.  And being that Maui is Kealiʻi’s home, it’s a perfect song for him to sing.  He’s familiar with the island and her beauty.  He sings with confidence and pride!

A simple song structure–with verses consisting of only two lines each–allows for the poetry to stand out, to really sing.  Yes, the lyrics are written in Hawaiian.  But even if you’re not familiar with the language (at all!) you’ll still be able to feel what the composers intended.  A true taste of the island.

Kealiʻi is an incredible performer.  And it’s also wonderful to hear the background “chorus” sing verses. (The liner notes list only 3 names as background vocals–but it sounds like so much more!)  One of my favorite parts of the song is listening to Kealiʻi kāhea, or call out the first word/words to the next verse.  It’s something we see/hear a lot of in hula.  And as Kealiʻi is a kumu hula (master hula teacher), it makes me think that he must have choreographed something awesome for this song.

I dare you to listen to this song and NOT smile.  I think that would be impossible!

*Please click HERE to visit Kealiʻi’s website.

2. Lānaʻikaula (Kuana Torres Kahele’s recording on the album Kaunaloa)

As a musician, my ear is always listening for music that makes me say to myself, “Now that’s a song that I need to learn.”

This week, I was listening to random mix of tunes while I worked and this song came on.  The first verse played and I knew I needed to stop working and see what the song’s title was.  (I recognized the voice of Kauana Torres Kahale instantly!  I’m a ridiculously huge fan of the group Nā Palapalai.  His voice is one that stands out in a crowd.)  I was excited to see that it was on his solo album, released earlier this year–and I went to find the liner notes immediately.

According to the notes, the mele was written after a fantastic (and educational!) trip to Lānaʻi in 2009.

I know so few songs about Lānaʻi and hearing this made my heart happy.  The tempo is a traditional hula tempo–and the lyrics (penned by Kellen Paik) would lend themselves beautifully to a hula.  So descriptive!

A new favorite song from an incredible album.  Do you have it yet?  It’s one that you’ll listen to over and over. (And find a new favorite every time!  Ha!)

*Please click HERE to visit Kuana’s page at Mountain Apple Company.

3. Here In This Enchanted Place (Emma Veary’s recording on the album The Best of Emma)

In my mind, Emma Veary is a true LADY.  I mean, when I listen to hear sing, I picture her standing with a straight back, shoulders down, arms bent with hands held at her solar plexus and a look of pure contentment on her lovely face.  Of course, this is only the image I’ve created in my mind, but I love it.  (And until I’m told otherwise, I’m going to keep it!  Ha!)

This song, sung in English, is a favorite.  I first heard it on a recording by legendary Hawaiian crooner, Alfred Aholo Apaka recording.  But I was so delighted to hear Ms. Emma’s soaring soprano voice on this recording!  Aue!  Brings tears to the eyes.

Her voice represents “another time” in Hawaiian music… And yet, her voice is also eternal.

Triple love her.  True story.

*Please click HERE to visit PBS Hawai’i's Long Story Short with Emma Veary.  An excellent interview!!

4. None Hula (Nāpua’s recording on the album Pihana)

I was listening to Nāpua’s debut album this week (for the umpteenth time) and was enjoying this very traditional sounding hula.  However, I didn’t understand one of the main words: NONE.  (I’m still an “infant” when it comes to the Hawaiian language.  Slow and steady… Slow and steady…)  So I looked in the liner notes–The Nagging Hula!  I loved it!  It just goes to show you can write a song–or choreograph a hula–to pretty much anything!  (Nāpua is also a kumu hula–I’d love to see her choreography to this song!)

I love Nāpua’s voice!  And the “old-style” feel she brings to this song is delicious!

*Please click HERE to read a great “Intro to Napua Greig”-style article that came out in 2007.

5. Puamana (The Jack de Mello Orchestra’s recording on the album Hawaiʻi: Land of Enchantment)

I am feeling really nostalgic this week.  And this album, recorded in 1961, will take you back to that time instantly.  For real.

A staple song in any Hawaiian musician or hula dancer’s repertoire is Aunty Irmgard Farden’s classic PUAMANA.   I must have at least 10 recordings of it in my collection.  But this version is a one-of-a kind!

Jack de Mello truly embraced the lounge/exotica/classical/ambient sound.  Have I totally confused you?  Remember the opening theme song to the television show, Star Trek?  Well… while not entirely the same, it’s got a similar vibe.  (I tried to describe it to a friend who said, “Oh, so you mean it’s cheesy?”  And that’s absolutely NOT what I mean.  If someone was trying to reproduce those sounds today, that might be cheesy… But DeMello was really experimenting.  Playing with classics in, what was then, a new way.)

I love it.  It’s lush and over the top and wonderful.

(And does the soaring soprano voice we hear belong to the lovely Ms. Emma Veary?  Hmm…)

What are YOU listening to?  Drop me a line and let me know!

And, as always, a giant MAHALO to Puna and the gang at www.mele.com for being an awesome Hawaiian music resource. You all make the world a better place!  I’m DEFINITELY thankful for that!

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Strummin’ in the City (#43)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kamaka 'ukulele, Kamaka ukulele, concert 'ukulele, concert ukulele, payphone, pay phone, jason poole

Kamaka concert 'ukulele and a vintage pay phone (NYC, November 2011)

A lot of folks find it hard to believe that I carry my ‘ukulele with me all the time.

But you never know when you might feel like strumming!

And as Pops is always quick to advise: E ho’omākaukau. Be prepared.

Ah… the life of an urban strummer!

(Do you like the ʻukulele in the photo? Check out www.kamakahawaii.com for some of the best ʻukuleles on the planet!)

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The Nutcracker and The Crooner

Monday, November 28, 2011

Last night James and I went to see New York City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

A friend gifted us with tickets. (A nice friend to have, for sure!)  I’d never seen The Nutcracker except for a few selections that I’d seen on television.  And it was being presented at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

So…

It was kind of a “fancy affair.”  Not tuxedo-fancy.  But dressier than my usual Aloha shirt and jeans.

I was a little uncomfortable when we took our seats.  (I think a big part of that was because I actually wore the kind of shirt that I had to tuck into my pants and it kept getting bunched up and twisted!)  And I was a little nervous.  That’s when it dawned on me:

I had never been to a ballet before!

(Ok, I have a vague memory of attending an abridged version of Coppelia that was done by a local youth ballet troupe when I was a kid.  But that memory is so cloudy, it doesn’t really count.)

AND…

This was kind of like stepping through a window in time.

Confused?  Stay with me…

My college years were spent in a fantastic conservatory program at Carnegie Mellon University.  That’s where I received my BFA in vocal performance.  For four years, I was surrounded by classical music.

In truth, classical music wasn’t a great fit for me.  I mean, I learned to love aspects of it.  (I still get all choked up listening to certain operatic arias.)  But it didn’t take me long to realize I was probably not going to make my living by performing in an opera house.

When I moved to NYC to pursue a career in musical theater, I thought I’d found my niche.  And I love musical theater!  But…

It also didn’t “fill the void” that I had inside me.

Hawaiian music and hula fill that void.  It is the niche I’d been looking for. Nothing else has ever made me feel so fulfilled.

I’d left the world of classical music and dance to pursue a different path.  But The Nutcracker was like stepping back into once-familiar territory.  I was delighted and anxious.  Would I still be able to understand it?  Would there still be aspects that made me itchy?

Watching the maestro take his place and hearing the opening notes, I felt like I was right back in school.  (Except this time, I wasn’t going to be tested on what I was seeing and hearing.)

The education I’d gotten from school allowed me to enjoy the performance from several different viewpoints.  At times, I concentrated on the dancers and their carefully choreographed movements.

Other times, I found myself captivated while I watched the musicians create musical envelope for the performance.

Musicians and dancers were of the highest caliber, for sure.

However, at times I still felt uncomfortably lost in my own mind, deep in thought.

Why?

Well, for the past several years, I’ve been immersed in the world of Hawaiian music and hula.  The music and movements presented in The Nutcracker were very different from those I’ve been studying.  I found myself thinking, “What would Pops think of this section?” And I could almost hear him saying, “Interesting, that movement.  What does it mean?”

And more importantly, I could hear him say “That was excellent, but it was not hula.”

Why?

Hula exists because of the words.  The dance illustrates the lyrics.  The music supports the lyrics.  The music and the dance work together–symbiotically–to bring the words to life.

And then it dawned on me:

The Nutcracker has no words.

Ah!  It was like someone had turned on the lights in a dark room.

It wasn’t about comparing this performance to Hawaiian music and hula.

It wasn’t even about remembering some of the difficult times I had as a student in the conservatory.

This moment was about watching these amazingly gifted and dedicated performers put together an incredible performance.

Once I realized that, I was free to let go completely.  Watch with “fresh eyes.”  Experience something new.  Immerse myself in the joy and richness of the production.

What a great way to help ring in the holiday season!

P.S.  I came home and downloaded The Nutcracker.  Now I can listen to it and relive the magic over and over.

P.P.S.  As soon as we walked out of the theater, I untucked my shirt.

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Aloha kākou!

Here’s this week’s question:

Which of these 4 choices is a Hawaiian word for FAMILY?

A.  ʻŌHINU

B.  ʻOHANA

C.  ʻOKINA

D.  ʻOKANA

• Please submit your answer by posting a reply to this entry on the blog.
• All correct answers will be eligible to win a special email message from me.
• One winner will be randomly chosen at 11:59pm HST.

Will YOU be this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Aloha Poʻalima! Happy Aloha Friday!

**Crooner Update:

Well done, gang!  Well done!

Everyone had the correct answer this week.  The answer is B. ʻOHANA.

You know, a blog reader sent me an email recently and said, “I feel kind of guilty.  I didn’t know the answer to your question.  I looked it up on the internet.”

And my response was: I LOVE THAT!  I love that folks are taking the challenge and looking up information about Hawaiʻi on the web!  That’s awesome!  No shame!  Keep going!

This week’s winner, chosen randomly from all of the correct answers, is… (Drum roll, please…) AMY SUMMERS!  Congrats, Amy!  You’re this week’s Trivia Superstar.

I’m so thankful for all of you.

Hope you have a great weekend.

A hui hou…

Jason

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Thanksgiving Memories and Gratitudes

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Genoa Keawe, Aunty Genoa, Waikiki Beach Marriott, Moana Beach Terrace, Thanksgiving, Jason Poole

Thanksgiving Day with Aunty Genoa Keawe in Waikīkī. Perfection. (November 2007)

HAUʻOLI LĀ HOʻOMAIKAʻI!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I was thinking about Thanksgiving Day memories today while I cooked dinner.

Here’s one of my favorites:

It’s November 22, 2007.  Thanksgiving Day.  James and I are sitting at a table, poolside, at the Waikīkī Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.  We’ve done an extravagant thing–flown to Hawaii for the weekend, essentially.  Still jet-lagged, we’ve arrived early at the Moana Terrace and ordered sandwiches and french fries and beer.

Why would we do this?

Well, we were there to see the one and only AUNTY GENOA KEAWE and Her Hawaiians perform.

And we knew we had to get there early and get  a table.  (Aunty Genoa and the gang drew a crowd!)

Listening to her voice, being inspired by her indomitable spirit, and watching the sunset over the beach in Waikīkī.  I mean, is there a better way to spend Thanksgiving?

Yes…  It was an extreme luxury to be there.  We’d saved our pennies all year to make it happen.

(I was blessed with the opportunity to sing with her that night.  But that’s the subject of another blog post!  Stay tuned…)

It was a memory that will last a lifetime.

And it continues to inspire me every day.  The photo above is a great reminder of that night.  A night we’ll never forget.

==========

Thanksgiving is a time for being thankful.  I thought I’d share my list of 5 Gratitudes with you:

1.  My family and friends (They are my bones.)

2.  My teachers (They are my breath.)

3.  Hawaiian music.  (It is my blood.)

4.  Our ancestors.  (We stand on their shoulders.)

5.  The opportunity to share this crazy journey with ALL OF YOU!

Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

**Crooner Note:  Aunty Genoa’s family keeps the tradition alive and still performs regularly at the Marriott Waikīkī–including TONIGHT!  Yay for Thanksgiving traditions!  Please click HERE to check out their schedule.

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The Croonerʻs Weekly “TOP 5″ (11.23.11)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ukulele Croonerʻs Weekly TOP 3 iPod Jason Poole Accidental Hawaiian Crooner

Aloha kākou!

I always have my iPod with me. It’s my personal jukebox.

Living in New York City, I spend a lot of time traveling underground via subway–and those rides can be long and boring! But having a collection of great music with me at all times keeps me from losing my mind. I can escape to a tropical isle with the push of a button. Portable paradise!

Here are the TOP 5 SONGS from my iPod this week:

1. Hawaiian Isles (John Piʻilani Watkins & His Heavenly Hawaiians’ recording on the album Songs to Remember Hana-Maui)

I don’t know much about this song, other than it’s found on the album mentioned above.

I DO know, however, that I love it.  I love the feeling the song evokes–nostalgic, for sure.  Nostalgic even for the time it was written/recorded.  A longing.  But filled with memories of happiness.

Do YOU know about this song?  Was it Watkins who penned it?  Any information you all could provide would be so appreciated.

Triple love this song.  True story!

2. Pua Pīkake (Bill Kaiwa’s recording on the album Na Halia)

I love the voice of the baritone crooner, Bill Kaiwa.  You know, I was familiar with his older albums–the ones from 1960s.  However, I was so excited to find this album, released in 2008.  He sounds so good!

He sounds like I HOPE to sound as I grow older.  Such a gentle voice–and so strong.

This song, attributed to Charles E. King, has become a favorite.

Hula dancers take note:  There is an instrumental pass (paʻani) in this recording.  But his tempo–and the stunning lyrics–practically BEG for a hula!)

3. Pua ʻAʻaliʻi (Kawika Alfiche’s recording on the album Kaleʻa)

Earlier this week, I wrote that I’d falled in love with this song, written by Lee Ann ʻĀnuenue Pūnua.  And I have to admit that I’m kind of obsessed with it.

I love Kawika Alfiche’s recording of it.  I love what he brings to it.  It’s gentle, but not passive.  It MOVES.  It has momentum, propelling the listener forward.

And I can’t get enough of the contemporary strum of his ‘ukulele!  I think I need to start using that strum in some other songs.

The song (and Kawika’s presentation of it!) inspire me.  Right on.

*Please click HERE to visit Kawika’s website.

4. Fish & Poi (Sean Naʻauao’s recording on the album Now Serving Fish & Poi)

I’ve been singing this song all week.  Why?  Well, it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow.  And that makes me think of food.  And when I think about Hawaiian food, this neo-classic Jawaiian-style song comes to mind.  Sean Naʻauao essentially lists–and celebrates!–Hawaiian foods.

I grew up on the mainland’s east coast.  We didn’t Hawaiian food at Thanksgiving.  As my friends say, we had a more “Norman Rockwell-style traditional Thanksgiving feast.”  But knowing that my ʻohana hānai, my Hawaiian family on Molokai, will be getting together tomorrow to celebrate and give thanks–and knowing that they will be eating all kinds of ‘ono Hawaiian grindz (Hawaiian food) I smile when I sing this one.

Break out the poi!  Let’s eat!

(*Note:  The song is featured on a bunch of compilation albums, too!  It’s a party classic.  Check out Sean Naʻauao’s Hot Hits!)

*Please click HERE to visit Sean’s page at Mountain Apple Company.

5. He Aloha Nō ʻO Honolulu (Dennis Pavao’s recording on the album Wale Nō)

I love kī hōʻalu (slack key guitar) music!  It’s no secret.

And Uncle Dennis Pavao’s recording of this classic song is–well–perfect!  When I first heard this recording, I was expecting two things:  1.  A faster tempo.  2.  Uncle Dennis Pavao’s melodious voice.  I was surprised to hear it presented in a delicious, rolling slack-key tempo.  And surprised that it was an instrumental track.  (However, I’ve come to realize one can still hear Uncle Dennis’ voice–it’s just that his voice is the voice of the guitar in this recording.)

Surprised and delighted.

What a treat for ears–and what soothing sounds for my NYC nerves.  Grateful for that!

(P.S.  I love a recording that features the percussive sound of an ipu in the background.  Bonus!)

What are YOU listening to?  Drop me a line and let me know!

And, as always, a giant MAHALO to Puna and the gang at www.mele.com for being an awesome Hawaiian music resource. You all make the world a better place!  I’m DEFINITELY thankful for that!

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