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If you are looking for a recording of any song written in the 1916-1929 period, chances are, there was never a recording made. Sales of sheet music were the way a song was distributed and if popular, it may have been performed on the radio. These songs, generally by mainland composers, were novelties at the time and had very limited exposure.
The best source for Hawaiian sheet music and recordings is eBay, swap meets and flea markets. If a song has been recorded or reissued in the last 10 years and is available anywhere, mele.com is the place to find it. The webmaster of this website has no collection of recordings or sheet music. The website is the result of many years of research and it is unlikely to be updated after 2004, as resources have been exhausted. Copyright laws prohibit the Hawaii State Library or Bishop Museum to accept sheet music from anyone except the legal copyright holder, which means their limited collections are unlikely to expand. Mahalo.
Suddenly, every Tin Pan Alley tunesmith decided to write Hawaiian songs--with English words, a few words in Hawaiian, and often, pseudo-Pidgen gibberish. By 1916, there were hundreds of Hapa Haole (half "foreign") tunes written. That same year, more Hawaiian records were sold on the mainland than any other type of music. And they came in all the popular styles of the day: in ragtime, blues, jazz, foxtrot and waltz tempos, as "shimmy" dances and--even--in traditional hula tempos, but jazzed up a bit.
Over the years, most of these songs with English lyrics reflected the music of their times. There were silly, wacky songs in the 20s, swing in the 30s, rock 'n' roll in the 50s, surf-style in the 60s and so on. Many New York and Hawaiian composers provided the introductory verse common to published pop songs, but that part was rarely performed. The rest--usually put to hula rhythms--became the songs everyone heard.
In the 30s, Hawaiian troupes including Hilo Hattie [Clara Inter], Harry Owens and many, many others took their entertainers and bands on tours of the mainland. Goodwill ambassadors and tourism promoters second to none, these entertainers spent decades away from their beloved Hawaii to fill the public's seemingly inexhaustible appetite for hula and island music.
In 1935, a radio program began, broadcasting live from the Banyan Court of the Moana Hotel on the beach at Waikiki, and radios nationwide tuned in to hear Webley Edwards host Hawaii Calls. Not only did nearly every island entertainer cut his or her teeth on the program, many went on to become well known. Alfred Apaka, Haunani Kahalewai, Nina Keali'iwahamana, Pua Almeida, Harry Owens, Sol Bright, Al Kealoha Perry, Lena Machado, Benny Kalima, Danny Kaleikini, Palani Vaughn, Bill Kaiwa and many more are now legends in Hawaii. And the musicians themselves, inspired by an avid radio audience, wrote many of the songs most people today associate with Hawaii.
The Lei Songs
This website does not intend to infringe on anyone's copyright. The copyright laws were enacted to protect the sales of a copyrighted item. Any song on this website that is available today in sheet music form has been so noted and links to published or recorded material have been provided when possible. Mostly, the lyrics on this website are not available for sale anywhere and likely never will be again. But if any copyright holder objects to the inclusion of any of his or her material, it will be removed immediately upon notification.
The lyrics have been taken from the original published sheet music where possible. Transcriptions suffer from mis-heard words, performance variations and poor memories. If anyone has corrections, lyrics for a song listed but without words, or any information about a song that is not included, please contact the author of this website. Copyright dates are often approximate as many songs were self-published then later picked up by a larger music publishing house. The most common sheet music might then have a later date.
This website is for research purposes only. All lyric copyrights remain with the original copyright holders.
Though it is common today to use the Hawaiian language's diacritical marks (e.g. Hawai'i), we have not. Some of these symbols are not available in even the most common fonts and, during the period covered by this website, were not used at all.
Where sheet music or recordings of songs are available, the LP, 45, 78, cassette or CD is listed and if still in print, links have been provided to sources for these recordings and sheet music. Known to every Hawaiian musician is Harry's Music Store, 3457 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki, (808) 735-2866. It's an astounding source, for out-of-print sheet music (it's their original stock!), CDs and all things relating to Hawaiian music and musicians.
Mention must be made of a wonderful book for those interested in Hawaiian music, George S. Kanahele's Hawaiian Music and Musicians: An Illustrated History (University Press of Hawaii, 1978). This invaluable book is beyond the price of many collectors. Many quotes on this site are from interviews done by his staff of the Hawaiian Music Foundation and biographical information on composers has also come from this source. No copyright infringement is intended, but the book is so difficult for scholars and researchers to obtain, I felt it necessary.
The same applies to songwriter Tony Todaro's mammoth work, The Golden Years of Hawaiian Entertainment: 1874-1974 (Tony Todaro Publishing, 1974). Very rare and expensive when found, it contains biographies and photos of nearly every major Hawaiian entertainer of the period. Performer information has been taken from this source when unavailable elsewhere. No copyright infringement is intended.
A more readily obtainable book invaluable to those seeking recordings of specific songs is The Island Music Source Book, written by Brett C. Ortone and published in 1999. Recently out of print, copies should be available from used book sources. This 737-page large format paperback is standard equipment at every store in Hawaii selling island music. You may look up songs by title and artists by name. If you want to find a recording of a particular song, this is the best way to do it.
A new addition to the scant library of books on Hawaiian performers is a biography of R. Alex Anderson, From a Joyful Heart.
The type of music this website celebrates is played on Hawaii radio Sundays from 5 to 6 p.m. on a program called Territorial Airwaves, hosted by Harry B. Soria, Jr.
A great lover of island music is Larry W. Jones. His website showcases his own compositions and he has contributed much material to this website.
This site would not have been possible without the help of Kawika Trask and Keao Costa, two superb Hawaiian musicians who are among the few who truly strive to keep this kind of music alive. They and Kawika's group perform at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel's Marketplace.
Anyone interested in Hapa Haole and Hawaiian music at its finest is encouraged to stop by the Halekulani Hotel's beachside bar any evening from 5:30-8:30 p.m. where several groups of island musicians perform, including sensational steel guitarist Alan Akaka. Dancing with them is one of the loveliest hula dancers in Hawaii, Kanoe Miller.
And much aloha for the kokua from my kumu hula, Pohai Souza, and my hula sisters of Halau Hula Kamamolikolehua.
And a great big aloha to JoJo Weingart and the Hui O Hula in Leisure World, Seal Beach, CA.
Lastly, this site is dedicated with love and aloha to Dorothy Fonte, Gard Kealoha, Gerry Robinson and Jimmy Ai
Huapala, the Hawaiian music lyric site is a treasured resource.
A really creative source for information about Hawaiian music and performers is the Hawaiian Music Directory
The Hula Pages celebrates the covers of Hawaiian sheet music and the artists who drew them.
Some Hawaiian song lyrics can be found at Tropical Storm Hawaii.
The other three below are excellent sources for Hawaiian Music CDs.