‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i Music

José Can You See?

A group of Latino pop stars record a Spanish ‘Star Spangled Banner’ to support immigrants. Boy, a touchy issue, for sure. Apparently many people are outraged about this, including a descendant of the author. My first impression was, why should anyone be offended by this? I’m certainly not. However, I don’t know how I’d feel if someone took “Hawai’i Pono‘?” (our state anthem) or “Hawai‘i Aloha” (held with the same reverence) and performed them in English.

That being said, I am looking foward to hearing it, and it certainly is certainly going to bring even more attention to one of today’s most pressing social issues.

Of course, English language versions exist for many Hawaiian standards. The most famous of these is “Pearly Shells”, which was written to the melody of the mele “P?p? O ‘Ewa”. While the theme of “sea shells” is shared by the two, “Pearly Shells” is not a translation at all, and has little else in common with the original. I’ve been asked on many occasions to compose Hawaiian translations or interpretations of English songs, but would never provide anyone with such a translation or interpretation of a Hawaiian song so that it could be performed in English.

I frequently receive email from people asking about P?p? O ‘Ewa and Pearly Shells. A version of P?p? O ‘Ewa is heard in the movie “Donovan’s Reef”. The performance was quite nice and pronunciation excellent. I’ve been asked on several occasions about the group or choir that recorded it, and I don’t know who it was. It must have been a Hawaiian choir as the pronunciation was so good. The sound of Hawaiian choirs is very distinct, and I don’t believe a mainland choral group could have nailed the pronunciation as it was recorded for the movie.

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