Cultural Analysis, Volume 8, 2009
Ethics in Song: Becoming Kamaʻāina in Hapa-Haole Music1
Just five hours away by plane from California, Hawaiʻi is a thousand light years away in fantasy. Mostly a state of mind, Hawaiʻi is the image of escape from the rawness and violence of daily American life. Hawaiʻi—the word, the vision, the sound in the mind—is the fragrance and feel of soft kindness. Above all, Hawaiʻi is "she," the Western image of the Native "female" in her magical allure. And if luck prevails, some of "her" will rub off on you, the visitor. (Trask 1999, 136-7)
In "'Lovely Hula Hands': Corporate Tourism and the Prostitution of Hawaiian Culture," Native Hawaiian activist, poet, and scholar Haunani-Kay Trask critiques mass, corporate tourism as "cultural prostitution," an exploitation that depends on figuring Hawaiʻi as a complicit, inviting, exotic female. Trask underscores the power of popular culture to perpetuate these debilitating stereotypes and argues that these representations lead to real and devastating effects. In her cutting words, the "attraction of Hawaiʻi is stimulated by slick Hollywood movies, saccharine Andy Williams music …. Tourists flock to my Native land for escape, but they are escaping into a state of mind while participating in the destruction of a host people in a Native place (1999, 137). Her essay hammers out hard statistics of material conditions that support her condemnation of tourism as "the major cause of environmental degradation, low wages, land dispossession, and the highest cost of living in the United States" (1999, 144).
It is no accident that Trask borrows her essay's title, "Lovely Hula Hands," from the name of the hit song written by R. Alex Anderson in 1940 about a beautiful, graceful hula dancer. For Trask, this song signifies not only the feminized and sexualized stereotypes of Hawaiʻi that were promulgated and are perpetuated by U.S. popular culture, but also these stereotypes' power in the American imagination. As documented in work by Elizabeth Tatar, Adria Imada, and Charles Hiroshi Garrett,2 among others, Hawaiian music, via sheet music, the new technologies of records and radio, and live travelling performances, was a driving force for the "Hawaii Craze," that besotted the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century.3 A new musical genre also grew out of this period—"hapa-haole" music ("half-foreign")—a hybrid genre that mixed American jazz and dance rhythms (swing and foxtrot), Hawaiian instrumentation (such as the steel guitar and ʻukulele), and lyrics in both English and Hawaiian languages. Through national (U.S.) song-hits like "Lovely Hula Hands," "My Little Grass Shack," "Hawaiian War Chant," and "Sweet Leilani," hapa-haole music solidified and perpetuated U.S. mainland caricatures of Hawaiʻi as a place of grass shacks,white sandy beaches, lovely hula maidens, and happy dancing natives.
I argue that these sweet and tantalizing songs also played a significant role as reassuring and enabling texts in the larger project of settler colonialism, through their appropriation and breezy translation of the Hawaiian concept "kamaʻāina." Kamaʻāina is often translated literally as "child of the land" and can also mean local, native, "old-timer," or host. Its linguistic counterpart is "malihini," a foreigner or newcomer, a guest, or a "tenderfoot." Today, kamaʻāina is a Hawaiʻian term valued by businesses as an easy way to advertise local-ness, familiarity, and belonging. For example, many businesses employ kamaʻāina in their names to show a connection to the community (Kamaʻāina Pest Control, Kamaʻāina Kids Day Dare, Kamaʻāina Pizza Hut, etc.). The term is also commonly used to label a type of monetary discount (e.g., the admission price to a theme park may have a "kamaʻāina discount" for people who can prove, through a Hawaiʻian driverʻs license for example, that they live here.) Historically, this value placed on belonging—of being kamaʻāina—has also been a cornerstone of settler colonialism in Hawaiʻi. Settler colonialism has drastically refigured the concept of kamaʻāina in various popular cultural texts, hapa-haole music being one of many examples, putting focus on the idea of becoming kamaʻāina as an easily attainable possibility. This paper will trace some of the history of how the term kamaʻāina has been transformed in the service of settler colonialism. I will also explore some musical examples that argue that outsiders can become kamaʻāina, and consider the unique ethical problems of posing this argument through music: the embodied experience of musical structure and the disruptive potential of a performer's ethos. Ultimately, I aim to demonstrate that in the case of music, settler texts are entirely captivating yet not static; and that through performance they can be directed and re-directed for overlapping and conflicting purposes. The use of music can raise some unsettling questions about what we may call "settler texts."
Kamaʻāina and the ethics of settler colonialism theory
Settler colonialism theory often depends on a hard-and-fast distinction between Native/indigenous and non-Native/settler. This distinction is designed to do the ethical work of undermining settler claims and recognizing and restoring indigenous peoples' unique rights to land. Kamaʻāina and malihini have often been defined along this binary by supportive Hawaiʻi scholars4 . For example, in his 1999 book Displacing Natives: The Rhetorical Production of Hawaiʻi, Houston Wood argues that kamaʻāina in the Hawaiian language originally meant "Native-born" or indigenous Hawaiian and that this meaning changed over the early 1900s into "island-born" or "well-acquainted" with Hawaiʻi. He uses Mary Louise-Pratt's idea of "anti-conquest rhetoric" to explain that a kamaʻāina identity was taken up by white missionaries' children (who were born in Hawaiʻi, as opposed to their parents who came to Hawaiʻi from New England) to do the "dual work of asserting innocence while securing hegemony" (1999, 40). Tracing the transformation of the word, Wood surveys the popular tourist and white settler publication Paradise of the Pacific from 1909 to 1910, concluding that quite literally, kamaʻāina had gradually come to replace the words "white" and "foreigner" (1999, 41): "By the 1930s, at least for the mostly Euroamerican writers in the pages of Paradise of the Pacific, kamaʻāina referred to Caucasians who had lived long in the islands, or who claimed to know much about 'island ways'" (1999, 41). Linking the processes of colonialism and tourism, Wood's argument identifies the white settler's/visitor's very real desire to become kamaʻāina as a colonial desire and appropriation of indigenous identity.5 His reassertion of kamaʻāina as Native (indigenous) thus attempts to undo colonial claims and lead to an ethical formulation based on recognizing impossibility: If you are not Native, you cannot become Native, and can therefore never have the same claims to land. An ethics based on this polar understanding between kamaʻāina and malihini relies on responsibly recognizing impossibility.6
Yet this irrevocable distinction between Native and non-Native contradicts what is found in cultural material in other Hawaiian-language folklore sources, namely ʻōlelo noʻeau (wise/poetical sayings or proverbs) and Hawaiian-language songs that use the words kamaʻāina and malihini.7 Although malihini was used to refer to white foreigners and newcomers to Hawaiʻi, the word was not exclusively reserved for non-Natives. In the standard Pukui and Elbert Hawaiian-English Dictionary, malihini is more broadly defined as a "stranger, foreigner, newcomer," "one unfamiliar with a place or custom" (Pukui and Elbert 1957, 233). One ʻōlelo noʻeau reads "Mamua ke kamaʻāina, mahope ka malihini, first the native-born, then the stranger" and explained as something "often said before legendary battles in deciding who was to strike the first blow" (Pukui 1983, 124). It is unlikely that the malihini in the context of "legendary battles" referred to non-Native foreigners, and very likely that it referred to a person from another island or another part of the same island. In addition, Hawaiian-language songs like "Wai Punalau" (1897) and "Akaka Falls" (1934) use the word malihini in a non-ethnic, non-nationalistic way to simply describe unfamiliarity with a particular place in Hawaiʻi (the waters of Punalau and Akaka Falls, respectively). These kinds of sources assume that a person is kamaʻāina or malihini by their knowledge and relationship to place. A kamaʻāina has specific knowledge about a specific place that a malihini does not.
Along with this knowledge requirement, the possibility of becoming kamaʻāina is already culturally inherent to the concept. The saying "E hoʻokamaʻāina! Make yourself at home (said to strangers)" (Pukui 1983, 124) suggests that, even if meant figuratively, kamaʻāina can become a verb and an imperative in the context of hospitality8 . Strangers are welcomed into this identity, but the welcome is bound by responsibility. For example, the ʻōlelo noʻeau "Hoʻokāhi no [sic] lā o ka malihini" is translated as "A stranger only for a day" and explained, "After the first day as a guest, one must help with the work" (Pukui 1983, 115). Based on this Hawaiian cultural knowledge, a more difficult ethic emerges in which it is not only possible to become kamaʻāina; further, one ought to. In contrast to the limiting settler colonial model of ethics discussed earlier (bound by impossibility), this ethical model defines its limits in terms of responsibility and care between the land, host, and guest. I say "more difficult ethic" because the translation of this model out of the Hawaiian language and cultural context and into a tourism discourse can and has offered a dangerous opening to making colonial claims to a kamaʻāina identity. To qualify Wood's argument, we can understand the colonial appropriation of kamaʻāina as something the term had been vulnerable to all along.
We can look at Jack London's desire to be kamaʻāina as a brief example of the way kamaʻāina was used as a tourist and settler strategy to soothe possible unease about identity and imperialism. In a chapter titled "Becoming Hawaiian: Jack London, Cultural Tourism, and the Myth of Hawaiian Exceptionalism," John Eperjesi identifies London's desire to be kamaʻāina as a desire to move from "same to other, from us to them from malihini to kamaaiana [sic]" (2005, 127). The transformation is effected through the Londons' participation in Hawaiian cultural activities like surfing and attending lūʻau. These kinds of "adventures" (2005, 113) helped distance the Londons from the "run-of-the-mill tourists" (2005, 114) and their white American identities, ultimately "[giving] the Londons the confidence to extract themselves from complicity with the project of imperialism" (2005, 127). In other words, the "fantasy of becoming kamaaiana [sic] … enabled [the Londons] to believe that they had distanced themselves from their Americanness. According to Liliʻuokalani, this fantasy, which was becoming quite popular amongst white settlers around the turn of the century, was one of the most insidious weapons for annexation" (2005, 106-7). London is happy to be distancing himself from the "run-of-the-mill tourist" but, as Dean MacCannell elaborates in The Tourist, this very renunciation of the tourist category is essential to tourism. As MacCannell put it, tourists are motivated by a desire "to go beyond the other 'mere' tourists to a more profound appreciation of society and culture" (1976, 10). In other words, the ability and possibility of becoming kamaʻāina is a necessary dimension of mass tourism. London's story demonstrates the intimate link between tourist pleasures and settler colonial desire.
At the same time, we must not forget about the resonance kamaʻāina still holds in Native Hawaiian epistemology. How can the invitation to become kamaʻāina simultaneously sustain settler colonialism, tourism, and Native Hawaiian culture? These kinds of paradoxes are unavoidable in a colonized place like Hawaiʻi, layered with a conflicted history, and call into question the possibility of decolonizing such fraught concepts. For example, Keiko Ohnumaʻs work on "aloha spirit" traces how the Hawaiian cultural concept of aloha has been taken up and altered by Christianity, tourism, and the multicultural Democratic State of Hawaiʻi.9 Ohnuma concludes that aloha's complicated genealogy renders it difficult to reclaim by Hawaiian nationalist groups, for "the term's history already contains within it competing markers of nationhood" (2008, 380).10 Instead of dismissing the concept of kamaʻāina, I would like to keep its contested meanings at the forefront of this paper. The concept's conflicted malleability is both restricted and augmented by hapa-haole music, a genre that wields a unique transformative power. The rest of this paper will focus on the multiple processes and strategies by which settler colonial claims for a more local identity can be issued and made persuasive, looking in particular at the rhetorical force of music.
"I'm Just A Kamaaina Now": musical stories and transformations
Because the English language is stress-timed rather than syllable-timed, words' meanings often depend on the particular stress and rhythm of spoken delivery. When words are set to music, certain stresses are made mandatory by the melody itself, which in turn create dominant understandings of the words' meanings. As musical rhetorician Simon Frith explains, the spoken phrase "she loves you" "shifts its narrative meaning (if not its semantic sense) according to whether the emphasis is placed on the 'she' (rather than someone else), 'loves' (rather than hates), or 'you' (rather than me or him). In setting the words to music, the Beatles had to choose one stress, one dominant implication. The song becomes the preferred reading of the words." (1996, 181). My close analysis of the music in this section will focus on the interaction between melodic stress and meaning while also questioning the dominance of these created meanings.
Several theorists have pointed to the ways in which music's use of rhythm and ability to invoke strong feeling, poses a unique ethical situation. For example, in "Reality and Its Shadow," Emmanuel Lévinas explores the danger of rhythm (in music specifically but also in poetry and visual art) as "the unique situation where we cannot speak of consent, assumption, initiative or liberty, because the subject is seized by rhythm and carried away" (2004, 79).11 The subject (the listener or viewer) falls away from grappling with reality and falls into passive sensation and imagination (2004, 80-81). This formulation suggests that the experience of music itself can effect a subjective transformation. A musical structure can make a certain argument work by carrying listeners along with it. Whether or not they want to, they must experience the highs and lows of a song, the changes in rhythm and stress, and all these techniques have (at least subconscious) effects.
In thinking about settler colonialism, Theodor Adorno's argument about the power of music as "social cement" (2002 "Popular," 460) takes on new relevance. In his elaboration of mass listening habits in "On Popular Music," Adorno stresses the importance of recognition (2002 "Popular," 452). The average listener gains pleasure out of listening to popular music because of its familiarity (it sounds like all the other songs) which in turn is created through mind-numbing repetition (of themes, notes, melodies, etc.). Music—and in this case he specifically mentions Tin Pan Alley as an example of standardized, mass-produced music—needs to be easy and predictable.12 This standardization creates a parallel effect in the listener: "popular music divests the listener of his spontaneity and promotes conditioned reflexes." It is "predigested" (2002 "Popular," 442-3). Popular music, as mass entertainment and part of the culture industry, thus works to subdue individuality into an obedient collective of workers. To keep people contentedly working at industrialized drudgery, leisure time must provide relief through "effortless sensation" (2002 "Popular," 459), fun that requires no work at all. From Adorno's analysis, we see that music has the potential to provide, without any effort of thought by the individual, a sense of community and engender a feeling of recognition. How might it host a transformation into kamaʻāina (joining a local community) and allay outsider anxieties about being strangers in a strange land?
Both Lévinas and Adorno were severely mistrustful of music as an obstacle to accountability, control, and thought. They were also both writing nearly contemporaneously with the worldwide popularity of hapa-haole music, which makes their thoughts on this particular genre especially relevant, as long as we keep in mind certain qualifications. To counter Adorno's cultural and class-based elitist dismissal of popular culture and its revolutionary potential, I would like to also work with Gayatri Spivak's discussion of the ethical in fiction (which I am here applying to narrative and story more generally) as an "interruption" (2002, 17). Spivak argues that literature can give "rhetorical signals to the reader, which can lead to activating the readerly imagination."13 For example, characters that are denied focalization in a story can provoke a reader to "counterfocalize" (2002, 22). The act of imagining something difficult and unverifiable is itself an ethical act; it is the practice of "imagin[ing] the other who does not resemble the self" (2002, 23). Can settler texts also stage responsible understandings across cultural difference? In this section, I will explore the ethical ramifications of the interplay between narrative interruption and musical coercion in two songs explicitly about becoming kamaʻāina: "I'm Not A Malihini Anymore" and "Kamaaina," both copyrighted in 1935 by Johnny Noble and published in a collection titled Johnny Noble's Book of Famous Hawaiian Melodies; Including Hulas and Popular Standards that was distributed out of the large Miller Music Company in New York.14 Though neither of these songs appear to have been popular successes at the time they were written,15 their step-by-step explanations of the transformation from malihini to kamaʻāina are blatantly pertinent to questions of settler colonial strategies, and well worth thinking about theoretically.
The first song, "I'm Not a Malihini Anymore," tells the story of a wandering malihini who arrives in Hawaiʻi and decides to settle there. Narrated in first person and addressed to Hawaiʻi generally or someone representative of Hawaiʻi, the malihini describes his transformation through pleasant Hawaiian cultural, now turned tourist activities such as learning how to "eat fish and poi," "swim like a real beach boy," how to do the "hula hula dance," and "the meaning of Aloha too." The ease and fun of this education is asserted, as the lyric's passive verbs imply that all of these things were learned while the malihini "lingered long on [Hawaiʻi's] shore." These verbs also subtly establish the malihini character as an innocent receiver of Hawaiʻi's "songs and leis." He is clearly not forcing any Natives to do anything they don't want to do.
Musically, we can feel and experience the tragedy of the wandering malihini character in the long and deliberate notes of the introduction, the story of the voyage. After a pensive minor-chord rising proclamation under "no more will I roam," the answer appears to lie in the line "I'm going to make Hawaii my home." I say "appears," because the word "home" is sung over a seventh chord, which, in Western ballad music, is problematic to finish on because a melody is not resolved until the seventh chord moves into its major chord. The placement of the seventh chord under the lyric "home," necessitates that we (as listeners) continue into the malihini's rationale of rebirth. The subsequent phrases (each a bullet point in a list of tourist activities) also resist musical resolution, requiring the song to continue to march forward. Moreover, the rhythm under "malihini" is repeated under "kamaaina," musically linking the terms together and subtly preparing us for the replacement of one with the otherby way of their similarity. The triumph of kamaʻāina feels inevitable, as its final two syllables are given long, weighty notes that deliver us into the ending, as opposed to the notes of the final syllables of malihini, which quickly dance away.
The song ends confidently with the assertion "I'm not a malihini any more I'm telling you/I'm just a Kamaaina now." Musically, the song's ending pounds out this emphatic claim, the chords changing quickly with each word of "more I'm telling you," and the melody driving excitedly upward into one of the highest notes of the song. Only in the final word, "now," does the song finally resolve into an ending major chord. This resulting stress on the word "now" emphasizes the immediate presence of the new state of being as kamaʻāina and suggests that the transformation described also transpired within the song itself. Melodic convention forces us to this reading, leaving no other option.
Yet there is an anxiety about this malihini's story, a characteristic, according to Stephen Turner, that marks it as a settler narrative. This unease speaks to Turner's description of the internal, inescapable "self-contradiction of the settler" he terms "colonial being—a mode of being in a place which is discontinuous with its past (the past of place)" (2002, 40). Settler narratives—whether "historical and/or fictional and/or personal"—try to cover this up, they "provide an illusory continuity, a more or less seamless sense of place and history" (2002, 59), but the narratives themselves are unsettled and cannot suppress the sometimes brief appearances of anxiety or indignation. In his essay on settler colonial texts in a New Zealand/Aotearoa context, "Being Colonial/Colonial Being," Turner identifies the main purpose of settler narratives as having to "settle the settler" (2002, 55). Some telling trademarks include bursts of indignation, proclamations of decency, grand expressions of genuine feeling, and general anxiety, discomfort, and contradiction. These are all signs of how "the anxiety of colonial being, and the indignation associated with it, infects stories of place" (2002, 50). In the song "I'm Not a Malihini Anymore," it is significant that the malihini is all alone in his story of becoming kamaʻāina. Gaping absences are left by the malihini's obsessive repetition of I, I, I in this uneasy autobiography. Both the land and other kamaʻāina characters seem to be pointedly left out. Perhaps the extremely confident and self-assertive ending acts as an overblown overcompensation in the face of this outsider's unspoken concerns. A settler penchant for self-determination, via claiming a kamaʻāina identity, also surfaces in other kinds of Hawaiʻi popular culture texts. For example, a Paradise of the Pacific article from 1917 describes a Honolulu candidate for mayor as follows: "Joel C. Cohen, widely and heartily known as just 'Joe', is in every sense of the Hawaiian word a kamaaina, which means not only an old timer, but an old timer who belongs because he wants to belong" ("Everybody Knows" 15). In Hawaiʻi settler rhetoric, being kamaʻāina has often been justified through mere reassertion and self-reassurance.
Another characteristic of settler narrative, according to Turner, is a rationale of affection and emotion in which the settler's "real feeling for the place and indigenous peoples entitles him to claim that he is indigenous" (2002, 50).16 This rhetoric sets up our second song, "Kamaaina." Again narrated in the first person, this time by a self-proclaimed "malihini haole boy," the song begins with swooning declarations of love for "Dear Honolulu," a "wondʻrous paradise." He wants "to do like the natives do." and prove that "I can be a KAMAAINA too." This song is even more conscious of the power of music than "I'm Not a Malihini Anymore"—the Natives seem largely preoccupied with song and dance—they chant, croon, and hula. After learning these music-based skills, the malihini proudly concludes, "So Honolulu, I can always say/I'm a KAMAAINA to you now." Much like the first song, this ending statement is showily adorned with rapid chord changes over every syllable of "a KAMAAINA to you now," and the "now" is also aligned with the necessary concluding major chord.
Because this song is in cut time, also notated as 2/2 and indicating double speed, the main stress falls on the first and third beats of each measure (if we read each measure as having four beats, as each would in 4/4 time). This rhythm underscores a subtle shift in the stress between the phrase "I can be a KAMAAINA too" in the middle of the song and "I'm a KAMAAINA to you now" at the end of the song. In the first phrase, the first and third beats fall under the "I" (referring to the malihini) and the "ka" of kamaʻāina, thus linking the two terms and foreshadowing the I's adoption of this identity. By the end, however, the I is pushed back to the fourth beat, shifting the emphasis to the "ka" (and therefore kamaʻāina) and "now" (the first beat of the next measure). Again, the relation between the rhythm and the melody of the song argues for the transformative potential of music itself in the story of becoming kamaʻāina.
This second song, "Kamaaina," differs from the first in one important way—the addition of Native characters as both a colluding and countering voice in the text. The malihini names the existence of "natives" and "tropical hula maidens" who are "happy all day long" and then quotes them: "'Aloha mai' they all say to me 'E komo mai'/They're inviting me." These quotations are set off melodically from the rest of the song, given a unique rhythm not repeated anywhere else. Although the decriptions of these other characters as warm and welcoming definitely creates a settling effect for the malihini, I think there is also something compelling and mysterious about their presence that the narrative cannot quite explain. For example, when the tropical hula maidens are first introduced, they "seem to dance and croon to a native tune" [emphasis mine]. There is something unknowable about them, something again gestured at in the description of hula as "move and sway in that funny way" [emphasis mine].
This Native presence comes closest to the surface in a highly ambiguous moment that happens over the longest Hawaiian-language phrase in the song: "He inu i ka okolehao, malama pono oe ahahana ehehene." Roughly translated, this sentence would be "drink the okolehao [a drink akin to moonshine], take care la la la la."17 There are many possible explanations as to why the words break down into sounds at this point. For true malihini unfamiliar with Hawaiian, this section could serve as the obligatory nonsense syllables that made Hawaiian music enjoyable and playful for outsiders.18 For Hawaiian speakers (and we can assume a fair amount of Native Hawaiians did still understand the language at this point, although this population of speakers was steadily decreasing), this part of the text could speak directly and specifically to them, a small inside joke that not just anyone could access. Both these interpretations are supported by the fun surprise of the melodic jump from middle F to high F between "ahahana" and "ehehene." It is no coincidence that these two words approach typical English laughter sounds, and hard to say if everyone is laughing together or the malihini is being laughed at. In either case, this moment of incoherence invites speculation and imaginative action on the part of the listener/reader, and harking back to Spivak's work, a potential opening for an ethics of interruption.
In the larger context of its performance, hapa-haole music as popular dance music had particular force in both settling the malihini as well as making (more) kinesthetic the possibility of transformation into kamaʻāina. During the early 1900s, hapa-haole music was often played as dance music performed by a live band at hotels and country clubs.19 This was the way musicians made money and achieved popularity. These dance scenes were also where tourists and natives/locals came into regular contact with each other and formed relationships. Frith explains that "dance matters not just as a way of expressing music but as a way of listening to it, a way into the music in its unfolding—which is why dancing to music is both a way of losing oneself in it, physically, and a way of thinking about it, hearing it with a degree of concentration that is clearly not 'brainless'" (1996, 142). It is through dance "that we most easily participate in a piece of music" (1996, 142). This kind of bodily connection with dancing music has the potential to amplify the transformative experience of music discussed earlier. American tourists, already familiar with the popular entertainment of dance halls back home, could easily understand, interpret, and interact with the hybrid, danceable hapa-haole music.
For an example of dance music's power to derail settler insecurity, I want to quote a passage at length from the biography of Johnny Noble (1948) titled Hula Blues. This largely celebratory biography was authorized by Noble's estate, written by Gurre Ploner Noble20 —herself a self-proclaimed (haole) kamaʻāina—and printed by a small, private press in 1945. Based largely on Johnny Noble's own notes for a book about Hawaiʻi's music, Hula Blues seeks to teach malihini audiences, as suggested by its appendix's explanatory notes on "ancient Hawaiian instruments" and Hawaiian poetry and language. The following passage describes a musical performance at the Moana Pier by the Waikīkī Beach Boys on a "typical" Sunday night in the 1920s:
Nothing is heard but the waves moaning against submerged coral reefs. The boys begin to play and to sing, softly, with a gentle breath which seems to do little more than add its obbligato to the silver voice of the surf. With deep emotion their voices rise and fall in unison, and a melody of indescribable beauty emerges, compelling and sweet, touching the hearts of every listener. On and on it reaches, into the pulsing darkness of the tropic night. Like a sigh it fades and dies—the song has ended.
And then, before a word can be spoken, comes a gay hapa-haole tune. The ukuleles and guitars thump out a wild, carefree air, young voices are raised in joyous unrestraint. People smile and nod and murmur, tapping their feet to the intoxicating tempo. Some slip into each other's arms and dance lightly among the other listeners. With a burst of laughing harmony—another song has ended. (Noble 1948, 61)
In this scene, the Hawaiian-language music described in the first paragraph harmonizes with its natural surroundings—the surf and the night.21 It belongs to the place. The words "moaning" and "pulsing" emphasize the music's primal quality, a quality that affects its listeners emotionally (through the heart), not cognitively, thereby sketching a typical colonial representation of the primitive, irrational Native.
Then begins an uncomfortable silence.
The listeners are incapable of verbalizing a reaction or comprehending the strange music that came before. Before the audience can try to make sense of that first experience, hapa-haole music bounds exuberantly into the silence with "joyous unrestraint" and now people know how to react. They are "intoxicated" with its magic spell, quickly forgetting the solemn moment that had preceded it. The way each song ends is particularly telling. While the Hawaiian song "dies"—registering a serious, irrevocable loss—the hapa-haole tune is just another song that merely ends, "[w]ith a burst of laughing harmony." Turner discusses these kinds of uncomfortable gaps or contradictions in the narrative as something settler texts attempt to cover over. The gaiety of hapa-haole music as a genre has erased the seriousness, sadness, and strangeness that came before it, enabled listeners to become dancing participants in this happiness, and helped them forget the silence that had left them dumbfounded earlier. Though it only tells the story from a malihini perspective, this example suggests sobering limits to the revolutionary force of interruption, especially considering music's rhetorical force to engage the body and senses and carry them away.
A final point, or problem rather: as discussed earlier, both songs posit malihini characters that appear at one level to be passive and innocent. They are by no means imposing themselves on unwilling natives. They are simply responding ("decently," as Turner might say) to the invitation. However, the natives in each story don't have any real agency either. In each story, the malihini speaker is the one narrating the story, and at the end of each song, it is the malihini who ultimately gets to decide and proclaim that he is now a kamaʻāina. Analyzing the invitations in these hapa-haole songs in terms of power and authority suggest that becoming kamaʻāina within the realm of tourism is based on what Paul Lyons has described as a colonial situation, in which the power relation between host and guest is reversed, a situation that can lead to the guest figuratively and literally taking the host hostage (2006, 12). To further complicate matters, though each song's first-person narration ostensibly speaks from a malihini perspective, the copyrights to these songs were registered by a kamaʻāina who was also part-Hawaiian, Johnny Noble.22 Why would a kamaʻāina take on a malihini persona in order to tell a story of triumphant settlement? Perhaps the deployment of authentic native bodies (as writers, singers, dancers) helped to create even more convincing lullabies for the uneasy settler.23 The details of this issue are outside the scope of this paper, but it is important to note that Turner's critique of settler narratives, though quite helpful in probing motivations and signs of settler colonialism in a story, cannot explain the twists and turns of authorship and (likely) performance for these two songs. The scope of Turner's "Being Colonial/Colonial Being" is restricted to settler narratives by settlers.
Alongside this recognition of hapa-haole music as a coercive embodied experience that can try (and fail) to interrupt itself, we should also recognize that settler stories themselves are able to circulate within both settler and non-settler communities, opening unexpected possibilities as performer and audience change. As folklorist Amy Shuman reminds us, "[s]tories do not exist in isolation, and it is impossible to prevent a story from being appropriated, reinterpreted, and recategorized" (19). Can these same (colonial) arguments and strategies of becoming sometimes lead to more positive and anticolonial outcomes? Performance, in particular, can open up drastic retellings of settler narratives, as we will explore in the next section.
Retelling settler stories
The hapa-haole song "Haole Hula" (1928) is an excellent example of how tourism depends on music to be understood. The lyrics consist of a list of reasons to love Hawaiʻi, and the organization of the song privileges music as the first and foremost reason. The song begins with the unnamed narrator recalling different Hawaiian-language songs, both by name and also musically by melodically capturing that "large intervallic leap" (which starts on one note and ascends or descends to a different note quite distant on the scale, also characteristic of yodeling) that George Kanahele identifies as a characteristic of Hawaiian songs (1979, 107) This verse encapsulates the force of Hawaiian music in the tourist's experience: through radio, records, sheet music, traveling musicians, or the arrival of the steamships to sounds of the Royal Hawaiian Band at the dock, music was truly the first story many tourists heard of Hawaiʻi.
The land itself is given a musical voice—the rain swishes "as it sweeps down the valley," the wind has a "song" and the ocean waves "crash" and "hiss." Emotion becomes something audible that is expressed and communicated specifically through music. The narrator is moved to "dance and sing of the charms of Hawaii/And from a joyful heart sing Aloha to you/In evʻry note I'll tell of the spell of my Islands/For then I know that you'll be in love with them too." Again, here is clearly the expectation that the performance or experience of the song itself can enact a transformation, this falling in love.
The narrator's own relationship to Hawaiʻi is not divulged. All we can deduce is that the singer is familiar with Hawaiian songs, expresses great love for the land, and refers to this place as "my Islands." It is unclear whether the "Haole" of the title refers to the singer or the "you" addressed. The singer's message is decidedly welcoming. The simple, repetitive structure of each verse builds up anticipation and expectations that get released in the climactic high note of the last line under the word "you'll." Through this coalescence of word and melody, the main force of this song is directed outwards, likely towards a malihini or newcomer—one who is haunted by Hawaiʻi, but not yet familiar. Though the words kamaʻāina and malihini do not come up in this song, I find the relationship described between the land and one familiar, and one unfamiliar sufficient to be relevant.
We can easily critique this song as a settler text by way of its author's biography. This song was written by R. Alex Anderson (1894-1995), one of the most successful and well-known composers of hapa-haole music. His hits include "Lovely Hula Hands," "Soft Green Seas," and "Mele Kalikimaka." He was also a third-generation settler whose family directly profited from Hawaiʻi's colonial and tourism projects. His grandfather, Alexander Young, was an important figure in the sugar plantations, built and opened the Alexander Young Hotel, bought the Royal Hawaiian and Moana hotels, was a member of the House of Nobles under the Hawaiian Kingdom, and after the illegal overthrow was the Minister of the Interior for the Republic (Stone 2003, 16-18). With this knowledge about Anderson's family, we might well be right to read this song as fulfilling a settler impulse to lay claim to land and belonging.24 In this case, music's own rhetoric of emotion aligns itself with the rhetoric of emotion that, as Turner points out, settler narratives can also rely on.
We can also critique this song's English lyrics as an impoverished translation of Hawaiian cultural understanding and knowledge of land. A defining characteristic of Hawaiian songs and poems is a rich and detailed knowledge of place—every kind of wind and rain and valley has a name and a story, and knowledge of these specificities is a mark of being kamaʻāina to a place.25 We can see an example of this in the Hoʻoulumāhiehie moʻolelo of Hiʻiakaikapoliopele (originally published in a Hawaiian-language newspaper in installments from 1905-1906) in which Pele proves she is kamaʻāina to Kauai by reciting the names of over 300 different winds found on the island (2007, 13-25). The vague and general English words "wind" and "rain" and "cloud" seem feeble in comparison.
All these ethically charged criticisms seem to make sense, but we run into a problem when confronted with the ethos of one later performer of "Haole Hula," George Helm (1950-1977). George Helm was a Hawaiian musician and activist who was one of the leaders of an organization in the 1970s called the Protect Kahoʻolawe Ohana. This group fought against the U.S. military's use of the island of Kahoʻolawe as a site to test bombs and as target practice for live ammunition, a practice that began during WWII and ended in 1990. As Hawaiian scholar, musician, and activist Jon Osorio explains, George Helm's cultural understanding of the ethics of relationship to land dramatically changed the stakes of this atrocity: "George Helm's leadership helped to broaden the scope of the [PKO] movement from the more political issue of native lands versus military occupation to a cultural expression of recognizing the land as a living and feeling entity … With this cultural understanding, Hawaiians did not perceive the bombing of Kahoʻolawe as simply wasteful, but rather as institutionalized torture and murder" (1992, 431). As a crucial figure of the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s,26 Helm helped reconnect Hawaiians of that time ( often referred to as the "lost generation,") with their culture and identity after decades in which indigenous history and language were forgotten or difficult to access. Together with the PKO, Helm spread the use and understanding of the term "aloha ʻāina," a concept that can be translated literally as "love for land," but also carries the Hawaiian ethical imperative to care for the land as a family member, and the understanding that the land will reciprocate by caring for you. The phrase also connects with an often underplayed history of Hawaiian national political resistance in the time of the overthrow (Morales 1984, 19-20). George Helm and fellow PKO-member Kimo Mitchell were lost at sea in 1977, after attempting to rescue some fellow activists who were occupying Kahoʻolawe. To this day, their disappearances continue to haunt the Hawaiian and Hawaiian nationalist communities.
Trained by Kahauanu Lake, George Helm was also a musical legend and a young master of Hawaiian-language music and the Hawaiian falsetto-style of singing. Lake also taught him integrity as a musician and performer, instilling the value of carefully researching the meanings and histories of the songs he chose to play. This discipline and commitment to history informed Helm's political work too; he often exhorted others to "do your homework" (Morales 1984, 13-14). With this knowledge of Helm, we can assume he was very aware of where "Haole Hula" came from and who wrote it, yet chose to perform the song anyway, recording it on a live album in 1976 that featured many Hawaiian-language songs (including traditional favorites and lesser-known older songs) interspersed with a handful of English-language songs more explicitly about tourism—"Waikiki" by Andy Kealoha Cummings, "Royal Hawaiian Hotel" by Mary Robins, and "Haole Hula." The original liner notes to this album (released after his disappearance) speak of Helm's deep relationship to his chosen music:
[A]ccording to his close friend ʻIlima Piʻianaiʻa … . "[Helm's] appreciation centered on songs which had been written during the first half of this century [early 1900s] and embodied what George called 'Hawaiian Soul' … [these ellipses in original] The Isaac's [sic] family (including Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Sr., who wrote one of George's favorite songs, "Emau," telling of the need to preserve Hawaiian traditions), Andy Cummings, David Naope, Alfred Alohikea, and Lena Machado were among his favorites, and through their Hawaiian Soul he came to understand the political activism, the crying hurt and the unspoken dignity of the Hawaiians of the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's. (Masuda 1996)
Helm's skill and power as a musical performer also proved a powerful force in his activism, often helping him connect with people who would normally be put off by the label "activist." Besides performing at purely entertainment venues, Helm also played and sang at political rallies, and many stories relate that Helm's music would draw people to his political and cultural messages infinitely more effectively than speeches. As Piʻianaiʻa writes, "through his music older Hawaiians were touched in the depths of their naʻau, their guts, and understood what George was about" (1984, 47). Walter Ritte, Jr., another leading member of PKO, explains how music in particular connected Helm with his own cultural beliefs and identity and allowed Helm to share that connection with others: "It was his music which created a neutral space for all to come close to the man, George Helm. It was his music which allowed him to caress his culture. It was his music which allowed us to observe a true Hawaiian" [emphases in original] (1984, 73). As these examples demonstrate, music and politics and identity were not separate for Helm, but necessarily dependant on each other.
To discuss Helm's performance of "Haole Hula," I would like to briefly bring up folklorist Amy Shuman's work on empathy.Narratives that ask listeners to identify with an unknown teller are grounded in what Shuman identifies as the "promise of storytelling"—empathy. Although Shuman's work deals specifically with the everyday telling of personal stories, not settler stories, her critique of empathy can help us further understand how settler stories and their "wish to understand across a divide" (2005, 162) hold a double (edged) promise of justifying and enacting colonial violence and also being mobilized for radical change. She maps out how and what empathy unsettles as follows:
Empathy is the act of understanding others across time, space, or any difference in experience. Although empathy holds out a great, perhaps the greatest, promise of storytelling, it is at the same time a destabilizing element in storytelling. Empathy relies on, but also destabilizes, the association among persons and their experiences. It destabilizes entitlement by creating the possibility that people can legitimately retell each other's stories. It destabilizes meaning from the personal to the allegorical. (2005, 4)
Shuman's breakdown of empathy explains that stories that ask listeners to enter into a different/strange/new subjectivity are vulnerable to appropriation on multiple fronts. When taken in conjunction with a critique of settler colonialism, we can see that splitting people from their experiences can be understood as a colonial tactic—an un-knowing or purposeful forgetting of Native stories and claims on land.27 In a similar vein, Shuman also points out that empathy "rarely changes the circumstances of those who suffer. If it provides inspiration, it is more often for those in the privileged position of empathizer rather than empathized" (2005, 5). The previous narrative of hapa-haole music as dance music painfully underscores, in Shuman's terms, the "luxury of storytelling" and the relative safety of the listener (2005, 8). On the other hand, this same destabilizing energy inherent to stories that evokeempathy can also be channeled into reworking settler narrative songs, as we can see in the example of George Helm.
Conscious and careful with his song choices and quite familiar with the experience of performing music in a tourist setting, George Helm's choice to perform "Haole Hula" suggests this song's complicity in a settler colonial project is only one possibility. His particular ethos works to recontextualize the song in the service of aloha ʻāina. With this knowledge of Helm's commitment to reconnecting other Hawaiians with the idea of aloha ʻāina, the welcoming lyrics to "Haole Hula" take on new and radical meanings. The lyric's argument to fall in love with Hawaiʻi becomes recast as a political and cultural argument to recognize the land as not an object or surface, but as being and family. For Helm to perform this song, the "I" and "you" built into the song's lyrics are destabilized, shifting from "Anderson" and "tourist/newcomer" to "George Helm" and "other Native Hawaiians." In Helm's recording of "Haole Hula," we can hear that he performs the last line of the song differently from the way it was originally written in Anderson's sheet music. As discussed earlier, the highest, most climactic note originally fell under the word "you'll," marking the utmost importance and dominance of the malihini in the kamaʻāina-malihini interaction under the usual tourism-colonial conditions. In Helm's rendition, however, the end-phrase melody slowly (ritardando, in the musical lexicon) builds the entire phrase "you'll be in love," shifting the highest note to "love." This change in musical rhetoric shifts the emphasis away from "you'll" in order to emphasize Helm's key goal—spreading the message of "aloha ʻāina." Becoming kamaʻāina, or entering into this knowledge and relationship with the land, becomes an ethical imperative re-refigured in the service of Hawaiian culture and nationalism.
Far better as a remembrance of Hawaii, than such souvenirs as a pressed flower, a piece of lace-like coral, a grass skirt, or a paper lei, is a record of Hawaiian music, played and sung by Hawaiians. The langorous (sic) Polynesian melodies with their sweet, sober cadences, transport the listener to idyllic scenes of tropic loveliness, for somewhere deep in the heart of everyone is hidden the dream of Paradise—a life spent on a South Sea Island. (Noble 1948, 101)
On the particular force of popular music in history, Frith writes, "Pop music has been an important way in which we have learned to understand ourselves as historical, ethnic, class-bound, gendered, national subjects — . Music certainly puts us in our place, but it can also suggest that our social circumstances are not immutable" (1996, 276-7). In a similar vein, this essay has examined a particular music's force in representing Hawaiʻi to the U.S., codifying damaging touristic stereotypes, and staging opportunities and invitations to change one's social circumstance—to become kamaʻāina. Music can get inside of people, can carry them in and out of emotions, and can affect them bodily. Simultaneously, music relies on performance, and bodies can transform and redirect music for new and conflicting purposes. Gaining particular power in this complex medium, the seemingly settler colonial promise of becoming kamaʻāina and the desire to understand and claim a place through telling stories can speak to both settler and Native Hawaiian audiences. The very instabilities of a settler colonial text can open possibilities of revolutionary potential.
Hapa-haole music, or "Waikīkī tourist music," as I sometimes refer to it when talking colloquially to other people about this project, has often been dismissed as embarrassing kitsch, "bereft of substance, as inauthentic as a coconut-shell bra" (Drury 2003). As Hawaiian scholar Lisa Kahaleole Hall points out, the (over)marketing of Hawaiʻi as kitsch—and she identifies Tin Pan Alley hapa-haole music as part of this conception—can have much more severe consequences: "A culture without dignity cannot be conceived of as having sovereign rights, and the repeated marketing of kitsch Hawaiian-ness leads to non-Hawaiians' misunderstanding and degradation of Hawaiian culture and history" (2005, 409). The translation of "becoming kamaʻāina" into the medium of hapa-haole music has enacted a violence of simplification on this understanding of local identity. Through the lyrics and melodies of the songs discussed in this paper, kamaʻāina becomes an identity open for the taking. Anyone can become kamaʻāina if they want to, if they love it here. When "becoming kamaʻāina" loses its connotations of mutual responsibility and emphasis on interdependent relationships, it in turn becomes an empty shell, too easy to pick up and string onto a 99-cent lei.
There exist small pockets of resistance in the Hawaiian community that advocate the re-cognition of hapa-haole music as a Hawaiian cultural aspect to own and take pride in.28 This idea is championed most publicly by kumu hula and Hawaiian rights political activist Vicky Takamine and her annual Hapa Haole Hula, Music, and Film Festival. According to Takamine, "[t]he hapa haole period served a real purpose … . It kept the Hawaiian culture alive" (qtd in Drury 2003). As explored in this essay, I understand hapa-haole music as an unwieldy transmitter, a genre that has preserved cultural values such asthe invitation to become kamaʻāina, but only by cycling them through multiple translations.
Popular music is often seen as "harmless" and "light," thereby eluding criticism and closer thought. In Adorno's words, it "inclines to smile at itself in order to pass by without being challenged" (2002 "Social," 427). He calls for a more rigorous examination of this inocuity as well as efforts to historicize popular music in political and economic terms (2002 "Social," 425-7.) In the economic and political context of colonialism, what are the roles emotional, creative, and performative popular cultural texts such as music play? It is possible to break down this larger question into many more specific ones. For example, we could interrogate how the requisite humor of hapa-haole music has been used by local and/or Hawaiian musicians to satirize darker and more serious political and socioeconomic conditions in song and dance. We can also think harder about how this music addresses non-white Hawaiʻi settlers.
As I hope this essay suggests, this deceptively simple genre is ripe for much more work that can reach beneath the common criticisms of inauthenticity to investigate moments of ethical interruption, instability, and more subtle forms of struggle.
1I am very grateful to Paul Lyons, Jeff Carroll, John Zuern, Cristina Bacchilega, John Rieder, Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada, and my anonymous reviewer for their thoughtful feedback on this paper at various points in the writing process. Any errors that remain are entirely my own. [ Return to the article ]
2See Strains of Change: The Impact of Tourism on Hawaiian Music by Elizabeth Tatar (1995), "Hawaiians on Tour: Hula Circuits Through the American Empire" by Adria Imada (2004), and Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century by Charles Hiroshi Garrett (2008). [ Return to the article ]
3Two very successful musical performances are often cited as beginning this fascination with Hawaii—the 1912 debut of the Hawaiian musical The Bird of Paradise in New York and the performance of the song "On the Beach at Waikiki" at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. For more on both of these events, see Charles Hiroshi Garrett's chapter "Sounds of Paradise" in Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century. [ Return to the article ]
4Following popular convention in Hawaiʻi, I use "Hawaiian," "Native," or "Native Hawaiian" to signify an indigenous Hawaiian identity and "Hawaiʻi" as an adjective to signify a local, but non-Native identity. [ Return to the article ]
5Wood also talks at length about the developing usage of a "kamaʻāina style" of home décor that fetishizes "Native lifeways into a collection of discrete Native crafts" that can be collected and owned, divorced from use and history. Though outside the scope of this particular paper, this particular understanding of kamaʻāina is alive and well today, as evidenced by a 2002 Honolulu magazine article titled "Kamaʻāina Style" that asserts the possibility "for a home to have kamaʻāina style without necessarily being in the islands." [ Return to the article ]
6Wood's argument about the appropriation of kamaʻāina continues to be relevant for contemporary Hawaiʻi scholars. For example, see kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui's essay "'This Land is Your Land, This Land Was My Land': Kanaka Maoli versus Settler Representations of ʻāina in Contemporary Literature of Hawaiʻi" from the 2008 collection entitled Asian Settler Colonialism. This paper does not contest the usefulness of his work in documenting examples of colonialism, but does suggest that the question of the cultural permeability of kamaʻāina bears more scrutiny. [ Return to the article ]
7The ʻōlelo noʻeau are from the book published by Mary Kawena Pukui in 1983. She collected them as a personal project over decades of being an important and prolific translator, editor, composer of mele, writer, and archivist for the Bishop museum. 2942 were published in the book, but she knew many more (Luomala 1999). [ Return to the article ]
8And linguistically, the prefix "hoʻo" can mean to behave like x. For example, hoʻokane would mean to behave like a man (kane). [ Return to the article ]
9The State of Hawaiʻi itself is often identified as an existing settler colonial project, dominated largely by Asian settlers, "locals," who trace their lineage to Hawaiʻi's immigrant plantation workers. See Asian Settler Colonialism: From Local Governance to the Habits of Everyday Life in Hawaiʻi, edited by Candace Fujikane and Jonathan Y. Okamura. [ Return to the article ]
10The well-worthwhile project of writing a detailed geneaology of kamaʻāina is outside the scope of this paper. [ Return to the article ]
11Though Lévinas's argument focuses on high art and on critiquing the argument of "art for art's sake" rather than popular music, his comments on rhythm are made more generally. [ Return to the article ]
12Tin Pan Alley songwriters capitalized on the "Hawaii Craze," making Waikīkī and hula girls the focus of scores of songs. See Charles Hiroshi Garrett's chapter "Sounds of Paradise" in Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century for a detailed look at this. [ Return to the article ]
13A stipulation—Spivak also discusses the necessity of education and training in forming an active (ethical) reader, and the very real difficulties of this kind of education for poor and illiterate communities. [ Return to the article ]
14Both these songs are connected in some way to filmmakers Norman Foster and Frank Borzage. The question of whether or not these songs were being marketed for film bears further study, and points to larger questions of the relationships between musical and filmic representation of Hawaiʻi. [ Return to the article ]
15I could find no recordings of these songs or mention of them outside of their own sheet music. [ Return to the article ]
16Turner is specifically referring to Michael King's book, Being Pakeha. [ Return to the article ]
17My thanks to Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada for his assistance on this translation and for his generous help on other Hawaiian-language issues in this paper. [ Return to the article ]
18See Charles Hiroshi Garrett for a discussion on Tin Pan Alley's fascination and disregard for the Hawaiian language, as well as examples of parodic anti-Hawaiʻi songs from Tin Pan Alley. [ Return to the article ]
19Another excellent project for further research could examine the specifics of how hapa-haole music functioned as dance music. [ Return to the article ]
20No relation to Johnny Noble. [ Return to the article ]
21What kind of music did the hapa-haole dance music replace? In an article by Johnny Noble published in Paradise of the Pacific in 1944, he describes the beach boy music at Moana Pier as including both songs like "Aloha Means I Love You" and (likely Hawaiian-language) songs by Hawaiian royalty Queen Liliʻuokalani, King Kalākaua and Prince Leleiōhoku. It is likely that this scene written earlier by Johnny Noble was reworked by Gurre Ploner Noble for the book. [ Return to the article ]
22Johnny Noble is also credited with composing both songs, although he shares the "words and music" credit in "Kamaaina" with Sol Bright. Both these individuals' lives, as Hawaiians and significant musical figures in Hawaiʻi's tourist industry, present mightily complex examples of how one must have had to negotiate conflicting identity politics to be successful. [ Return to the article ]
23See Jane Desmond's discussion of bodies and tourism in Staging Tourism: Bodies on display from Waikiki to Sea World. [ Return to the article ]
24My aim here is not to disparage Anderson or his family, but to make the point that well-meaning critiques of settler colonialism can easily oversimplify situations. [ Return to the article ]
25See Nā Mele o Hawaiʻi Nei by Samuel Elbert and Noelani Mahoe for a discussion of the aesthetic of Hawaiian poetry. [ Return to the article ]
26The Hawaiian Renaissance was a cultural and political reclaiming of Hawaiian knowledge and rights. Some of the most oft-cited events include the successful rebuilding and voyaging of Hawaiian canoe Hokuleʻa, the work towards establishing Hawaiian-language immersion schools, and the PKO itself. [ Return to the article ]
27Or "ignorance." See Paul Lyons's American Pacificism: Oceania in the U.S. Imagination (2006) for an excellent discussion and analytical use of this term in a colonial context. [ Return to the article ]
28According to the Honolulu Weekly article by Drury, hapa-haole music really lost popularity in the 1970s, as the Hawaiian cultural renaissance of that time pushed the focus onto Hawaiian-language materials and earlier histories. In talking with other Hawaiian scholars, they tell me that little work is currently being done on the Territorial period, with much more emphasis being placed on the Kingdom era, annexation and overthrow, and statehood. [ Return to the article ]
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Adorno, Theodor. 2002. On the Social Situation of Music. Essays on music: Selected, with introduction, commentary, and notes by Richard Leppert. Susan H. Gillespie et. al, trans. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 391-436.
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Drury, Kathryn. 2003. It lives! Once left for dead, hapa-haole music attracts new interest. Honolulu Weekly. 13 Aug. http://www.honoluluweekly.com/archives/coverstory%202003/08-13-03%20Hapa/08-13-03%20Hapa.html. (accessed 20 Nov 2008).
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Everybody knows this live wire. 1917. Paradise of the Pacific. May, 15-16.
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Helm, George. 1996. "Haole Hula." The music of George Helm—A true Hawaiian. Rec. 1977. Cord International, 1996. CD.
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Kanahele, George, ed. 1979. Hawaiian music and musicians: An illustrated history. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1979.
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Noble, Johnny. 1935. "I'm Not a Malihini Anymore." Johnny Noble's book of famous Hawaiian Melodies: Including hulas and popular standards. New York: Miller Music Co.
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Emplacement, Entrainment, Empathy, and Ethics
Aiko Yamashiro's thought-provoking "Ethics in Song" takes Hapa-Haole music into serious and imaginative account—and to very good ends. She considers this apparently light popular music as a key site for claims-making and contestation, one in which we can hear the resonances of such consequential themes as identity, indigeneity, personhood, and moral value. She further argues and elegantly demonstrates that the meanings, uses, and lingering effects of such music are not static but rather reverberate in multiple and dynamic ways in today's Hawai'i and beyond. In this brief response I want to highlight three dimensions of her subtle exploration of hapa-haole music.
First, the texts of hapa-haole music focus on making oneself at home in a specific place, a theme shared by mainland country music and by its highly varied offspring worldwide. Such lyrical place-making, accomplished through naming, describing, and narrating, is integrally linked with making ethical claims to local identity, whether for indigenous communities or for settlers and their descendents. The work of such scholars as Aaron Fox, David Samuels, and Alexander Dent on various world country musics resonates with Yamashiro's argument here.
A second key dimension is the way that hapa-haole music becomes, to use Yamashiro's (2) own phrase, "entirely captivating." In other words, how do its rhythmic and other acoustic characteristics compel listeners' engagement? Key here is the notion of "entrainment," of being pulled into participation through "the embodied experience of musical structure." (2) Are the pleasurable sensory dimensions of listening to Hapa-Haole music more or less automatic, unreflective responses to rhythm, as Lévinas and Adorno fear; or are they the product of a more explicitly thought-full participation, as Frith (discussed by Yamashiro) argues for dance music? Either way, style and form matter alongside text—and can profoundly shape experience, either willingly or as an unmediated reflex.
Perhaps the most complex terrain Yamashiro explores here is that of ethics, a term that takes on multiple meanings over the course of her essay. One cluster of meanings centers around the ethics of whether and how one can claim indigeneity: Does Native status come only through birth, or can one legitimately "become Native?" Yamashiro's consideration of hapa-haole music suggests an ethical ideology in which "it is not only possible to become kama'aina, one ought to," (3) a position clearly contrary to the view of many indigenous activists.
A second way in which ethics figures in this popular music has to do with its reception and effects. Here Lévinas' troubled assumption that "subjects [can be] seized by rhythm and carried away" (quoted by Yamashiro, 5) is central. For him and Adorno (for whom the entraining dangers of such music lie more in its predictability and standardization) ethics depends upon consciousness, agency, and reasoned consent, characteristics imperiled by the formal features of popular song. In Yamashiro's account, Gayatri Spivak argues for the generative and resistant possibilities of interruption, that is, of "refocalizing" (6) a text. But, Spivak's argument draws directly upon the themes and content of narratives rather than their style; can the shape of hapa-haole sound also afford the potential for such interruptions?
For me the most suggestive constellation of questions has to do with the ethics of empathy and entitlement that figure centrally in Yamashiro's astute use of Amy Shuman's recent work. We often regard "empathy" as an admirable and ethical capacity, one allowing understanding across difference. At the same time, however, Shuman notes that it "relies on, but also destabilizes, the associations among persons and their experiences." (quoted by Yamashiro, 15) Are the narratives of subjective transformation central to hapa-haole songs an ethical violation of the entitlements, narrative or otherwise, of Native Hawaiians? Thinking through the complexities of empathy suggests a more complex and nuanced way of thinking about such processes as cultural appropriation. It also speaks directly to broader aspects not only of settler societies specifically but of colonialism as well. As Amit S. Rai (2002) convincingly demonstrates in his Rule of Sympathy: Sentiment, Race, and Power, 1750-1850, the sentiment of sympathy can claim simultaneously to bridge human difference and to provide a powerful engine of social differentiation as well as, at least implicitly, a mandate for control. While empathy and sympathy differ in significant ways, a similar dynamic may be at play here. What bridges have been built by hapa-haole music? How do they find purchase at either end? And what kinds of traffic—aesthetic, personal, political—move across them?
Rai, Amit S. 2002. Rule of Sympathy: Sentiment, Race, and Power, 1750-1850. New York: Palgrave.