4. Medley: Wai‘alae – Hālona (Mekia Kealakai/ J. Elia)–instrumental on 6-string guitar in C Major “Atta’s C” Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E).
Because the mele (text) is of primary importance, many traditional Hawaiian melodies are short. With this in mind, medleys are a hallmark of the slack-key repertoire, especially when performing instrumentals.
Gabby introduced this medley of two popular place songs in 1946, performing it on a 78 rpm for the Bell Label in his F Wahine Tuning (F-C-E-G-C-E), also playing the song “Nane Wale Lehua” march-style as the first piece in his medley. That version is available on The History of Slack-Key Guitar (Hana Ola Records). This medley gained more popularity when Gabby revisited it with the Sons of Hawai‘i on their groundbreaking first album, Gabby Pahinui with the Sons of Hawai‘i (Hula 503) in 1960. Since then, it has been a favorite of numerous slack-key masters, including Sonny Chillingworth, Leonard Kwan, as well as Cyril.
In this version, Cyril opens with one of his signature introductions in a very soulful rubato (free) tempo. As he works his way through the main body of the piece, he begins adding some beautiful jazz voicings, reflective of his love for the Atta Isaacs style and a nahenahe (sweet) feel. Cyril always finds the voicings he likes, especially with augmented chords, diminished chords, and 9th chords in whatever tuning he plays.
Legendary flutist and Royal Hawaiian bandmaster Mekia Kealaka‘i (1867-1944) composed “Wai‘alae” during a visit to the home of Paul Isenberg in the Honolulu neighborhood celebrated in the title. Composing songs to bless homes used to be common practice in Hawaiian music. The melody is often cited as a good example of the Mexican influence on local music.
“Hālona,” composed by J. Elia, extols the beauty of the mountains above Lahaina, Maui, and the Pa‘upili rains. The mele uses the Spanish word bonito (pretty), pointing again to Mexican influences in Hawaiian music during the 19th century.
Lyrics with translation are available in Nā Mele O Hawai‘i Nei: 101 Hawaiian Songs by Elbert & Mahoe (University of Hawai‘i Press).