Music and Conversation with the Aloha Boys Just in time for your barbeque, the Aloha Boys join us to play their own brand of down-home, backyard Hawaiian music.
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Music and Conversation with the Aloha Boys

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Music and Conversation with the Aloha Boys

Music and Conversation with the Aloha Boys

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

And here are the headlines from some of the stories we're following today here at NPR News.

Suicide bombers struck in the town of Hilla south of Baghdad and killed nearly 30 people earlier today. Iraqi troops and police battled insurgents in the streets of Baghdad in a new government offensive.

And Memorial Day ceremonies were observed in Iraq amid continued fighting with Iraqi insurgents.

More on those stories coming up later today on "All Things Considered" from NPR News.

Tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION: an update from Sudan's Darfur region, where aid from the West and troops from Africa are up against stiff odds in their attempts to help the troubled region. That's tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION.

2005 marks 60 years since the end of World War II. While most remembrances have focused logically on military and political milestones, today we want to mark a cultural development of that era. It was World War II that really introduced Hawaiian culture to the mainland in a big way, as soldiers passed through the islands on their way to the Pacific theater. They absorbed a little of the unique culture of that place: the tropical sights, flavors and sounds. Today, as Memorial Day brings in the summer season, traditional Hawaiian group the Aloha Boys joins us from Studio 4A for an early summer serenade.

Of course, we want to hear from you. If you have a question about Hawaiian music or memories of the days those songs flowed on the airways, our number is (800) 989-8255, (800) 989-TALK. And our e-mail address is totn@npr.org. And we welcome the Aloha Boys.

Thanks very much for being with us today.

ALOHA BOYS: (In unison) Aloha.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: The Aloha Boys are Glen Hirabayashi on lead vocals and rhythm ukulele (pronounced ooka-laylay). Am I getting that right, ukulele (pronounced ooka-laylay)?

Mr. GLEN HIRABAYASHI (Aloha Boys): Correct.

CONAN: Guitarist Isaac Hoopii (pronounced oh-oh-pay-ay)--Hoopii (pronounced oh-oh-pe-ee).

Mr. ISAAC HOOPII (Aloha Boys): Thank you.

CONAN: Bass player Irvin Queja, Ramon Camarillo on lead ukulele and Frank Della-Penna--that's a name I can get through more easily--on Hawaiian steel guitar. Welcome to you all. And why don't we begin with some music that might have been heard on the islands 60 years ago?

Unidentified Man: Great.

Unidentified Man: Ready?

(Soundbite of song)

ALOHA BOYS: (Singing) Hawaiian hula eyes. Hawaiian hula eyes. Hawaiian hula eyes. Hawaiian hula eyes. My Hawaiian hula eyes, when you dance, you hypnotize, though I can't believe it's true. My Hawaiian hula eyes, it's you I'm thinking of with a haunting dream of love. On the sands of Lunga Bay, where the sighing zephyrs play, I'm reminded of the one I love--you. Beneath the swaying palms, I held you in my arms, my Hawaiian hula eyes. On the sands of Lunga Bay, where the side zephyrs play, I'm reminded of the one I love--only you. Beneath the swaying palms, I held you in my arms, my Hawaiian hula eyes, my Hawaiian hula, Hawaiian hula eyes, Hawaiian hula eyes, Hawaiian hula eyes, Hawaiian hula eyes.

CONAN: The Aloha Boys with us in Studio 4A. And, Glen Hirabayashi, let me ask you, at least to the ear of somebody who doesn't listen all that much, that sounded like that was Honolulu by way of Tin Pan Alley, that song.

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: In a manner of speaking, that's correct. This song was written by a soldiers in 1945 who was actually in Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands, and it's been said that he was trying to tell his family during a time of censorship where he was located.

CONAN: I was wondering. Lunga Bay is in Guadalcanal.

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: Correct. There's no Lunga Bay in Hawaii.

CONAN: Huh. So this is a way to get a message to his family through censorship?

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: Correct, although it has also been said that that particular verse of the song was declassified after the war, yeah.

CONAN: (Laughs) But might that song have been heard in Hawaii during the war?

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: Certainly, and, of course, thereafter.

CONAN: You guys, how did you get together as a band?

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: Well, our daughters and nieces danced in a hula halau, which is a school of Hawaiian culture here in the Washington, DC, area, and they needed musicians to play for them. And all of us were musicians, and we started playing and found out that we could play other things together. And that's how we were formed.

CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line. And, by the way, if you'd like to join our conversation with the Aloha Boys, our number is (800) 989-8255, (800) 989-TALK. The e-mail address is totn@npr.org. Paul's(ph) with us from Woodstock, Vermont.

PAUL (Caller): Hi, Neal and Aloha Boys. Aloha!

ALOHA BOYS: Aloha!

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: Aloha, Paul. How are you?

PAUL: Now I just came back from Honolulu, and I've spent about 10 years in the last--or about maybe five out of the last 10 years there. And I just want to say to the Aloha Boys and you, Neal, and to the rest of the people listening that Hawaiian music is some of the most beautiful, varied, magnificent music on the face of the Earth. And for all mainland Americans, if you ever want to hear some really great Hawaiian music, go onto the Internet and turn on thebreezeofhawaii.com, or, also, you might want to turn on--I don't know what their Web site is, but there's a radio station called KINE, K-I-N-E, and you might be able to get some--but the Breeze is the best as far as I'm concerned. And...

CONAN: Right. I saw some heads nodding in the studio.

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: It's so true. But, also, you can...

PAUL: OK. And, Aloha Boys, are you from Hawaii, did you say, right now, or are you operating out of Washington?

Unidentified Man: Yes, we transplanted up in Washington, DC--well, Virginia and Maryland. So everyone comes from the island of Oahu except Glen. He's from the island of Hawaii.

PAUL: OK. But you're on the mainland now.

Unidentified Man: Yes, we are.

PAUL: OK. And you can just maybe verify for this for me, but if--mainland people, if you want to hear some great Hawaiian groups, Brothers Cazimero is one of my very favorites, and there's, of course, Bruddah Kuz and Keali'i Reichel and the Makaha Sons, and the list goes on. But--oh, yeah. And one request, Aloha Boys.

Unidentified Man: Yes, sir.

PAUL: Gosh, this would just bring a tear to my eye. I don't know if you would feel like playing it, but if you could play "Waikiki," I'd just love to hear it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PAUL: But, you know, that's up to you guys. So...

CONAN: Well, I'm not sure it's on the set list.

Unidentified Man: Yeah, maybe if we have the time for it. Maybe.

CONAN: OK.

PAUL: OK. Anyway--but it's great hearing you, and thanks a lot, Neal.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Paul. And that was a great introduction to a tune. I don't know. Do you know "Waikiki"? Do you want to play that?

Unidentified Man: We can play a short version because I know time is--essence here.

CONAN: All right. Why don't you play a short version? Yeah.

(Soundbite of "Waikiki")

ALOHA BOYS: (Singing) There's a feeling deep in my heart stabbing at me just like a dart. It's a feeling heavenly. I see memories out from the past, memories I know that will last, 'cause of this place beside the sea. Whoa, Waikiki, my whole life is empty without you. I miss that magic about you, magic beside the sea, magic of Waikiki. From Honolulu and

Unidentified Man: A real short version.

CONAN: And somebody in Vermont is smelling the frangipani, so--Isaac, as I understand it, Memorial Day and the Second World War have a special significance for you.

Mr. ISAAC HOOPII (Aloha Boys): Yes, it does, but I think Glen can explain a lot better than me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Oh, the lead singer has to use--say all the words, all right.

Mr. HOOPII: Yes, yes, yes.

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: Well, Isaac's wife Gigi, who is our manager and who's somewhere cruising around Greek islands right now--her godmother's father was at World War II, survived the attack at Pearl Harbor, went on to serve with distinction in the Pacific and retired as an admiral in the United States Navy. But he wrote a song called "A Song of Old Hawaii" And if you'd like...

CONAN: Why don't we hear it?

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: OK.

(Soundbite of "A Song of Old Hawaii")

ALOHA BOYS: (Singing) There's a perfume on a million flowers clinging to the heart of old Hawaii. There's a rainbow following the shower, bringing me a part of old Hawaii. There's a silver moon, a symphony of stars. There's a hula tune and a hum of some guitars. There's a trade wind sighing in the heaven singing me a song of old Hawaii, singing me a song of old Hawaii.

CONAN: The Aloha Boys.

And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Isaac may be too shy to mention it. I understand he also played a role in rescuing people at the Pentagon on September the 11th, a role that's been recognized on returns to Hawaii. So this Memorial Day also must be very special, Isaac.

Mr. HOOPII: Yes, it is, sir.

CONAN: Yeah. Glen fought in--there's a lot of Memorial Day connections, but today we're talking about music. I think we have time for one last song. Is there something you'd play for us?

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: Sure.

CONAN: OK.

Mr. HIRABAYASHI: Here's one called "A Rocking Chair Hula (Noho Paipai)."

(Soundbite of "A Rocking Chair Hula, Noho Paipai")

ALOHA BOYS: (Singing in foreign language) Somebody's sitting in my rocking chair.

CONAN: The Aloha Boys are Glen Hirabayashi on rhythm ukulele and lead vocalist, Isaac Hoopii on guitar, Irvin Queja on bass, Ramon Camarillo on the lead ukulele and Frank Della-Penna on Hawaiian steel guitar.

Frank Della-Penna, how did you end up in the group--in 10 seconds?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FRANK DELLA-PENNA (Aloha Boys): I called in Washington, DC, when I moved here and asked for the Hawaiian Halal, so I could take an audition.

CONAN: That's how a boy from Indiana ends up in a Hawaiian band in Washington.

Mr. DELLA-PENNA: I told them I started playing in the fourth grade.

CONAN: Aloha Boys, thanks so much. If you want to find out more, they're on our Web site, npr.org.

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