Beginning our look at Ed Kenney and his frequent appearances on the too short-lived Hawaii Calls TV program…
Here on this episode of the Hawaii Calls TV show, Ed sings a song that for him dates back a few years earlier to his first Columbia release, My Hawaii, from 1959. But the song is, in fact, much, much older than that.
The song was a staple of Kenney’s repertoire – likely because it honors the area of Anahola on his home island of Kaua`i. Kalalea is a peak overlooking the town of Anahola. According to a translation by singer, composer, and Hawaiian scholar Kainani Kahaunaele:
Ki`eki`e Kalalea`a i ka makani / Kalalea stands majestically in the wind
`O ka pali kaulana o Anahola / Famed cliff of Anahola
Noho iho e ka `ohu noe i nā pali / The mist rests upon the cliffs
A he nani maoli nô mai `ō a `ō / Simply exquisite from end to end
A ke aku la e`ike / I yearn to see
I ke kai nehe a`i Hālaulani / The rustling sea at Hālaulani
`O ka pā kolonahe a ka makani / The gentle breeze
I laila māua me ku`u aloha / That’s where I am with my sweetheart
The literal translation would make this appear to be a song about the topography of the region. But look again. In Hawaiian poetry, the technique known as kaona allows the composer to conceal the true meaning of places, weather events, even people. In other Hawaiian mele, a cliff or peak can be a reference to the male anatomy (“exquisite from end to end”), and mist, rain, or sea spray are almost assuredly references to love-making. Why else would this song make the unexpected leap in the last line to refer to a sweetheart? But as I am not a Hawaiian language scholar, perhaps I am completely off track about all of that? If you really yearn to know the truth, you might ask Kainani Kahaunaele whose great-great-great grandmother Keali`ikua`āina Kahanu composed the song. (It appears on Kainani’s debut album, Na`u `Oe.)
I opened up our look at Ed Kenney with this clip because it shows every aspect of what made him famous abroad (the good looks, the voice, the smile, the fashion sense) as well as at home (his careful use of the Hawaiian language and his graceful yet masculine hula). Every time I have watched this, I have been mesmerized over and over again.
Kenney was the real deal – the complete package. And if this clip were the only evidence we have, it should be sufficient proof to convict him of his greatness.