"Hawaii's Falsetto King"
'King' offers a live taste of Kainapau's falsetto
By John Berger
George Kainapau with His Island Serenaders
George Kainapau is rightly remembered as one of the greatest Hawaiian
falsetto singers of the 20th century. Not only did Kainapau have an
unusually broad falsetto range, he sang Hawaiian-style falsetto and
American-style falsetto with equal power and clarity.
emphasizes the transition between a singer's falsetto and lower
while American falsetto does not.)
Kainapau made studio recordings for several labels that are an important
part of his discography and Hawaiian music history as well. This album,
recorded live in 1957 at Kaiser's Hawaiian Village (now the Hilton
Hawaiian Village), captures the experience of hearing Kainapau playing a
That makes it something special.
The set list embraces Hawaiian classics and hapa-haole standards alike.
"Beyond the Reef" is an outstanding
example of Kainapau's falsetto and of the nahenahe ("sweet, melodious") hapa-haole music of the
territorial era. What a powerful finish he gives it! Two other
selections — "Ke Ka‘upu" and "Little Grass Shack" — show he and the
Serenaders could sing in their nonfalsetto
voices with equal impact.
A medley of three hapa-haole songs showcases all four members of the group
Kainapau, Jules Ah See (steel guitar),
Sonny Kamahele (guitar/vocals)
and Kaipo Miller (bass/vocals).
The live element is accentuated when Miller closes the show with
announcements about the entertainers who
are playing other venues in the hotel.
The producers of this reissue,
Michael Cord and Harry B. Soria Jr.,
are tops in the business when it comes to resurrecting the out-of-print
catalogs of defunct Hawaiian record labels. Cord has worked with
state-of-the-art audio restoration specialists for two decades; whatever
condition of the source material for this album may be been,
the sound quality is excellent.
The liner notes by Soria, host of the
"Territorial Airwaves" radio show
for more than three decades, include the early history of Kaiser's
Hawaiian Village as well as biographical information on Kainapau and the
Island Serenaders and synopses of the meaning of each of the songs they
perform so beautifully.