Sophia Rose, very creative herbalist, writer, photographer, designer, life artist, and my good friend, assembled this video collage of art from my books and photographs of me and my communal friends in the early 1970s in Northern California, to a fragment of my autobiographical jazz waltz, “1966.” You can savor Sophia Rose’s divine herbal and artistic offerings at La Abeja Herbs.
“Music From Living on the Earth,” my first ever vinyl LP arrived today – 5 copies. EM Records, in Osaka, made the LP from my first CD, the one I released in 2000 for my self-made eight-month national tour promoting the 30th anniverary Villard/Random House edition of Living on the Earth. On the back cover is a photo that was taken in 1971 during a New York City book tour for the Vintage/Random House second edition of Living on the Earth. EM Records licensed it from the Associated Press.
I somehow never imagined my music would be recorded on vinyl. During the years that 33 1/3 albums were the standard presentation of singer/songwriters, I was writing lots of songs, but I was not at a professional level as a musician. By the time I felt ready to record, at age 50, the technology had blessedly changed. I could produce my own CDs, instead of hoping to be discovered by a record company. So, I did. I’ve made eight of them, so far.
However, I actually WAS discovered by a record company. Koki Emura, the owner/producer of EM Records, saw my first two CDs when I posted them at the CD Baby online indie record store, where he was browsing for new releases. He knew my book, and he knew it was popular in Japan. He bought copies of the two CDs, listened and liked them, and offered license them both for distribution in Japan with Japanese language covers and liner notes. They were released in Japan in 2005. The following year I began doing concert tours in Japan, and I sold plenty of them for him.
In 2014, Koki Emura proposed that “Music From Living on the Earth” be released as a vinyl LP. Of course, I agreed. So here it is. A thousand thanks to you, Emura-san!
Review of the LP, Music from Living on the Earth, on soundohm.com:
“Alicia Bay Laurel is well known as the writer and illustrator of one of the classic books of the back-to-the-earth movement, the 1970 hand-written guide to living the good life, Living On the Earth. She is also an accomplished singer, songwriter, and guitarist, the latter skill honed by studying with John Fahey. The songs on Music from Living On the Earth were composed concurrently with the writing of the book, permeated by the sun and soil of the commune life. Bright and earthy paeans to the natural world, featuring ABL’s pure, strong, and uplifting voice atop her fluid, confident, and deft steel-string acoustic guitar fingerpicking, her style showing that she learned well from Fahey. She also collaborated with San Francisco Tape Music Center co-founder Ramón Sender Barayón, who contributes the 40-voice choral arrangement for the closing track. Although these songs were written as the ’60s became the ’70s, Music from Living On the Earth was actually recorded in 2000, first issued as a self-produced CD, and reissued on CD by EM Records in 2006 (EM 1047CD). This 2015 15th anniversary edition is its first appearance on vinyl, and includes liner notes by the artist as well as English and Japanese lyrics, allowing listeners to again hear ABL’s blues, jazz, and Indian music influences meld with folk roots to glorious effect.”
This record quickly reminded of the glory folk days of Joan Baez and Judy Collins. This was even before I read that although Alicia Bay Laurel recorded this album within the last year, she wrote these songs in the 1960s and 1970s when she lived on various communes in the US. She has that same beautiful voice with occasionally barbed lyrics. The arrangements are classic folk, but there is also some lounge jazz in a few of them, which plays well. While this is not a Linda Perhacs style discovery, Alicia Bay Laurel is a nice find, taking us back to a great time in folk music.
© David Hintz
Folk World Europe
[The opening track, “Surviving in Style,” is] one of my favorite songs by any singer/songwriter… and as Alicia mentioned, this is the kind of song we need for this moment in history.
Filmmaker, Environmental activist
I received your CD!
It’s so beautiful.
Your songs make me calm, and I am able to go back to my golden childhood.
Love, Banana 🙂
I am loving this album!!! It is so nice, calming, simple and beautiful!!!
I can totally see myself relaxing and enjoying this music at a cozy cafe! Tim loves it, too!
We are keeping your CD in our CD player, and listening to it again and again.
Thank you for your creativity and love for music!
Mayu Uotani Jensen
Translator of Yogananda’s books
Wife of songwriter Tim Jensen, who creates songs for animé films
Dear, Dear Alicia,
I have just heard it once so far, but I am delighted by your music. Wonderful!! So many nice touches, like the flute – really, really delightful. And your voice is GREAT. Joan Baez-like. I love it. So proud of you!
Big Hug and Love,
Noelie Rodriguez PhD
Professor of Sociology
Hawaii Community College, at the University of Hawaii, Hilo
Listened to your CD for the first time this morning – the first time with any new music for me is freely experiencing it, feeling it as the music dances around the room. Subsequent listenings are for hearing what comprises the layers, but first time, just like first time sex, is all about the experience.
THE EXPERIENCE WAS GREAT!
Takes you back to the Sixties.
Love your voice. You sound like a young girl, a young hippie girl singing about the joy we had back then. In a few of the songs your voice is reminiscent of a young Norah Jones.
I especially love the way the language itself brings back the times – words that are not in common use now (at least in the terms we used them back then) come to life in your songs. Part of keeping the times alive.
And with all that said, the songs are also timeless in that the music still matters. It is so unfortunate that Dallas is barren of folk (other than one venue). The East Coast would eat this up – you would shine at the folk festival I attend yearly (other than this year.)
Hippie Hill and Have a Good Time especially made me smile. What it was all about. And the wistfulness in Paisley Days as you talk about the way it was. How did war and failing economies and faltering ecologies allow society to forget what we were trying to teach people – eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are sleepy. And the simplicity of moving from one moment to the next – sing me a song and I’ll sing you a song and we’ll listen to each other’s music all night long.
Barbara Light Lacy
Author and musician
Ah yes…can’t help but plug my dear sister’s new CD…New to me that is… these songs (so Alicia tells me) are from back in the days of Wheeler Ranch…and more…Alicia, recovered from her old tapes the music from back then, and re-recorded the lot… If you like John Fahey, Maria Muldaur and a spice of jazz… you’ll love this…If you want to know more…just ask me…or better yet… ask the lady herself…but, do yourself a favor and pick up your copy now!
“Butterfly Farewell” is my current favorite. It surprisingly feels to me very melancholy (in a peaceful way).
Alicia’s voice rings of daybreak. I think the production is marvelous, and her ability to warm a heart is still intact.
Very much enjoyed listening to your new CD today.
Well-produced, with welcome messages of hope and beauty!
Ramón Sender Barayón
Post-theist Visionary, Author and Composer
San Francisco, California
Simply WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL. And so much more.
From the moment I tore open the envelope, I’ve been inside out, smiling. I soaked in that familiar face, now radiant, etched gently from your joy living on this Earth, then your artwork – then discovered your dear words to us…. Thank You.
Then your MUSIC. Oh does it resonate. Your lyrics, intonation, instrumentation, sequencing, back-up singers, gleeful sarcasm…. Your voice retains a sweet, magical ability to lovingly communicate with my spirit, my nature, the joys and responsibilities of living on this Earth. And it reminds me, regardless and because of life’s challenges, never to remove the “rose-colored glasses” my mother unwittingly implored me to “take off” and “grow up.”
Your voice/music/gift/you are miraculously facilitating a kaleidoscopic shift in my world view and confusing moods. My heart is grateful and delighted for you.
Your latest CD helped crystallized something so special: that one of the precious gifts of aging is increasing and embracing our joy and other’s if we take responsibility for and reappraise who we are, how and why we got here, and how we choose to go forward.
Your beautiful, beautiful CD has become my most welcome companion; I carry it from house to car and back again routinely. Without fail, like natural aspirin for the soul, it elevates my threshold for pain, reduces my anxiety, and brings me mindful equilibrium. Thank you for such a magnificently generous gift.
I wish you peace, joy, strength, really great connections and laundry facilities, laughter, and fun on your physically demanding tour. I’m sure the audiences will be captivated.
Alicia dear: The gorgeous sounds of your voice are floating through the house right now. One copy is going in the camper van. So we drive along listening to your beautiful voice and songs. I had a wonderful time recording with you. It’s a special memory for me.
Awesome job, you! Have a Beautiful, beautiful weekend!
I am listening first song “Surviving in Style” now and I can’t stop my tears. This song is so beautiful and touches my heart.
Business and Marketing Manager
Tateyama, Chiba, Japan
What strikes me over and over about this music is a kind of purity and a sweetness.
I was surprised when I popped the CD into my car’s CD player at how soothing it was. Some of the vocals are really stylish, such as on “Serenade” and “Hippie Hill” and others fun and humorous such as on “Have a Good Time”. I love the liquid and haunting quality of the vocals on “Onward, Onward Ever Flow”. A few “romantic” songs such as “Piper of the Woods” and “Yabyum” add to the diversity of the collection. And there are a number of purely original folk songs. My favorite song may be the “Devotional for a Spiritual Guide” because of its many-layered richness.
This seems like a new sound. The sweetness is deeper, riper and more relaxed.
There’s a strangely familiar freshness and simplicity to the whole collection and an innocence that is impossible to find anywhere in the music world.
Alicia’s guitar playing and arrangements are as beautiful as ever and the performances of the accompanying musicians are wonderful. The production and quality are the highest, as usual.
I still have a lot of listening to do. There’s a lot on this album.
Artist, Permaculturist and Environmental Activist
Sometimes, someone’s life and essence lives and flourishes during a certain period of one’s life, in it’s first encounter, and this was in its most naive and direct sense of experience, while the rest of that persons life could be be used to work this essence out more economically and in different parts and sections. Alicia’s highlight came with her book “Living On Earth”, a practical guide of how to live your life as a hippie. She still is guided by those forces/inspirations, being stimulated by an inspiring optimism, which tried to see the positive side in all things and above all in humans.
In the end, it eventually led her further to meetings to such wonderlands in people more often and continuously, while being able to be guided by choices to look for them and attract them more often. While the optimism brings forward the hippie folk style, realistic confrontations add more like a slight touch of country/Americana flavour (while still being guided by a now this time more gospel-folk way of optimism), the practical workouts side is able to show by nicely worked out acoustic and blues-jazzy electric pickings (with Tom McNalley), with the addition of some flute, organ,…. I still can perceive Hawaii underneath, a place, which for many people must have stimulated that positive heart-attitude towards life.
Alicia continues to spread her message of possibilities, which is nice to notice. She definitely deserves a box set of LP’s with the inclusion of a book with some of her artworks and that of her students. Anyone?
Gerald Van Waes
Psychedelic folk radio host, collector and critic
I met Alicia Bay Laurel at a peace demonstration. She was making peace that day, and her music at night. She is still at it.
Her new CD of music, More Songs From Living on the Earth, is just that. It’s a Sunday morning spring day kinda sweetness Alicia takes you to.
All the while, underlying these sweet melodies, Alicia is a multi-talented visionary, and sage of our times. She creates a place with sounds and poetry, where you just know this day is going to be a mighty fine one. I like that.
This album is a sleeper, that must be listened to several times before you can BEGIN to get a handle on its complexities…it grows on you, and is very sweet.
It has taken me awhile to hear it all.
Alicia’s new CD is subtly addicting. I find myself waking up humming little snippets of melodies she made. It is a gentle knowing smile she brings with this music. The more I hear it, the more I see the different layers she put into it.
It’s a YAYY. My favorite song is track #2, Piper of the Woods.
Stephen Frank Gary
Artist and Activist
Hi Alicia, this is Gonzalo.
I don’t know if you remember me. I hope you do – I recorded the mandolin tracks on your record that you recently released, and I was listening to it, and I think it sounds fantastic, so I was just calling you to say “Thank you for recording this beautiful music.” Thank you very much for having me play on it, and, of course, thank you for sending me a copy. I think that, not only are your compositions beautiful, but, also, Ron Grant did a great job with the engineering.
Your record sounds beautiful, really. It reminded me to the feeling of the first time I listened to “Come away with me” by Norah Jones. Your record is a beautiful acoustic trip! Please let me know when you play live and also if the album comes out in vinyl.
Guitarist and Mandolinist
Los Angeles, California
Songs are beautiful – pure and lovely! They remind me of the first time we met in our small room in Otsuka. The days in 1960’s and 70’s, memory of hard fights against the war in Vietnam, against everything of authority, lost dream of utopia, and new vision coming from the teachings of Black Elk, all came back as I listened to your songs.
Yes, so many years have passed since then…Still, as you sing, we praise those old days and their dreams.
Your songs are beautiful and real. In a troubled times like these, we need your songs and art more than ever!
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Tokyo University
Former President of Japan’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society
Still an activist!
Oh Alicia – your new CD!
I LOVE IT!
It makes me so happy!
I put it on every day – really LOUD.
I played it for some guests today.
They loved it, too!
Thank you SO much for making this music.
Huntington Beach, California
The CD is very diverse – a wide variety of musical styles and sounds: country, celtic, folk, jazz, blues. The production is amazing, and Alicia’s voice is just tremendous. I really like this album a lot!
Photographer and Earthship Builder
Arizona and Colorado
While driving the back roads to Esparto I listened to Alicia Bay Laurel’s new cd, “More Songs From Living on the Earth.” There are no front roads to Esparto, and similarly the songs approach the listeners through back channels old and new, and timeless. Fluid motion, jazzy riffs, heartfelt lyrics, joyous celebrations, ecstatic visions, transcendent melodies, osmotic orchestration, happy hippy harmonies, and authentic phrasing grace the tracks, condensed and accessible, expanding, unfurling, spirit intonation of John Fahey and kupuna invocation of Auntie Clara, steeped in poetic Wheeler Ranch revelations, and all through the tunes, Alicia, chanteuse in tie dye. River Road meets Loomis Lane. Country funkin’ and commune groovin’, a world that just couldn’t be, but was for awhile, a stretch of infinity for us time beings, jikan ikimono. This album is creative and entertaining. Listen and remember, sing along and be here now.
Organic farmer, radio host and environmentalist
Mendocino County, California
As a flower child of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I really liked all the songs on this newly-released album: “More Songs from Living on the Earth.” Just as Alicia Bay Laurel’s unique style of hand-drawing her books made them so special for my generation, there’s something wonderful about the unique way she uses her gentle humor and sweet soft voice to express so many truths. My own faves from this album are: “Devotional for a Spiritual Guide”, “Beautiful, Beautiful”, “Hippie Hill” and “Paisley Days” – the last two evoke memories of hanging out on Hippie Hill on lazy Sundays, listening to the cool pro jazz players who would come together to jam for free every Sunday. These are memories unique to the boomer generation.
Linda Joy Lewis
Author and Chef
Earth Angel Kitchen:
Vegan Alternatives to Meat, Dairy, Eggs and Sugar
I received your CD and love it, because the songs are all very gentle and filled with love.
I believe in Love.
That is what you gave me.
I really thank you.
Television Producer and Environmental Activist
We are enchanted by your CDs… Heaven has come to earth… Mahalo for the gift of your artistry in all its many forms.
I have played this wonderful CD over and over on my computer while I spend the countless hours a day that I must be “in office”. Thank you for this great gift of yours.
It is wonderful that you resurrected these precious songs from days gone by as they are all special. I love them all, but my favorite has to be “Piper of the Woods.” Long may you live to continue to share your unique talents and beautiful Spirit with us!
The whole of the recording is a joy…to try and sing along with!
More Songs from Living On The Earth proves again that the flowers are still in full bloom and I haven’t changed much in the several decades since they were first written & sung. What a great soundtrack to play in my car amidst the raging chaos on the highways. I’m on my way to Hippie Hill and I’m NEVER coming back. Thank You!
I had an amazing experience leading my Introduction To The Inner Clown workshop this weekend. I played Alicia’s music from her album, More Songs from Living On The Earth as my sonic environment while we were on breaks. It was so beautiful. What a weekend. I feel inspired for the first time in awhile.
I don’t listen to many albums these days. Back in my 20s, that’s all I did, when I played in bands for a living, but now, writing mostly poetry or essays, I tend to put them on as background music while I’m ironing. (Hey, don’t knock it! Ironing is a form of Zen mediation. The Way of the Straight Crease.)
It’s especially difficult to comment on music created by your friends – or family – mainly, because you love them and want to empower and encourage them on, not expose them to the harsh wind of critical thinking or ‘too much head in bed’ as some freaked out flowerchild once put it. Artists get enough useless opinions, whether amateur or professional, from the uncaring. But you also want to be honest and help with intelligent commentary, not just sugarcoat everything so as not to hurt feelings.
As a professional songwriter and poet, I listen quite differently to music than people who are not in these professions. Music for me has never been simply entertainment. (It took me many years and many wasteful arguments to finally grasp this.) I listen to music perhaps more like an anthropologist – (if any single analogy is adequate) – looking through a desert of sand for single bone fragments that can reconfigure everything I have learned to date and make it vitally present again. A key to unlock something. I prefer watching films for entertainment. The great songs of the late 60s, from The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, so many others, all derailed me from whatever track I was on, whipped me around the cosmos and then rerouted me back onto the same track, but as though experiencing it for the first time.
So today, I piled up my wrinkled clothes, set up my ironing board, switched on my Always-Expecting-A-Miracle work light, and put on Alicia Bay Laurel’s, More Songs from Living On the Earth.
The soft tones and clarity of Alicia’s vocals, which are her trademarks, were immediately there. Alicia is Alicia and no one else. No jarring pseudo-melismas (ie.vocal runs with too many notes), so infesting vocal stylists (and especially, lead guitarists!) in the music marketplace these days. A simple tone and respect for a good melody and the clarity of the lyric. You do not need to read a lyric sheet with songwriter-singer sings like this. The words are vulnerable and ring out and you can take them, or leave them, depending on your taste, but it’s clear that Alicia stands by what she sings. She lives it and has lived it for over forty years. Daniel Berrigan, 60s Civil Rights activist once said, ‘Know where you stand – and stand there.’ This assuredness is reassuring in a world where everything is about conforming and being popular.
I long to be led back to lost, forgotten and unfamiliar pioneers of music, by the present generation, much like Bob Dylan led us to Woody Guthrie, the Rolling Stones led us to Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton led us to Robert Johnson and The Beatles forced us back to not only The Everly Brothers, but Little Richard, and even the Tin Pan Alley songwriting teams of the 30s and 40s. Country music has always had this sense of history and connection with ‘elders’ but pop music only nods back to the closest reference point. For a singer-songwriter, it is certain death.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, I am ironing my way through my t-shirts (fewer difficult bits to iron, always a good place to start) and about to hit the more resilient jeans and pajamas. The tracks on Alicia’s album play one after another. I’m half-listening; half-thinking about the spaghetti sauce I am about to make for lunch.
In the music, I hear Alicia’s precise fingerpicking, often echoing the melody line of the songs. I’m waiting for her to hit a bum note (like I sometimes do when I finger-pick) but there are none. I think she rehearses her guitar playing as much as she does her vocals – which is every single day.
In a few of the songs, I hear the memorable and transporting traces of a mutual friend of ours, Sunny Supplee, effortlessly woven into her vocal style. Sunny lived with both Alicia and I, at different times, never together, on various back-to-the-land communes in the mid-70s. Sunny was accidentally killed in a car crash in the 70s, in Maui. I once asked Alicia whether she had been influenced by Sunny’s style. She said something to the effect of, ‘Oh yes, of course – but as she is no longer using this voice, I thought I would pass it on.’ I loved that. This is what I meant about an artist in the present leading us back to an artist who is gone or forgotten.
Ironing finally finished, I go into the kitchen to start the pasta sauce. I can still hear the music coming through the walls but I’m not really concentrating now. I feel guilty. Like I should be sitting down and doing a serious ‘review’ of this album. After all, Alicia is my friend. But, as I said, that would not be honest, because that is not the way I experience music. I am waiting for a little miracle. The REAL thing. Not lip service.
I go back into my music room to check my email. I have forgotten that the album has been playing all along in the background. I have also forgotten that I am ‘supposed’ to be listening. My critical mind is completely turned off and I am just Being. (I attribute this state, in part, to this album, which works on your Be-Here-Now chakras even when you are not noticing.)
Suddenly, I HEAR “The Last Song of the Night,” second to last song on the album. This one stops me in my tracks. This song resonates with everything that I like in music. No BS. I can hear myself singing it in performance. I can hear others singing it. Several artists come to mind. It is a simple, practical and well-written song that actually is quite useful. (A good closing song is rare and handy to have in your repertoire. I remember once hearing a similar themed song that Lou Gottlieb wrote for The Limeliters that closed one of their shows. Perhaps the spirit of Lucky Lou visited Alicia disguised as a Muse?) Alicia sings it with a light dirge-like quality, echoed by a supporting vocal, sung an octave apart from hers. I love it.
It’s the Last Song of the Night
It’s the Last Song of the Night
We’re going to sleep
but in our hearts we’ll keep
the Last Song of the Night.
OK. I found a key. An old bone. Now lets have a closer look.
There are many experiences of late 60s culture. It would make a varied and psychedelic pie chart. There was the aggressive Jimi Hendrix, drop-acid, set-your-guitar-on-fire slice. There was the Richie Havens-social-protest-solo singer slice. There was the Bob Dylan surreal-angry-who-cares-what-the-audience-thinks (as long as they buy your records) slice.
The last album of Alicia’s that I listened to in depth was ‘What Livings All About’. The tracks that stood out for me on that album were the jazz influenced songs like her great and original interpretation of ‘Nature Boy.’
While there is definitely some jazz-influence, the music on More Songs from Living On the Earth suggests another neglected area of the great musical pie. The easy-listening music of groups like The Lovin’ Spoonful (reflected in songs like ‘Have a Good Time’, ‘Beautiful, Beautiful,’ and ‘Hang Around and Boogie’), the husband-wife folk love duo of Maria and Geoff Muldaur, and even the laid-back jug band music of Jim Kweskin.
One of high points on ‘More Songs from Living On the Earth,’ for me, is ‘Green, Green Rain,’ surprisingly laced with lovely Appalachian and Irish flavours, and an inspired guitar harmonic counter-theme.
Alicia remarks, about several of the songs, in her liner notes: ‘It’s a sentimental review of the ’60s and ’70s, and also a decision to continue with the best of what I learned and lived then.”
This is clearest in songs like ‘Hippie Hill’, and ‘Paisley Days.’ And I know this state of mind well. It was the driving force behind my own album, Freelovedays. Having lived and loved through the flower-power generation and seen most of our idealistic dreams, and ‘ideal’ relationships, crash to earth, how does one continue on in today’s very different culture? Free love was a rebellion against the ‘nuclear couple’ monogamy that most of us ran away from. But, after having children and grandchildren, the joy, comfort and security of a stable relationship with one person, who is also your best friend, is very appealing.
The poet Rilke once said the job of the poet is to experience life, absorb it, making the visible, invisible. Then later, often decades later, through ones’ work, reverse the process. Make what is invisible, visible. Pass it on to others – the best – and the worst – of what you have seen and done, for anyone else desiring to go down similar paths. So that others, who will also be consumed by passion and also lost in Ideals, can possibly learn sometimes from our generation’s mistakes – and our triumphs.
Or in other words, as a sanyasan of The Way of the Straight Crease might put it:
Cows are beautiful, but no need to step in the same cow patty twice.
Follow Alicia. She knows the way through the field.
I put on headphones and laid in bed and laughed and cried revisiting innocence with your pure tones. Immediately replayed twice and gave to Diana to do same.
James Cook Loomis
Author, Environmentalist, Joyous Being
Alicia – really enjoying the CDs.
Great tunes, as always, and very good acoustic vibe and production.
I remember seeing you on TV as a guest on the Mike Douglas show in or around 1969 with Carol Channing talking about communal life. You sang a folk-style song (as far as I can recall), “Green, green, green is the color of the spring,” and “You and I say goodbye at last to the cold, cold winds of the winter.” Is this the same song as Green, green rain which is on one of your CDs?
If not, do you have the lyrics to this which must have made quite an impression on me as I still remember it today just as if it were yesterday. I play and sing with dulcimer and would love the words. It just had a nice California, bohemian feel to it, like something you would play for people who are just relaxing and baking in the sun.
If it is the same song, then I would love to buy the CD.
Hello Marcia Clark!
I am very flattered that you remember my song 45 years after hearing it on television! Thank you so much for sharing this!
Yes, the song “Green Green Rains” which I wrote around 1969 and recorded in 2014 for my CD “More Songs from Living on the Earth,” is the same one I sang on the David Frost Show on June 10, 1971. Here’s a web page about that show: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1691270/
I was also on Mike Douglas’ TV show a week after that, but I did not sing on that show. Both of these shows were part of the publicity tour that Random House arranged for the publication of my book Living on the Earth in its second edition.
You can hear “Green Green Rains” here, on the video I made for the 50th anniversary edition of Living on the Earth. I’m playing it in a Double Drop D tuning (DADGBD) on a steel string guitar, and the bass drone is a bowed upright bass played by Dwight Killian. We are joined by Mark Hewins on a guitar synthesizer set up to sound like a banjo.
You can buy “More Songs from Living on the Earth” as a download or as a physical CD from the online store connected to this website.
All blessings, peace and love,
Alicia Bay Laurel
I went ahead and purchased “More Songs from Living on the Earth” and have enjoyed the CD very much. I have to say that “Green, Green Rain” is my favorite. It was interesting to hear it again after all those years.
It seems that I have been singing and playing dulcimer to some version that I thought I “recalled” and ended up with a totally different melody! Different words too! None the less, all credit is due to your lovely song which ignited the spark! Now I can learn the original version & lyrics. It is so nice to see the alternate ideals of our generation artistically expressed and still remaining solidly intact to this day.
Marcia Scott Clark
(from the green, green mountains of western North Carolina)
I’m so pleased that your memory of my song inspired you to write a new song! And I am glad you are enjoying “More Songs from Living on the Earth.” Thank you for writing back to let me know.
I just finished listening to your new album. …. I said to myself, THIS one is my favorite, then I would say, “BUT” I like that one too AND that one…. I love your music is the bottom line. This new one is fantastic too!
Author, chef, teacher
As the title of this album suggests, Beyond Living is a collection of folk songs about death, many of them written by musicians who have passed. Alicia Bay Laurel, known for her 1971 guide to sustainable living entitled Living On Earth, collected and recorded many of the songs on this album in response to a number of deaths she encountered in recent years, including, most notably, legendary Japanese singer-songwriter Takashi Donto Kudomi, who died in 2001 at a hula performance. Songs from artists from several countries round out this decidedly international album.
While the album’s theme might suggest darkness, the album feels more like a celebration. As Laurel’s liner notes suggest “lyrics about death contain valuable instructions for living,” and these songs are no exception. Their cheery melodies, vocals, and a fingerpicked guitar mix with deep sadness in the manner I associate with children’s songs (Remember when you found out “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” was about The Plague?) The album invites the listener to engage with the certainty of death and to feel the relish that reality brings to living. Much like listening to the blues, listening to these songs provides a deep and pleasurable access to human emotion.
Review by Joe Dolce in his weekly newsletter, sent 09-25-09:
What I’m Listening to This Week
‘Beyond Living’ – Alicia Bay Laurel. This is the most recent release of my friend, Alicia Bay Laurel, who Lin Van Hek and I will be performing with in Okinawa and Tokyo next month. Alicia is one of the few real visionary freaked-out flower children from the 70s who has grown even further into the great dream of the Beloved Community that we all shared back then. She also had a Number One hit, so to speak, in her 20s, with a New York Times best-selling book, Living on the Earth, which changed her life, and it is an inspiration to know someone who continues to reinvent herself – without disowning her past.
Alicia and I were also both close to, and sang with, the girl who introduced me to California hippy communes back in the 70s, Janet ‘Sunny’ Supplee, and the spirit of Sunny hovers throughout this recording. Sometimes, listening to Alicia sing, I swear Sunny is in the building. Sunny and I sang together for a couple of years and she certainly influenced me in an unforgettable way. She was killed in a car crash in Maui and I still miss her.
Beyond Living collects a master’s bouquet of beautiful songs about Death that do not drag death down into the valley of shadow and fear where old time religion would like to keep it penned up, but releases it out into the empowering light and flight of warm meadows and possibilities. Alicia has included the song I wrote and sang at my own father’s funeral, Hill of Death, with lyrics by Australian femi-pioneer, Louisa Lawson, drunken Henry’s mum.
While in LA, I was lucky enough to be able to sing and play with her on this recording. I was surprised at first when the tasty, awesome, I-am-the-Fingers-of-God mandolin part I had recorded was nowhere to be found in the final mix, but after a couple of listens, I understood why it went to the cutting room floor (along with Satan, Everlasting Hell and the Edsel.) It’s not necessary. Alicia’s last album, What Living’s All About, was an eclectic brew of styles, electric guitar solos, even rap – but this one, a unique fusion of Hawaiian and Japanese sensibility, is smoothly unified by the continuity of Alicia’s lullaby-like singing and precision finger-picking guitar, the latter most notably in the fifteen minute closing instrumental, Ruminations, which is a collage of no less than fifteen tunes: Amazing Grace, The Garden, Is This Not the Land of Beulah, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Oh Come Angel Band, Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet, Angels Are Watching Over Me, This Little Light of Mine, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Bosan Gokko, Hill of Death, Long Black Veil, Good Night Irene, We Shall All Be Reunited, and Kumbaya – and leading to the final Hawaiian, Aloha Oe’. I wouldn’t mind at all having these fifteen minutes playing in my final hour.
There are also three tracks written by Takashi Donto Kudomi, a legendary Japanese new wave rock star turned spiritual singer/songwriter, who died mysteriously on January 23, 2001. He, his wife and their two young sons were watching a hula performance dedicated to Pele, the volcano goddess, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At the end of the final chant, Donto fell to the ground unconscious, and was rushed to the hospital. The next day he was pronounced dead at age 37 from a brain aneurism. He had been in perfect health until that day. We will be staying and singing with Donto’s widow, Sachiho, in Okinawa, at Donto-in, the temple Sachiho built in his honor.
One of my favourite tracks is the quirky Altid Frejdig Naar du Gaar (Courage Always When You Walk) with melody by C.E.F. Weyse, 1838, lyrics: Christian Richardt, 1867, set into verse by Alicia. It is often sung at funerals in Denmark and is faithfully sung here in Danish. Just voice and stand-up bass, played masterfully by Chris Conner and reminiscent of her great version of Nature Boy, on What Living’s All About, the vocal seems to float in and out of ordinary tonality like a ghostly dandelion puff. One day, I do hope Alicia gets a chance to put out an album of just vocal and stand-up bass recordings, as they are always a pleasure, and a challenge, to listen to.
Review by Gerald Van Waes, host of “Psyche Van Het Folk” (a psychedelic folk radio show in Antwerp, Belgium) on his website, November 20, 2009
Alicia Bay Laurel : Beyond Living (US, 2009)
A bit different from Alicia’s previous albums, this is a conceptual piece of songs to be meant as a tuning in to a spiritual good vibration and feeling, on moments when people have passed over. When Alicia suddenly saw many related and befriended people pass over, it seemed as if she had no other option but to give all this an accompanying meaning; she started to collect songs from different countries to express this.
It starts strongly, with a Hawaiian opening chant which leads to a song inspiration, as a special moment (or person) to remember. The second song is an Australian folk gospel song, a folk version in which the backing vocals gives an Americana gospel feeling. Next we hear a traditional Japanese song, accompanied by harmonium and congas and vocals. Also this one has gospel flavours, reminiscent a bit of ‘Amazing grace’, being a more delicate, religious almost Christmas-sphere sphere. After its vocal parts with high voices (in Japanese), there’s some spoken word by Alicia giving more reference in the song. “Waltzing with Angels” sounds more like a country children song with a Hawaiian effect on the way the mandolin is played, with a happy feeling or energy. The song with original Danish lyrics by Christian Richardt (1867) is sung with a Marilyn Monroe song voice, and accompanied with bass only.
“The Garden” is again more countryesque, is sung with nice dual voices, leaving a Hawaiian feeling. “Auntie Nona” sounds like a happy children’s song, old music. The next small song has more religious Christian lyrics which appeal less to me. Also here gospel and country-flavours are mixed nicely. “Nami” turns back to Japan but leaves traces of Hawaii. On “Ruminations” we finally return to the “Amazing Grace” song, turning after a short while into a slow Hawaiian guitar medley on acoustic guitar. Also the last instrumental is a guitar piece with references to
Except as a dedication to the subject, the album is as much a dedication to spheres provoked from Hawaiian songs and music, to spirituality in gospel music, as quietly privately experienced music, and the fresh kindness of children songs, and a touch of country. All of this is omnipresent throughout with a happy inner strength and positivism towards life and thankfulness to people and their lives.
As my mom and I were and are fans of your work, I appreciate your staying in touch.
Moana and I send tons of aloha and wish you good luck with your music.
Thank you for helping us to keep my mom’s work alive in the world.
Me Ke Aloha,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The interview is finished and runs about 63 minutes and features 5 live in-the-studio-songs (Hang Out & Breathe, Pain & Love, Love Understanding & Peace, Auntie Nona, and Doctor Sun & Nurse Water) and the rest from your new CD.
I did want to let you know we are now playing Aloha ‘Oe, Hill Of Death & The Garden in our regular new music rotation.
Once again the interview runs Wednesday May 5th at 10am on my show and then an encore airing on Friday, May 7th at 6pm.
Thank you and I hope you’re doing well!
Radio Free Phoenix
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GODDESS SISTER ALICIA!
I want to send a mail just now!
What a perfect timing!
I listened your new CD! So beautiful. I cried……
I can feel your love and respect for Donto.
Now I am looking for Japanese distributor.
Tonight full moon is so beautiful and shining like you!
THANK YOU ALICIA!
SEND BIG LOVE TO YOU!!!
Sachiho Kojima, widow of Donto Kudomi
In the 1990s and 2000s, leader of the all-woman trance band Amana
In the 1980’s, leader of Japan’s first all-girl punk band, Zelda
Naha, Okinawa, Japan
I love Beyond Living! Very strong album though it sound extremely gentle!
Especially I like Nami and Hang Out and Breathe. It is surprisingly true that an artist have created her essential song in early days and gives it evolution.
television producer specializing in documentaries on the environment
Got the CD, loving it, thanks!!!
Ecovillage Training Center
The Farm, Summertown, Tennessee
Thank you for bringing the most wonderful people to us here at Hopi. I enjoyed teaching them of our way of life and I pray for you all among the stars. Thank you for the CD that I received. I listen to it in the evening gazing among the skies. Thank you and keep in contact.
Shungopavi Village, Arizona
FROM HIROMI KONDO, percussionist with Amana [band], and other bands
Konnichiwa! Arigato your new CD. So beautiful!
A lot of LOVE! Hiromi
Nanjo, Okinawa, Japan
Aloha e Alicia,
I wasn’t even going to fire up the computer tonight, but I received the CD, I just wanted to say pretty awesome and what an honor. Donto is whirling in the realm of Po. Aloha!
ke aloha wale, ka mahalo wale,
Ried Kapo Ku
Performer of traditional Hawaiian dance and chant
Vice President, Na Manupo Music
Thank you for “beyond living”!
Your beautiful songs appreciating life and the beyond bring peace to my mind.
professor of mathematics
Ranzan, Saitama, Japan
Thanks for your new album.
I feel your voice is younger than last coming and guitar play is more beautiful!
I understand I love your world all over again!
magazine journalist specializing in outdoor living
We’re listening to it over & over.
Really love the way The Garden came out!
Also the beautiful slack key medley at the end.
Your BEST effort yet! Really nice.
Ellie LOVES the Nona Beamer song.
Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii
I’m listening to your new CD.
From the opening this CD is unique.
Here’s a new experience of Nami. Joe Dolce and Amana…
I think I want start to sell this CDs soon.
I’m gonna play this CD almost everyday in Yukotopia.
Oh, Nami again, and peaceful instrumentals at last. This is a nice album.
Vocalist/guitarist/leader of the band HaZaMa
Former manager of Yukotopia night club
Alicia starts out with Hawaiian songs & then it seamlessly segues into a Japanese song & it was all ocean sounds somehow. Very beautiful. There’s an old Danish song (lovely) & the Danes are also ocean people. If you haven’t heard it yet, I recommend you get it.
Journalist and Political Writer
It’s so beautiful CD. My tears came. So moved. Arigato so much.
Jewelry maker and Craftsperson
Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan
I was particularly blown away by the 15-minute instrumental ending and the ingenious way you integrated ‘Hill of Death’ instrumentally into the timelessness of those classics. I have never thought of the song as just music before, but it works like that!
I also like how the common thread of all the songs is your finger-picking style which really stands on its own.
I’ve always thought that ‘Hill of Death’ felt like it could have come from the hills of 19th century Appalachia but you are only the second person to pick that up and the first to actually demonstrate it via that instrumental collage!
I love the CD!!!!!!!!!!!!! Everything from the Bosan Gokko to Auntie Nona and Ruminations. And what a nice surprise to see the photograph from Forest Hills. You are such a visionary…all I did was snap the shutter.
It works because it is so authentic…so thoroughly full of the heart and soul of YOU – and a true reflection of your bittersweet and tender feelings after so many loved ones passed on. I love that you are so inclusive in the explanations of your relationship to each song, lyric, and tradition. Your sound and FEEL puts down a deep tap root. Then the icing on the cake is your artistic nature-centric metaphor using the morning/mourning glory blossom to show the glowing light at the end of the physical life leading the way to the next adventure. And of course the piece de resistance is that you drew the blossoms and wrote the words in your own handwriting – enveloping the recording project with your SELF. Love it all. The whole shebang.
Jazz Vocalist and Professor at Berklee School of Music
As soon as I got it, my mother and I listened to your CD and we love it!!! And when my family held a BBQ party at a tiny garden, we enjoyed your music again.
I have listened to your studio songs today (all 4 CD’s that I am aware of). “Beyond Living” is my favorite. Your playing and singing are impeccable. I think it’s quite possibly one of the greatest views on life I have ever witnessed.
Alicia, in my view this is your best recording yet! The songs are so movingly beautiful, no matter which culture they are from. Donto’s pieces are just beautiful. Your performance is great. The production is superb! You have done amazing things with supporting voices and instrumentation. You should be very very proud of yourself. And I was very touched at your including Peter in the liner notes. I think you have succeeded at reaching “Beyond Living” to a glorious and amazing place.
Photographer and Filmmaker
The CD is beautiful, eclectic and extremely well produced.
It is appropriately other-worldly.
Nami keeps going though my head like a continuous wave.
I LOVE the Donto tracks and the Donto memories.
Hill of Death sounds fresh and the medley is masterful.
The Danish piece is a treasure and a revelation.
Your guitar and vocals are so beautiful and they blend perfectly with the accompanist’s parts.
And you know me…I love good liner notes and you have written the BEST ones.
I’m one of those people that like “The Making Of…” even better than the movie, so good liner notes are a necessity.
This is a totally unique collection of authentic and personal music.
I feel like I peered into the pages of your “musical diary”.
I love the Hawaiian/Japanese flavor of it all.
Rock ON my courageous ONE!
Artist and Environmental Activist
Your new album has offered much consolation as Brandon and I mourn a good friend, a talented and spirited fiddle player. Your tunes fit so perfectly into my soul at the moment ~ THANK YOU. I would LOVE to plan a show together. I will put some feelers out.
Los Angeles, California
What I’m Listening to This Week 11-05-09
Beyond Living – by Alicia Bay Laurel. Having just done three concerts with Alicia in Japan and Okinawa, these tunes are still floating through my head. A very unique artist and ahead-of-her-time writer.
I love your CD, such a wide collection of inspiration ~ today’s favorite – Hang Out & Breathe. My husband and I lived and worked in and around the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland for the last 10+ years. After he died last year I was guided to move over to Arizona, reconnect with the Earth and continue my work here. It is a blessing to have connected with you.
Anam Aire ~ Soul Midwife
i LOVE the CD … 🙂 Beyond Living!
thank you for taking so much care in signing them so beautifully…its so lovely,…really ! GOOD JOB!
Vilma Lihau Daly
The CD is beautiful! It brought me so much joy – I’ve already listened to it twice through. It’s really a treasure! Thank you for making so much beautiful music with so much heart.
Lytton Dove White
Environmentalist and Writer
I absolutely love your music. The CDs are great, and now I have three of your special CDs.
Actress, Comedienne, and Teacher of Comedy Improvisation
Bevery Hills, CA
Aloha Dearest Alicia,
This is a mahalo to your from both Bruce and myself for the beautiful gift of your CD [Beyond Living]. We listened to it together as we commuted back and forth to Kapalua weddings – and we found it delightful. Bruce commented on how beautifully produced it is…A most wonderful collection of songs!
Aloha our brilliant Alicia,
Thank you so much for sending us “Beyond Living”.
You literally went “beyond” in this lovely recording.
Bless you, dearest friend, for sharing your creations with us.
We love you.
Gloria and Barry Blum
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Reviewed on Amazon, March 5, 2017
Wonderful slack-key musings. Soothing and profound, diverse guitar music. Lovely voice.
I found the CD Beyond Living, so incredibly moving. I have also lost many people I love in the last several years too, and before, but especially recently, and the music you created really made me feel connected to those loved ones, loving them and celebrating them, as you were when you created this. I loved the “Waltzing with Angels” medley–I am familiar with Kitty Wells and Hank Williams but did not know the “Gathering Flowers” song. And the “Ruminations” medley was an incredibly complex masterpiece! I have no doubt that I will be enjoying these over and over and can’t wait to share them with my sister. I just had to write and tell you how much I enjoyed them.
Many blessings and good wishes to you,
Author and Musician
Beyond Living: Finger-picked Ruminations on the Hereafter and Its Messengers has come from the pressing plant this week. It’s a collection of charming antique and antique-sounding songs from the USA, UK, Australia, Japan, Hawaii and Denmark that focus on mortality, immortality, and a life that is mindful of spirit.
Along with my open-tuned guitar picking, singing and speaking, you’ll hear musicians from Japan, Hawaii, Australia, and the LA folk and jazz scenes, including Joe Dolce, Moira Smiley, James Kimo West, Ried Kapo Ku, the band Amana, Auntie Nona Beamer, Steve McGee, Ray Armando, Vic Koler, Chris Conner, and anime film songwriter, Tim Jensen.
On this particular CD, I wrote only two of the eleven cuts, but I wrote new English lyrics from translations of two songs by Donto, a legendary Japanese new wave rock star turned spiritual singer/songwriter, and one 19th century hymn in Danish.
I also commissioned a long overdue Hawaiian translation of Donto’s famous hula, “Nami,” by Auntie Nona Beamer’s adopted son Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, an instructor of Polynesian languages at University of Hawaii in Hilo, and an opening chant for it in the ancient Hawaiian style by the late recording artist and kumu hula, Ried Kapo Ku, which opens the CD.
I also had the gall to record a 12-minute guitar solo consisting of 15 different songs.
I had the liner notes and lyrics translated into Japanese so I could take it to Japan on my concert tours there. There are two different covers, but the CD itself is the same in both versions.
I painted the cover in watercolor pencils. My idea is that the Bardo looks like a quasar or a morning glory, which have the same mathematical shape.
Beyond Living: Finger-picked Ruminations on the Hereafter and Its Messengers
Liner Notes and Song Lyrics
Music that contemplates death does not have to be heavy and dark; think of the songs typical of an Irish wake, a New Orleans funeral parade or the Mexican Day of the Dead.
I collected and recorded these folk, Americana, gospel, Hawaiian, Australian, Danish and Japanese songs to honor the many I love who have passed on, and to uplift and comfort those who are grieving, providing hospice, or dying. However, even those not currently focused on the mystery of death and dying may find themselves dancing along to these sprightly tunes. I find that, quite often, lyrics about death contain valuable instructions for living.
During 2007 and 2008, an inordinate number of people close to me died, some elderly, others in their middle years. My mother and my father died on August 15, 2007. They were 500 miles apart, and had not communicated in over 45 years.
I assumed responsibility for my mother’s care during the two years before her death, held her hand as she lay dying, arranged for her cremation, wrote her obituary, coordinated her memorial service, eulogized her, put her affairs in order, and remained in her home, settling her estate, for a year after. My sister did much the same while caring for our father. We held hands over the phone, facing these challenges together, and still do.
Our parents’ simultaneous deaths came one month after the death of their friend Davida Solow, the mother of our friend since birth, Benida Solow, in whose home I lived while I cared for our mother. A month before Davida’s passing, our adored Aunt Ruth Lebow died. We’d known both of these women all our lives; their children were our earliest companions, and remain our friends today.
Auntie Nona Beamer, renowned Hawaiian singer/songwriter/dancer/storyteller, and my beloved mentor, died in April 2008. That spring, two cherished artist friends, Mayumi Hirai and Mela MacVittie, perished from cancer in mid-life.
Other dear friends and family members died shortly before or after: Peter Kane, Jacqueline Lynfield, Steve Gursky, Marty Jezer, Anson Chong, Fred Stoeber. My stepfather and Benida’s father-in-law, exactly two years apart. My sister-in-law’s mom. Both of my brother-in-law’s parents. My cousin Jay Lebow. A 40-year-old friend’s 64-year-old father.
It seemed as if the door between the physical and the non-physical swung wide, and messages zinged both ways furiously. I collected as many as I could.
Then there’s the case of Donto.
Takashi “Donto” Kudomi, a legendary Japanese singer/songwriter, died mysteriously on January 23, 2001. He, his wife and their two young sons were watching a hula performance dedicated to Pele, the volcano goddess, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At the end of the final chant, Donto fell to the ground unconscious, and was rushed to the hospital. The next day he was pronounced dead at age 37 from a brain aneurism. He had been in perfect health until that day. Returning a year later to Pele’s home at Halema’uma’u Crater, Donto’s wife beheld him as a rainbow.
Later in 2001, I met her, singer/songwriter/bassist Sachiho Kudomi, through Seawest Studios, near Pahoa, Hawaii, where we had both recorded CDs. In 2002, I helped her organize a first-year memorial for Donto at Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, a Buddhist temple in Hilo, and organized a Hawaii tour for Sachiho’s all-woman band, Amana.
I have since performed with Sachiho and her band during three visits to Japan, at numerous events, including at a huge Donto memorial concert in 2006. In May 2008, we recorded two of Donto’s songs for this CD at Donto-in, the temple Sachiho built in his honor, in Okinawa. In January 2009, I debuted “Mele Nalu,” Kaliko Beamer-Trapp’s Hawaiian language interpretation of Donto’s famous hula, “Nami,” (Wave) at the final memorial for Donto at Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin. Kaliko is Auntie Nona Beamer’s adopted son, a scholar of Polynesian languages teaching at the University of Hawaii, and a member of the von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame.
I first admired the songwriting of Steve McGee and Joe Dolce when I met them at the communes where we lived in northern California in the late ‘60s. In the early ‘70s, we all lived and composed songs on Maui. All of us made music in both places with the dazzling singer and midwife, the late Janet “Sunny” Supplee. Her presence is particularly felt in this recording, since it was she who taught me the 19th century hymn “Oh Come, Angel Band” while we were living at Wheeler Ranch commune, where, at the time, I was writing and illustrating Living on the Earth, and Steve McGee was composing his song “The Garden.” Joe Dolce went on to become a platinum-selling musician and songwriter in Australia and elsewhere.
Death teaches us that life is fragile, and therefore to make use of all available opportunities to be kind and to forgive.
Alicia Bay Laurel, Los Angeles, Spring 2009
* * * *
This recording was conceived, arranged and produced by Alicia Bay Laurel, for Indigo With Stars Records. Recorded, mixed and mastered (plus a lot of producer-type guidance) by Scott Fraser at his studio, Architecture, in Los Angeles, with additional recording as follows: Some of the parts for Nami, Mele Nalu and Bosan Gokko recorded in Okinawa at Donto-in by Kikou Uehara, some of the parts for Nami at Kazana Studio in Hirotsu, Japan by Tim Jensen, and some of the parts for The Garden and Nami at Maui Recording in Lahaina, Hawaii by Lynn Peterson.
Liner notes by Alicia Bay Laurel, translated into Japanese by Reiko Ashidate. Photo of Alicia Bay Laurel at Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, by jazz vocalist Ruthie Ristich. Graphic design and cover painting by Alicia Bay Laurel. Digital layout preparation by Al Lopez. Japanese digital layout preparation and calligraphy by Atsuko Sano.
A thousand thanks to those whose inspiration, kindness and generosity helped to make this CD possible: Joe Gallivan, Sachiho Kudomi, Yoko Nema, Hiromi Kondo, Reiko Ashidate, Nona Beamer, Keola and Moana Beamer, Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, Tim Jensen, Mayu Uotani, Joe Dolce, Scott Fraser, Lynn Peterson, Kikou Uehara, Mana Koike, Kaorico Ago, Ried Kapo Ku, Moira Smiley, James Kimo West, Ray Armando, Chris Conner, Vic Koler, Steve McGee, Naoshi Omote, Yukata Arata, Kohki, Yumiko Kawashima, Satomi Yanagisawa, Keisuke Era, Koki and Ayako Aso, Setsuko Miura, Yoko Utsumi, Kim Cooper, Ruthie Ristich, Rick and Donna Keefer, Atsuko Sano, Jessica Mercure, Benida Solow, Ron Grant, and Lea Grant.
Profound thanks and love to my mentors now gone to the spirit realm: Esther Silverstein Blanc, James Leo Herlihy, Jean Varda, Louis Gottlieb, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, John Fahey, Helen Nearing, Auntie Nona Beamer, Uncle Sol Kawaihoa and Auntie Clara Kalalau Tolentino.
THE SONGS Note: Some of these songs have lyrics that were not sung or only a portion of which were sung. I include here only the lyrics that were actually sung (or spoken).
1. Mele Nalu (Song of the Wave) by Donto Kudomi, (1997 Goma Records JASRAC). Donto’s famous hula, Nami, translated into English by Reiko Ashidate, re-interpreted as English lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel, 2008, and re-interpreted as Hawaiian lyrics by Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, 2008. The song opens with a Hawaiian chant composed and performed by Ried Kapo Ku, (2009 Na Manupo Music). Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Ried Kapo Ku (vocal, ipu heke [Hawaiian gourd drum]), James Kimo West (guitar), and Sachiho Kudomi (electric bass guitar).
‘Ae, he mele nalu no Donto
(Here then, a wave song for Donto)
Ha’alele a’e ‘oe i ke ao nei
(You leave this world)
Ho’opili ‘ia i ka poli o Pele
(Drawn to the bosom of Pele)
Me ka wiwo’ole i kou pono
(Unafraid because of your righteous goodness)
E kali mäkou ma kahakai
(We wait on the shore)
No kou pane ë
(For your reply)
Aia lä! Ke änuenue!
(Behold! The rainbow!)
Eia au i ka poli o ka nalu
He mele kaʻu e mele aku ai
Ka huna kai e pulu nei
I ke ʻehu o ke kai
Palena ʻole, launa ʻole
Kani ʻole ka leo o ka nalu
ʻO kuʻu leo ke kāhea nei
Lohe ʻole ʻia mai nō
Auhea-hea-hea wale ʻoe
Auhea-hea-hea e ka nalu
Auhea-hea-hea wale ʻoe
E ō, e pane mai nō
Riding waves that praise the island
Waves of tears are falling down my face
Is this the place beyond all knowing?
Far beyond the singing of the waves.
Waves can weary with pollution
But the waves always continue to appear
Come on, waves, give me an answer
Let me know you know I’m here
Hear me, hear me, hear me, hear me, ocean!
Answer as I call to you once more.
Hear me, hear me, hear me, hear me, ocean!
I am listening from your shore.
Oneone ē ka nalu
Kāwili pū i ka lepo o ke kai
Mau nō naʻe ka poʻi o ka nalu
A pau loa ke ao nei
Inā hoʻi ua lohe ʻoe
Pane mai i ke kani o kuʻu leo
E nānā mai i ʻike maila
ʻO au nō ke lana nei
2. Hill of Death by Joe Dolce (melody, 2004) and Louisa Lawson (lyrics, first published in Louisa’s late 19th century Australian feminist newspaper, The Dawn, and later in her 1905 poetry collection The Lonely Crossing) Dolceamore Music APRA (Australia). In 2004, Hill of Death won the Best Folk Gospel Award in the Australian Gospel Awards. Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Joe Dolce (vocal), James Kimo West (guitar) and Chris Conner (upright bass).
No downward path to death we go
Through no dark shades or valleys low,
But up and on o’er rises bright
Toward the dawn of the endless light.
For not in lowlands can we see
The path that was and that to be,
But on the highlands, just where the soul
Takes deeper breaths to reach the goal.
No downward path to death we go
Through no dark shades or valleys low,
But up and on o’er rises bright
Toward the dawn of the endless light.
There we can see the winding way
That we have journeyed all our day,
Then turn and view with spirits still
Our future home beyond the hill.
3. Bosan Gokko (The Monk Song) by Donto Kudomi (1995 Yano Music JASRAC), plus Yamadera No Oshosan, a traditional Japanese children’s song. Translation of both songs by Reiko Ashidate and Yoko Nema, set into English verse by Alicia Bay Laurel, 2008. The piece opens with the first lines of Shoshinge, a sutra by Shinran Shonin (1173-1262), the founder of Pure Land Buddhism, translated by Yoko Nema. Sachiho Kudomi (vocal, electric bass guitar), Yoko Nema (vocal, harmonium), Hiromi Kondo (djembe), Ray Armando (congas), and Alicia Bay Laurel (guitar and spoken word).
(Translation of opening lines of Shoshinge)
I take refuge in Amitabha Buddha,
Who has eternal life,
And light beyond human knowledge.
(Translation of Bosan Gokko)
On the mountain, the temple bell tolls.
The aroma of supper greets me.
Potatoes cooked with tofu;
Let us say grace and enjoy it.
No electronic sounds at the temple.
When I hear ravens call, I go home.
Yes, I would be really comfortable
Living in the temple.
A candle burns in the silent temple hall,
Before dawn, the time of the wisdom of the universe.
The sun rises. Wake up!
I am a pillar of Japan.
So long I gaze at the lotus
Blooming in the pond of the garden.
Head shaven and devoted to the temple,
I am reincarnated into this world again.
Take care until I see you again
Live and let live.
Live and let live.
(Rough translation of Yamadera No Oshosan, a traditional Japanese children’s song)
High on the mountain, there is a temple.
In the temple, there is a priest.
The priest wants to play with a ball
But, there is no ball.
The priest is longing to play with a ball
But, there is no ball.
So the priest plays with a cat.
4. Waltzing with Angels (medley): Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Moira Smiley (vocal), and Vic Koler (mandolin and upright bass).Oh Come, Angel Band (The Land of Beulah) by Jefferson Hascall 1876. Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet by Marvin E. Baumgardner, (1940 Stamps-Baxter Music BMI). Gathering Flowers was a hit in 1947 for Miss Kitty Wells, “The Queen of Country Music,” both as a solo and in duet with Hank Williams, Sr. I alternate between the two songs here.
Oh Come, Angel Band
My latest sun is sinking fast;
My race is almost run.
My greatest trials now are past;
My triumph has begun.
Oh come, angel band,
Come and around me stand.
Bear me away on your snowy wings
To my immortal home.
I’ve almost found my heavenly home
My spirit softly sings.
The holy ones, behold they come,
I hear the sound of wings.
Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet
Death is an angel sent down from above,
Sent for the buds of the blooms that we love.
For it is so we must all pass away,
Our souls to be flowers in the Master’s bouquet.
Gathering flowers for the Master’s bouquet,
Beautiful flowers that will never decay,
Gathered by angels and carried away
Forever to bloom in the Master’s bouquet.
Loved ones are dying each day and each hour,
Passing away like the life of a flower,
But we shall all be together some day
Transplanted to bloom in the Master’s bouquet.
5. Altid Frejdig, Når du Går (Courage, Always, When You Walk) Melody by C.E.F. Weyse, 1838, lyrics by Christian Richardt, 1867, English translation by Jessica Mercure, set into verse by Alicia Bay Laurel. Alicia Bay Laurel (sung and spoken vocal), Chris Conner (upright bass). Often performed at funerals in Denmark, this hymn served as a rallying call in the struggle against the occupation of Denmark from 1940 to 1945.
Altid frejdig, når du går
(Courage, always, when you walk)
Veje, Gud tør kende,
(On paths only God may know,)
Selv om du til målet når
(Even if you don’t reach your goal)
Først ved verdens ende.
(Until the end of time.)
Aldrig ræd for mørkets magt!
(Fear not the powers of darkness!)
Stjernerne vil lyse;
(The stars will shine.)
Med et fadervor i pagt
(With the Lord’s Prayer as your pact)
Skal du aldrig gyse.
(You will not quake with fear.)
Kæmp for alt, hvad du har kært;
(Fight for all you hold dear.)
Dø, om så det gælder,
(Die, if you must.)
Da er livet ej så svært,
(Then life is not so hard,)
Døden ikke heller.
(And neither is death.)
6. The Garden by Steve McGee, 1969 (self-published). About finding heaven on earth. Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Steve McGee (vocal, lead guitar), James Kimo West (rhythm guitar), and Vic Koler (upright bass).
And it’s a hard rocky road that we’re going down,
And I know we won’t make it by ourselves.
For it’s love and believing in what we have found
That will take us to the garden that the Great One has grown.
Love, only love, can take you there
To the place where we all can be free.
Love, only love, is the way to find peace;
It’s the answer to all that we need.
And it’s a place where the people are filled with joy,
And it’s a place where we all can be free to roam.
Where the music flows as though it came from above,
It’s a place that we all can call our own.
7. Auntie Nona/Kahuli Aku/Pupu Hinuhinu Auntie Nona by Alicia Bay Laurel (2008 Bay Tree Music ASCAP), Kahuli Aku by Nona Beamer, (circa 1955), Pupu Hinuhinu by Nona Beamer (circa 1955), sample from The Story of Pua Polu by Nona Beamer, 1996, on her gorgeous CD collaboration with Keola Beamer, The Golden Lehua Tree (all from Starscape Music ASCAP). Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), James Kimo West (guitar), and Chris Conner (upright bass).
Dear Auntie Nona, mother of aloha,
Songwriter, storyteller of our isles,
We loved your twinkling eyes; we loved your gentleness;
We loved your intellect, your heart and smiles.
A leader of community who fostered peace and dignity
Always with serenity, yet practical,
Keeper of the ancient chants, you could do a rascal dance,
Sing about Hawaiian plants and animals.
(Melody of Kahuli Aku)
You taught the children hula and decency
Your songs with nature themes, Hawaiian nursery rhymes.
These songs went on to be classics of the repertoire,
Along with your stories of your life and times.
Hula girl in Waikiki, Columbia University,
Taught for half a century, Kamehameha School.
Beamer family music camps, Mauna Kea oil lamps,
Soon your face will be on stamps because you’re so cool.
(Melody of Pupu Hinuhinu)
Please, Auntie Nona, from your perch in heaven,
Visit our memories and our dreams.
Angel of aloha, bless us with peacefulness,
Beamer of love and light, send your beams!
You kept an open mind; your eyes were color-blind;
You welcomed every kind who came to learn.
You loved the mountains high; you loved the ocean side;
You traveled far and wide, and returned.
(Melody of Kahuli Aku and the ending of Pupu Hinuhinu)
(Voice of Auntie Nona) Yes, you are always loved.
8. Hang Out and Breathe by Alicia Bay Laurel (1969 Bay Tree Music ASCAP). Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Joe Dolce (vocal), James Kimo West (guitar) and Vic Koler (upright bass).
What I want to do now is hang out and breathe,
Take care of the family at hand,
Live in the moment and be who I am,
For things may go different than that which we planned.
Oh happy most wonderful,
Hang out and breathe ’til I die.
Meet my Creator with open heart,
Surrender my body with joy in my eyes.
When I can remember to hang out and breathe,
And let all my worrying cease,
Thing can go crazy and things can go fine;
I’ll be a love fountain in a garden of peace.
Oh happy most wonderful,
Hang out and breathe ’til I die.
Meet my Creator with open heart,
Surrender my body with joy in my eyes.
Nothing is more simple than to hang out and breathe,
You’d think that’s what all of us do.
We come to this planet to live and to learn,
So don’t hold your breath ’til your wishes come true.
9. Nami (Wave) by Donto Kudomi, (1997 Goma Records JASRAC). Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), James Kimo West (guitar), Sachiho Kudomi (electric bass guitar), Hiromi Kondo (djembe), and Naoshi Omote (congas, surdo, cajon, rainstick, and assorted hand percussion). Choir: Sachiho Kudomi, Hiromi Kondo, Yoko Nema, Mayu Uotani, Tim Jensen, Yukata Arata, Kohki, Alicia Bay Laurel.
In this, the original Japanese version, I envision the song sung by friends, sitting around a campfire on the beach under a starry sky, playing drums and guitars.
10. Ruminations (medley): Alicia Bay Laurel (guitar and arrangement)
Amazing Grace, traditional Celtic melody, lyrics by John Newton, 1779, The Garden by Steve McGee, 1969, Is This Not the Land of Beulah? by Harriet Warner ReQua, 1890, Will the Circle Be Unbroken by Charles H. Gabriel (melody) and Ada H. Habershon (lyrics), 1908, Oh Come, Angel Band by Jefferson Hascall, 1876, Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet by Marvin E. Baumgartner (1940 Stamps-Baxter Publishing BMI), Angels Are Watching Over Me Traditional African-American Hymn, This Little Light of Mine Traditional African-American Hymn, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot Traditional African-American Hymn, Bosan Gokko by Donto Kudomi (1995 Yano Music JASRAC), Hill of Death by Joe Dolce (melody, 2004) and Louisa Lawson (lyrics, circa 1895) (Dolceamore Music APRA), Long Black Veil by Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill (1959 Universal Cedarwood BMI), Good Night Irene traditional folk song, first recorded by Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) in 1934 for the Library of Congress. (Ludow Music and Andite Invasion), We Shall All Be Reunited by B. Bateman and Alfred Karnes (1929 Peer International BMI), Kumbaya (Come by Here, My Lord) Traditional African-American Hymn
11. Aloha ‘Oe (Farewell to Thee) by Queen Liliuokalani, 1878. Not penned for someone dying, but rather to a beloved to whom one expects to return. Alicia Bay Laurel (guitar), and James Kimo West (guitar)
December 12, 2008
“Floozy Tune,” the opening cut of my blues/jazz CD, What Living’s All About, has garnered a runner-up position in yet a THIRD songwriting contest, this time as a Finalist in the 100% Music Songwriting Contest.
In summer 2008, “Floozy Tune” received Honorable Mention (7th place) in the World division (which includes jazz), in the Indie International Songwriting Contest.
The first award for “Floozy Tune” was in the Top 20 Finalists in the Jazz Division of the Unisong International Songwriting Contest, in 2007.
Marinated from birth in the world music, political folk music, classical music, jazz and Broadway tunes my parents played on the hi-fi, I succeeded (after two years of begging) in starting piano lessons at age seven, played a credible version of the Bumble Bee Boogie by age twelve, and was levitated into learning folk guitar and writing songs after seeing Bob Dylan play his powerful protest songs, shortly before I turned fourteen. A couple of years later, my cousin Jan Lebow married John Fahey, and one day I cornered him when he was bored at a family party and got him to teach me the basics of open tunings in the next two hours. I practiced like crazy, and that became my sound.
In 1974, I moved to Maui. There I learned to play slack key guitar and sing Hawaiian songs in Hawaiian from the family of recording artist G-girl Keli’iho’omalu, especially her mother, legendary singer and hula teacher and choreographer, Auntie Clara Kalalau Tolentino. I learned slack key guitar from Clara’s son-in-law Jerome Smith in Hana, and from Uncle Sol Kawaihoa in Wailuku. In the early ‘80’s, I began playing in restaurants and bars for the tourists. Over a period of twenty-eight years I studied vocal technique with seven teachers, including pop singer/songwriter Pamela Polland. I also took lessons, at least one, and sometimes many, from an uncountable number of guitarists – including a couple of years of weekly lessons from renowned Hawaiian jazz singer/guitarist Sam Ahia.
My lifelong love of slightly sardonic vocal jazz (the first LP I bought at age 13 was “Local Color” by Mose Allison) led me to learn a repertoire of jazz standards and the jazz chords I needed to accompany myself. In the late ‘80’s I started playing at weddings and learned love songs of many genres. From 1988 to 1999 I owned a wedding business on Maui that put on 3000 weddings, and I sang at hundreds of them, sometimes accompanying a troop of hula dancers.
In 2000, Random House released the thirtieth anniversary edition of Living on the Earth. I sold the wedding business and took myself on a twice-cross-country road tour for eight months, delivering 75 performances of Living on the Earth: The Musical, an original one-woman, two-act show of quirky, edgy stories about the birth and aftermath of my book, and some of the songs I wrote during these times. I self-produced Music From Living on the Earth, a solo CD of these songs, to sell from the bandstand, and, to my astonishment, it was not only reviewed but selected as an album pick on All Music Guide. Then Gerald van Waes’ psychedelic folk radio show in Antwerp, Belgium, “Psyche Van Het Folk,” started playing it. Then EM Record in Osaka, Japan released it, as a CD in 2005 and as a vinyl LP in 2015.
When I returned to Hawaii from the tour, I self-produced Living in Hawaii Style, a CD of original and historic Hawaiian songs, mostly slack key guitar and tropical jazz. The CD features my former teacher, Sam Ahia, arguably the best jazz guitarist/vocalist in the islands, and Lei’ohu Ryder, a reknowned spiritualist and chanter with a string of fantastic CDs of her own. This CD got airplay both in Hawaii and on the legendary Ports of Paradise radio show in California, was released by EM Records in Japan, and, in July 2002, I was the only woman headlining at the Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival in Hilo, Hawaii.
Two of my music mentors are avant-garde improvisational musicians. Ramón Sender Barayón, one of the founding composers of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early ‘60’s, and co-designer of the Buchla Box, the first synthesizer built on the west coast, co-authored a book with me, Being of the Sun, containing his wealth of knowledge about drones, modes and tunings, plus songs and chants we composed together and separately, celebrating the cycles of nature. In 2013, I had the 1973 reel-to-reel recording Ramón had made of us performing music from our book digitized and remastered, and released it as a CD, Songs from Being of the Sun.
In the late ‘90’s, I began partnering with Joe Gallivan, a stalwart of the free-jazz world in New York and in Europe. He developed a sound vocabulary for the MiniMoog synthesizer, worked with Robert Moog as the test driver of the Moog drum, and was among the first to play these instruments in a jazz setting, including in the Gil Evans Orchestra for two years and in a trio with legendary organist Larry Young for three years. Joe lead bands full of extraordinary players throughout his adult life. An entire section was devoted to him in the 4th edition (1998) of the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD.
While my first CD, Music from Living on the Earth, contains a choral arrangement of my song “In the Morning” by Ramón, and my sixth CD, Songs from Being of the Sun, is entirely a collaboration with him, Joe’s influence is most evident in my 4th release, What Living’s All About, recorded by Scott Fraser (audio engineer and producer for the Kronos Quartet) and a fabulous line-up of session players, notably avant-garde guitar legend Nels Cline (best known as the guitarist with Wilco, and who I met when his band opened for Joe Gallivan’s band at the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in New York City in June 2000), and John B. Williams, bassist for Nancy Wilson, the Manhattan Transfer, the Tonight Show Big Band and the Arsenio Hall Show Band. I co-produced the CD with Ron Grant, an Academy Award winning film composer, who arranged and conducted some of the material, but I also relied heavily upon the improvisational skills of these great players, and they surpassed my expectations.
From 2006 through 2019, I performed twelve concert tours in Japan, and produced/recorded/toured more albums, bringing the total to eight (as of 2021). Two of the albums, Beyond Living and Alicia Bay Laurel – Live in Japan, included tracks recorded in Japan with Japanese musicians and recording engineers. Joe and I began living part time in Spain, and one of the albums, More Songs From Living on the Earth, included tracks recorded in Spain, with Spanish and British musicians.
In 2021, I am collaborating with Spanish filmmaker Luis Olano on the movie version of Living on the Earth: The Musical, which he filmed in November 2016 while gathering material for Sender Barayón: Viaje Hacia la Luz his documentary about the life and work of Ramón Sender Barayón, who makes a guest appearance in my show, singing with me for the first time in 43 years.
Joe Gallivan and I are both eager to begin traveling and performing again – as soon as the danger imposed by the pandemic dies down.
Review by Gerald Van Waes
Former radio producer and webmaster for radio show, Psyche Van Het Folk
Radio Centraal, Antwerp, Belgium
Alicia started to live and breathe the essences of the island of Hawaii with its own special ‘heart’ energy. Like she expressed the hippie life book and album, this album expresses original and historic Hawaiian songs, accompanied by a slack key guitar with the help of Lei’ohu Ryder, singer and spiritualist with roots in Hawaiian culture, Sam Ahia, vocalist and jazz guitarist and Rick Asher Keefer, with some ukulele and percussion and vocals. Different from the previous album that seemed to have been an expression of immediate life energy, here a few song experiences have a kind of nostalgic souljazz in them even as if something is lost but still remembered. Elsewhere I feel sadness as if being an ode to the original Hawaiian joyful soul, while the historical songs are the immediate reference, while guitar instrumentals like “Sassy / Manuela Boy / Livin’ On Easy” are performed with a blues feeling. Other tracks, like the titletrack have all the luck and sunshine of Hawaii most brightly in them.
Review by Chris Roth
Founding member of Lost Valley Ecovillage
Former Editor, Talking Leaves Magazine
Our friend Alicia Bay Laurel (author and illustrator of the 1971 bestselling book Living On The Earth) has put together an album of original and historic Hawai’ian songs, sung with slack key guitar. After more than twenty-five years living in Hawai’i, Alicia has obviously absorbed much of the spirit of her adopted home—a spirit she conveys with great respect and also an effervescent joy. Most of this is lovely music about what’s good in life on an island where native culture and nature are still respected and honored by such “adopted natives” as Alicia.
Just as important, several songs point to the threats and damage to Hawai’i’s people and land done by less respectful outsiders, and a call, gently and beautifully, for a return to balance and sovereignty.
Review by Stanton Swihart
September 23, 2001
It took Alicia Bay Laurel nearly half of a lifetime and years of concerted study in a variety of styles before completing her debut album, but, oh, was it worth the wait. A gorgeous amalgam of John Fahey-style fingerpicking, modal passages, and lovingly sacred sentiments, Music from Living on the Earth was a sparkling stream of music pure from the heart. It took but mere months for Laurel to back up those sentiments with a second album that is every bit as compelling and beautifully realized, although it is considerably different in both tone and purpose.
Living in Hawai’i Style is, instead, a collection of Hawaiian songs – some traditional, some native and, indeed, some from the pen of Laurel herself, a longtime resident of the 50th state. Although a few have (most notably jazz guitarist George Benson), ha’oles (or “gringos”) have not traditionally been accepted with ease into the wider Hawaiian musical community. But Laurel proves herself acutely in-tuned to the nuances, subtleties, and details of traditional island styles, and the gorgeous open-key melodies or her original tunes are tailor-made to Hawaii’s deep legacy of slack-key guitar. Without debating the notion of authenticity, it can be said, at the very least, that Living is a supremely humble and giving album, both towards the listener and towards the Hawaiian musical history that it upholds and extends. That it goes well beyond is the album’s most endearing grace. Far from playing shallow and dilettantish, Living is, in fact, a paradisiacal love letter to Hawaii’s musical lore and to the place the artist calls home, and it could not honor the tradition any more than it does.
Laurel studied Hawaiian musical culture for more than two decades before even attempting to put her learning on tape (although some of the original songs date to the mid 1970s), and the album benefits greatly from that level of sensitivity and deference, as it incorporates nearly every style endemic to the islands, from ancient chant and drinking songs to a birthday tune, wedding songs, wonderfully breezy hulas, environmental anthems and songs of welcome. With ample help from the widely respected Hawaiian jazz-guitar great Sam Ahia and ravishing vocal support from spiritualist, composer, and educator Lei’ohu Ryder, Living in Hawai’i Style is every bit the blissful oasis that Hawaii often seems itself.
Review on Amazon.com by Pam Hanna
November 21, 2001
In her first CD, Alicia Bay Laurel wrote and performed all of the songs, and it was a wonderful musical tour de force. On “Living in Hawaii Style,” other performers, writers and musicians make an appearance to excellent advantage. Alicia’s liner notes are a virtual musical primer on Hawaii – its musical history, genres, culture, geography, flora and fauna, as well as some magical personal history on how she came to know these people and places and enter into their music and their lives.
Traditional Hawaiian songs are included here (Nanakuli, from the 1890’s) as well as steel and nylon string guitars in standard and open tunings (known as Ki ho’alu or slack key) and “hapa ha’ole” (meaning half-foreign, one of a genre of swing tunes with tropical lyrics) as in “Moonlight and Shadows” with the smooth-voiced Sam Ahia.
Koa ukeleles, an ipu (gourd drum), pu’ili (bamboo rattles), pu (large conch shell used as a wind instrument), ti leaf rattles, slack key, steel and nylon string guitars, and ki ho’alu (open-tuned guitar, Hawai’ian style) are heard. Several songs, such as “Kawailehua’a’alakahonua” and “Holua, Kapalaoa and Paliku,” are sung in Hawaiian. The second of these is introduced with an original chant in the ancient style created and sung by Lei’ohu Ryder. The liner notes define Hawaiian words such as “Waikaloa” – “fresh water that is endless,” “A’a” a sharp, jagged lava and “Laupaho’eho’e” a smooth, ropy lava.”
One of my favorites is written and performed by Alicia alone (harmonizing with herself), “Ukulele Hula” – a lilting sing-along kind of song that embodies the feeling and spirit of Hawai’i. Has the feel of a years-old traditional song. “In Paradise, everybody is a lover.” Balmy, swaying breezy, rolling, it’s a “breezy afternoon and a sunset on the ocean.”
But the song that tugs most at the heart, for me, is “Kanikau, O Hawaii!”, written by Ginni Clemmons and sung by Lei’ohu Ryder and Alicia. “Kanikau” means “a mournful cry.”
“Oh Hawai’i, you’ve lost your innocence/ How can we get it back?/ Have we claimed you? Have we shamed you?/Have we spoiled the prize we’ve won?/ By taking you against your will,/Like all greedy lovers do./ Oh Hawai’i… we’re sorry/ Those who care are crying tears of shame./ ….Teach us the ways of nature,/ So that peace can end this war. Oh Hawai’i.”/
Lilting, haunting and lovely, the melody opens the heart to Hawai’i as she is, as she was.
This CD is pure pleasure. Just listen!
Review on Aloha Plenty Hawaii
by Doug and Sandy McMaster
September 28, 2001
“Any woman who has a great deal to offer the world is in trouble.” ~ Hazel Scott
In 1970, she wrote Living on the Earth which hit the bestseller list in 1971. She published 8 more books during the 70’s, and moved to Maui. Last year she released a CD entitled “Music From Living On the Earth” including 16 songs she had written at the time of the first publication.
Living on Maui and visiting the other islands, Alicia was
influenced by the musical stylings of Hawaii. She learned
traditional and contemporary songs as well as writing her
own. Spring of 2001 took her to the Big Island and into
the recording studio once again to create “Living in Hawaii
Style”. On this recording she’s joined by the Hawaiian
jazz guitarist Sam Ahia, spiritualist Lei’ohu Ryder, Rick
Asher Keefer. The recording includes several of her
originals as well as contemporary and jazz favorites.
It includes slack and standard guitar, ukulele, chants, ipu
(gourd), ukulele, and more.
It’s good to hear more women playing slack key… hence the quote I included in this issue. Having spent time in Hana on Maui we understand Alicia’s sentiments. A magical place with very special people. Her folk/pop renditions are nice and catchy. Alicia will be touring in support of her CD so watch for her coming your way… she has some great stories from her time on Maui. We met Alicia and her friend Joe atsunset by the bay.* Hope to see you there again soon Alicia!
And hope life is good for you on Big Island.
*Doug and Sandy are often found performing slack key guitar and ukulele duets at sunset at one of the beachparks in Hanalei, Kaua’i. Their music is beautiful! Their CDs are available at their web site (link above), which is a wonderful resource on ki hoalu (slack key guitar). ~ABL
Review in Newsgroups: alt.music.hawaiian
A new CD by Alicia Bay Laurel… some slack key, some jazz, some vintage Hawaiian… beautiful songs honoring her teacher and places on Maui that touched her heart. And a happy birthday, Hawaiian style, song too!
From Judy Barrett, former music industry professional in Honolulu, August 1, 2002:
I asked Led [slack key legend Ledward Ka’apana] to keep an eye out for you at the Hilo festival [the Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival]. “She one haole girl? Kinda hippie?” Yeah, that sounds about right, I said. Turned out he’d already met you at one of his workshops in Hilo a few months ago. Said you played some of your compositions for him. I asked, “So?” He said you were pretty good. Now, I know that sounds pretty dang low key, but, from him, it truly is high praise. Enjoy it!
Sounds like you had a great time. I love that little festival!
September 4, 2001
We just reviewed your charming release “Living In Hawai’i Style”. It is refreshing to know there are still some artists performing and recording in the islands who appreciate our magnificent musical roots.
You original compositions offer a compelling story of what is happening to beloved Hawai’i. Usually, most artists only record their complaints, not solutions. You are the difference. Even though you are not native to the islands, you have the feel of the land and people.
When I was involved with the original “Hawai’i Calls” radio program, and the newer version, I always looked forward the most to the more traditional and hapa-haole numbers.
This is a most enjoyable musical experience.
Aloha nui loa,
J Hal Hodgson
Ports of Paradise
September 12, 2001
I am delighted to have shared in your CD project. The songs are clearly from your heart. You are a gift to our islands. The makana who has been called to service the vision of aloha and maluhia for the world.
Congratulations on such a fine job. May you continue to heal the people in your work.
“What a nice recording. You did a very good job.”
January 21, 2002
Auntie Nona Beamer
Mother of Keola and Kapono Beamer
And Hawaiian Music Legend in Her Own Right
“I’ve been listening to your Hawaiian album. I love it. Every single song! I hardly ever listen to other people’s music because my brain is just so full of my own. Right now I’m listening to Track 3. I love your voice; it’s so perfect, so lovely and sensual!”
June 28, 2011
Jazz vocalist and visual artist
Creator of the Ragananda doll, books and videos
I Absolutely LOVED YOUR Hawaiian CD! I especially loved your stories, like that of Auntie Alice. For those of us who had lived there and loved Paradise yet saw firsthand the impact on the old Hawaiian culture, those stories mean a lot.
I think we both saw Hawaii thru the same set of eyes while we were living there – I like the way you succinctly articulated it both here and thru the songs and stories on the CD – It will always hold a very special place in my heart, but what happened to the lovely gentle native people there was very similar to other Native Americans — yet you captured their Joy and Aloha spirit with your sweet Music, Alicia!!!!
Aloha Nui Nui,
Linda Joy Lewis
Author of vegan cookbook classic Earth Angel Kitchen
You can listen to Festival of Light here.
In 2009, Sable Cantus, the choir director at Temple Beth David, in Westminster (Orange County), California, found Festival of Light online while searching for a song his choir could sing for a Hawaiian-themed Hanukkah party at the temple, and contacted me via my website for permission to use it. I not only assented, but volunteered to attend and participate, since I was living in Los Angeles at the time, about an hour’s drive away on the 405 freeway. Sable made sheet music of his choral arrangement of the song, which I have as a pdf document. Please let me know if you would like a copy and I’ll email it to you.
Temple Beth David made the feminist in me sing. The rabbi and the cantorial soloist are women – gorgeous, intelligent, talented women. Here’s a photo of me at the party, sporting a blue and white mu’umu’u (my best approximation of a Hawaiian Hanukkah gown), next to Rabbi Nancy Myers. In the center are two people whose names I don’t know, and on the right is Cantorial Soloist Nancy Linder.
And, hooray, below is a REVIEW of Festival of Light, by Jeanne Cooper, published in SF Gate, the online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, on December 24, 2009:
“I’ve only just discovered a beautiful slack-key Hanukkah song, “Festival of Light,” by Alicia Bay Laurel, which appears on the 2001 “Old Hawaiian Christmas” compilation CD (SeaWest label), now out of print; you can hear by clicking on the player below, or following the link above. Anyone who’s a fan of ki ho’alu may enjoy it no matter what the season.”
My own assessment of the song:
Festival of Light is sweet and sincere rather than humorous, a Hawaiian slack-key-guitar-inspired folk song combining Hawaiian elements (aloha, ocean) with Hannukah elements (the eight nights surrounding the new moon preceeding the winter solstice, family gathering, candles of menorah). I performed two vocal tracks and two guitar tracks (one Hawaiian slack key, one in standard tuning).
Story Behind the Song:
Rick Asher Keefer, a producer-recording engineer whose Na Hoku award winning Hawaiian CDs include those by reknowned Hawaiian artists Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Brother Noland, and his brother, Tony Conjugacion, created Old Hawaiian Christmas, a compilation holiday CD, in 2001, and asked me to write and perform (probably the first ever) Hawaiian Hannukah song. The CD (and this song) continues to get airplay in Hawaii in the December holiday season.
Rick engineered and helped me produce my first two CDs (Music from Living on the Earth and Living in Hawaii Style) at Sea-West Studios, near Pahoa, Hawaii, in 2000 and 2001. He and his wife Donna Keefer both perished from cancer, he in December 2013, and she in April 2015. They are sorely missed by a large musical community, not only in Hawaii, but in Japan, and in Seattle, their first home. Rick engineered albums by the woman-fronted rock band, Heart, including Dog and Butterfly.
Lyrics to Festival of Light
Festival of light on a winter night
Gathering of friends and family
Flickering candles in a row
Shining for a miracle in history
All of this on eight starry moonless nights
All of this surrounded by the great blue sea
All in the spirit of aloha
Smiling in the heart of Hawaii
Now is the season for sharing our light
Singing and dancing so joyously
Thanking each other for kindliness
Flowing through our lives so plenteously
All of this on eight starry moonless nights
All of this surrounded by the great blue sea
All in the spirit of aloha
Smiling in the heart of Hawaii
(c) 2001 Alicia Bay Laurel, Bay Tree Music (ASCAP)