Living in Hawaii Style: Production Notes, Liner Notes and Lyrics

Alicia’s cover for her CD, Living in Hawaii Style, expresses the dazzling colors, sounds, fragrances and tastes of the Hawaiian islands, and the feelings of peace and well-being they engender.

After an eight-month self-coordinated national USA road tour in 2000, promoting the Villard/Random House 30th anniversary edition of Living on the Earth, and Alicia’s first (self-produced) CD, Music from Living on the Earth, with 75 performances of Alicia’s original one-woman two-act comedy/storytelling/original music show, Living on the Earth: The Musical, Alicia returned to Rick Asher Keefer’s Sea-West Studios in Pahoa, Hawaii, and began recording her second CD, Living in Hawaii Style.

For these tracks, a combination of historic Hawaiian songs and Alicia’s original Hawaiian-style songs, Alicia called upon two great Hawaiian musicians:

Lei’ohu Ryder: A spiritualist, composer, performer, recording artist and educator, with deep roots in Hawai’ian culture, Lei’ohu raises her superb voice in song and Hawai’ian chants, which she can compose on the spot (there’s one on this CD.) Her psychic abilities yielded the discovery of the Kukuipuka heiau (temple ruins), which she and others are restoring. She had recently performed with Alicia’s partner, avant-garde jazz musician Joe Gallivan’s ensemble at the 2000 Bell-Atlantic Jazz Festival in New York City when Alicia invited her to collaborate on this album. 

Sam Ahia: Widely respected throughout the state of Hawai’i (and elsewhere) as a great jazz guitarist/vocalist, Sam has appeared on dozens of recordings, including his own, including the all-original Ukumehame, and Sam Ahia, a collection of Hawai’ian favorites. Alicia studied guitar with Sam Ahia for two years.

The album opens with Alicia’s Hawaiian happy birthday song, Hau’oli La Hanau, the only existing recording on which Alicia plays an ukulele.  Rick Asher Keefer joined her on ukulele and Hawaiian percussion, and invited some of the children in the neighborhood to join her in singing the second verse.  This, the least sophisticated song on the album, or maybe on all of her albums, became, far and away, Alicia’s most downloaded song. 

The cover of the album began as an ink line drawing on an invitation to a beach party Alicia held on her 35th birthday, in 1984.  While working on the album, in 2001, Alicia had just begun learning Adobe PhotoShop, and used it to color the drawing for the cover art of the album.

Alicia also scanned a letter she received in 1986 from the legendary slack key guitarist, Auntie Alice Namakelua, a musician who had serenaded Hawaii’s last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, and for whom Alicia had written a song of praise after hearing her in concert on Maui in the early 1970s.  In 1986, Alicia managed to send a cassette tape of her song to the great lady, and Auntie Alice responded graciously with a handwritten note of thanks.  This letter appears inside the front cover of the CD.

Here is a Christmas card I received from her caregiver, after Auntie Alice sent me the letter displayed in the album liner.  The deep warmth of Hawaiian family is palpable in this short missive.

For the many who only buy downloads instead of CDs, here are the complete liner notes and lyrics:

About the songs

Apologia: To those of you already rich in Hawai’ian language and lore, please excuse the vocabulary, geology, sociology and history in these notes, which I gathered for those not as fortunate as you are.

All songs are copyright (c) 2001 by Alicia Bay Laurel and published by Bay Tree Music (ASCAP), except where otherwise noted. Total running time of CD:  53:38

1.  Hau’oli La Hanau (Happy Birthday)

Music and lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel (Key D) Time: 01:36

Lead vocal, finger-picked ukulele and rhythm guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel

Three strummed koa ukuleles, ipu (gourd drum), pu’ili (bamboo rattles): Rick Keefer

Chorus of celebrants:  Rick Keefer, Smitty Smith, Camille Thomas, Sarah Runnells, Rainbow, Moonstar

A birthday song I created for one friend and now sing for many of them.  “Hau’oli” means happy, “la” means day, and “hanau” means birth.  “Aloha nui loa”: “Nui” means big, “aloha” means love and spiritual presence, “loa” means long or forever.  “Auntie Liliko’i” is just a name with the right set of syllables to fit the song—you can put in anyone’s name you want.  Many Hawai’ians call people they love “auntie” and “uncle”, or “tita” (sister) and “brada” (brother) regardless of actual blood relationship.   A liliko’i is a passionfruit or granadilla.

Hau’oli la hanau, aloha nui loa.

Hau’oli la hanau, Auntie Liliko’i!

Lucky live Hawai’i, Hawai’i lucky, too.

Seashore to da mountain, plenny love for you!

2.  Kanikau O Hawai’i

Music and lyrics by Ginni Clemmons (self-published) (Key D) Time: 03:28

Lead vocal: Lei’ohu Ryder

Harmony vocal: Alicia Bay Laurel

Steel string and nylon string guitars: Sam Ahia

An environmental anthem written by Maui singer/songwriter Ginni Clemmons in 1988.  The first ten times I listened to it on Lei’ohu Ryder’s wonderful CD, Waiha, I wept profusely.  Profound thanks to Lei’ohu and to Ginni for sharing this song with me. “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, as all greedy lovers do.

Oh Hawai’i…oh Hawai’i, we’re sorry

Those who care are crying tears of shame

But with your gentle kindness you wash our tears away

With your never-ending streams

Come reach us; come teach us your gentle simple ways

Teach us the ways of nature, so that peace can end this war

Oh Hawai’i…oh Hawai’i, we’re sorry

Those who care are crying tears of shame

But with your gentle kindness you wash our tears away

With your never-ending streams

Come reach us; come teach us your gentle simple ways

Teach us the ways of nature, so that peace can end this war

Oh Hawai’i…oh Hawai’i, we love you

Hawai’i, aloha nou, Hawai’i

3.  From Hawai’i To You

Music and lyrics by Lani Sang, Criterion Music (Key C) Time: 03:51

Vocals: Alicia Bay Laurel and Sam Ahia

Steel string and nylon string guitars: Sam Ahia

A classic from the mid-‘fifties, this graceful ballad was written by Lani Sang, of the famed Waikiki Serenaders.  I learned it from Sam Ahia when I studied guitar with him in the mid-‘eighties.  “Aloha wau ia ‘oe” means “I love you.”

I’ll weave a lei, a beautiful lei, of stars,

To greet you the Hawai’ian way,

Straight from Hawai’i to you.

I’ll take a kiss and blend it into a lei

Of fragrance so sweet and so rare,

Straight from Hawai’i to you.

Just vision, lazy days beside the sea

Underneath the coco tree;

This my love conveys to you.

So take a kiss and blend it into a lei

Of fragrance so sweet and so rare.

Aloha wau ia oe;

Straight from Hawai’i to you.

4.  Nanakuli Blues/Nanakuli/Vale of Feathers

Nanakuli Blues: Music and lyrics by Liko Martin and Thor E. Wold (American Pride Music/BMI) (Key G) Time: 04:11 (total of medley)

Nanakuli: Traditional, from the 1890’s

Vale of Feathers: Music by Liko Martin and Thor E. Wold (American Pride Music/BMI), lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel (Bay Tree Music/ASCAP)

Lead and harmony vocals, lead and harmony guitars:  Alicia Bay Laurel

The a capella opening verse is from a hit protest song from the early 1970’s, recorded as Waimanalo Blues by the band Country Comfort. It galvanized a feeling that took shape as the Hawai’ian sovereignty movement by the centennial of the 1893 overthrow of the Hawai’ian monarchy.  The second song is an nineteenth century Hawai’ian song about Nanakuli, a seacoast town west of Honolulu. The third song consists of lyrics that I wrote soon after hearing the first two. In 1981, Liko Martin showed up at a recording session I was doing in California. I sang my lyrics for him; he insisted that I should record them, and, Liko, twenty years later, you got your wish.

Nanakuli Blues  (verse 2)

Tired and worn, I woke up this morn’,

Found that I was confused.

Spun right around and found I had lost

The things that I could not lose

The beaches they sell to build their hotels,

The old Hawai’ian families knew.

The birds all along the sunlight at dawn

Singing Nanakuli Blues.


O ka leo o ka manu

E ho’i mai e pili

Keiki o ka aina i ka pono a o Nanakuli e a

E ho’i mai e pili

The voice of the bird,
Come close.
The children of the land Nanakuli are righteous;
Come close.

Vale of Feathers 

In the vale of feathers, morning dawns

Like a lovely woman coming on.

Oh, pool of tears, wash over me;

Take my sorrows down to the sea.

‘Cause when I look back at what I lacked,

I miss the high times when they come by.

Treat the people and the islands kind;

You know it’s not about the bottom line.

In the gardens of the bountiful,

We  will wander through a meadow to a pool.

Oh, mother island, plenteous,

You feed us from your flowing breast.

‘Cause when we look back at all we lacked,

We  miss the high times when they come by.

Treat the people and the islands kind;

You know it’s not about the bottom line.

In the vale of feathers, land of song.

The cardinal, the mynah, and the dove.

Oh kona wind, please carry this song

To the ears of the ones that I love.

When you look back at what you lacked

You’ll miss the high times when they come by.

Treat the people and the islands kind;

You know it’s not about the bottom line.

5.  Waikaloa

Music and Lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel (Key A) Time: 04:25

Vocal and slack key guitars: Alicia Bay Laurel

My first Hawai’ian music teacher, Clara Tolentino, and her husband, Joe, raised their children in a house without electricity or telephone at the end of the road in Waikaloa, and I would visit them there in the 1970’s.  Vocabulary: “Pele” is the volcano goddess. “A’a” is sharp, jagged lava.  “Laupaho’eho’e” is smooth, ropy lava. “Heiau” is an ancient Hawaiian temple, or the ruins of it.  “Ki ho’alu” is slack key, or open-tuned guitar picking. “Koa” is a tropical hardwood used for making furniture—and the best ukuleles. Bamboo is used to make pu’ili rattles. “Pahu” is a wooden drum played with hula kahiko (ancient style hula) and chanting.  “Ipu” is a gourd drum. “Pu” is a large conch shell used as a wind instrument.  “Waikaloa” literally means “fresh water that is endless.”

Waikaloa, beautiful newborn land,

From the mountains you came,

From the smoke and the flame,

From a wave of Pele’s hand.

Waikaloa, rainforest by the sea,

With your lava rock walls,

And your trees green and tall,

Here the ancient ones live on in dreams.

I’m walking slow in Waikaloa

Come play some music with my friends,

Over a’a and laupaho’eho’e,

An old steel string guitar held in my hands.

Waikaloa, north shore of Hana Bay,

Where the heiau once stood,

Where the fishing’s still good,

Where the old ki ho’alu still plays.

We sang all night in Waikaloa;

The sun rose from the sea when we were through.

Our sounds of bamboo and of koa,

The pahu, the ipu and the pu.

Waikaloa, mystery is your song.

You’re the wrinkle in time

Where the past and present rhyme;

You’re the waters that flow ever long.

6.  Ukulele Hula

Music and lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel (Key G)  Time: 04:15

Lead and harmony vocals, slack key guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel

Ukuleles: Rick Keefer

On my first night in Hana, in the spring of 1974, I was camping in the jungle behind a friend’s house, and, next door, a wedding reception was in full swing.  In true Hana style, the celebrants took turns making music, performing hula and telling funny stories until dawn, while I was falling asleep and awakening, absorbing it all.  In the morning, this song rolled out of my head.

I’m dreaming to the sound of ukuleles

Playing all night long for a wedding of our family.

In paradise, everybody is lover,

And the more you let go, the more that comes back to you.

So, surrender to the beautiful island,

And she’ll give you everything that you need.

Feasting on a sun-ripened papaya,

Playing all day in the waves along the sand,

Breezy afternoon and a sunset on the ocean,

Sailing away on a song of Bali Hai.

Let me make you feel good; that’s what we’re here for:

For ecstasy, delight and bliss.

It’s so balmy, such a balmy evening,

To melt in love in a tropical paradise.

Let’s swing and sway to the sound of ukuleles

Like the gentle green fronds of the lovely coconut tree.

Surrender to the beautiful island

And she’ll give you everything that you need.

I’m dreaming to the sound of ukuleles

Playing all night long for a wedding of our family.

In paradise everybody is a lover,

And the more you let go, the more that comes back to you.

7.   Holua, Kapalaoa and Paliku

Music and lyrics by Matthew Kalalau (self-published) (Key F) Time: 03:22

Opening chant composed and performed by Lei’ohu Ryder (she accompanies herself with ti leaf rattles)

Lead and harmony vocals, melody slack key guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel

Harmony guitar: Sam Ahia

Written by Clara Kalalau Tolentino’s brother, Matthew Kalalau, about the three camping sites in the volcanic valley surrounded by the summit of Haleakala (“house of the sun”).   Clara taught me the song in 1976, when we spent three days hiking in Haleakala.  She choreographed this song, and sang it in her heavenly voice with ukulele, soon after our trek, at a fundraiser for the Hui Aloha Church, with five of her young female relatives dancing, each wearing a maile lei made from maile we had picked on our way down the Kaupo Gap from the mountain, and each in a holoku (Victorian gown) of a different color, one of which I sewed.  

Lei’ohu’s Opening Chant:

Eia la wahipana la
E ola e ola e ola la
Eia papa hele mu
E ala e ola e ola Haleakala

Lei’ohu’s translation of her chant:

Here it is sacred–
Life, life, life…
Moving forward with the people
To awaken life, Haleakala.

Uncle Matthew’s song:

I ke ia makou ka nani a o Holua

Amena pali ki’e ki’e a o Hale Mau’u

I ke ia makou a o Kapalaoa

Amena pu’u kaulana a o Pu’u Maile

I ke ia makou ka nani a o Paliku

Amena pali ha uli uli; he nani po ina ‘ole

E o nei makou mele ka nani a o Holua

Kapalaoa amena Paliku


We came and saw the beauty of Holua (“wooden sled”– used on cinder hills)

With its misty cliffs of Hale Mau’u (name of the trail, literally: “grass house”)

We came and saw Kapalaoa (“the whale tooth”)

With its famous cinder cone, Pu’u Maile

(“Pu’u” means hill, “maile” is a fragrant vine used to make an open-ended leaf lei)

We came and saw the beauty of Paliku (“vertical cliff”)

With its verdant cliffs, its beauty can never be forgotten

This, now, is our song about the beauty of Holua,

Kapalaoa and Paliku.

8.  Sassy/Manuela Boy/Livin’ On Easy

Slack key guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel (Key G) Time: 03:15

Three drinking songs, each about one hundred years old.   Sassy was written by Kokolia, circa 1890, and describes the “saucy” girls (hookers) sashaying about Honolulu.  Manuela Boy was a hit for the singer Hilo Hattie in the 1930’s.  Livin’ On Easy inspired hundreds of humorous verses over its long history as the quintessential party song.  Even Clara Tolentino sang me a verse she made up.

9.  Moonlight and Shadows/Blue Lei

Music and Lyrics: Moonlight and Shadows by Leo Robin and Friedrich Hollaender, Paramount Music/ASCAP; Blue Lei by R. Alex Anderson and Milton Beamer, Universal Polygram/ASCAP. (Keys Bb and C) total time: 04:04

Vocals: Alicia Bay Laurel and Sam Ahia

Steel string and nylon string guitars: Sam Ahia

This medley is another of my favorites from Sam’s repertoire which I learned in the course of studying guitar with him. This genre of swing tunes with tropical lyrics is known in the islands as “hapa ha’ole”, meaning half-foreign.

 Moonlight and shadows and you in my arms,

And a melody in a bamboo tree, my sweet.

Even in shadows, I feel no alarm

As you held me tight in the pale moonlight, my sweet.

Close to my heart you always will be,

Never, never to part from me.

Moonlight and shadows and you in my arms,

I belong to you; you belong to me, my sweet.

You were wearing a blue lei

The day that I first met you,

As we walked along the sand

By the blue, blue sea.

Without a cloud in the sky to caress us,

Not a tear have you or I to suppress us.

I will always remember

The moment when I kissed you,

And the smile upon your lips was so heavenly sweet.

When your blue eyes looked in to mine,

It was then the sun began to shine,

That day in May you wore a blue, blue lei.

10.  Kawailehua‘a‘alakahonua

Music and lyrics by Frank K. Hewett, Mountain Apple Music (Key G) Time: 03:04

Slack key guitars, lead and higher harmony vocal: Alicia Bay Laurel

Lower harmony vocal: Lei’ohu Ryder

Composed by the great kumu hula (teacher, choreographer) and Hawai’ian cultural healer, Frank Kawaikapuokalani (“the sacred waters of heaven”) K. Hewett.  The title means “the lehua waters that give fragrance to the earth”, and it is the name he gave to his niece, in whose honor the song was composed. Below is his own translation of the lyrics:

Ke iho la ka ua

Halihali na lehua o luna

Helele‘i pua i ke kai

Hula le‘a na lehua i ka moana

He kupa la ka ua i ke kai

Ke ho’i hou e aloha mai

He mele nou e ku‘u lani


The rains are falling

Like red lehua blossoms falling from the sky.

Strewn over the surface of the sea,

They dance playfully amid the waters.

The waters of the sky are well acquainted to the waters of the ocean.

It returns from the sky once more and their relationship is imbued with love.

A song for you, my heavenly one,


11.  Auntie Clara

Music and lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel (Key G) Time: 03:36

Lead and harmony vocals, melody slack key guitar:  Alicia Bay Laurel

Harmony guitar: Sam Ahia

 I wrote this song in 1975, when I was living in Hana, Maui, to honor Clara Keanu Kalalau Tolentino, the town kumu hula (choreographer and teacher of the local hula halau [dance troupe], plus fountain of Hawai’ian arts and culture to the community) and matriarch of a musical dynasty that includes recording artists G-girl Keli’iho’omalu (her oldest daughter, Philomena) and Princess Keli’iho’omalu (G-girl’s daughter).  “Clara won every hula contest she entered,” remembered her sister-in-law, Mary Kalalau, “The famous kumu hula Emma Sharpe said that Clara’s choreography was divinely inspired.”   Clara taught me to sing in Hawai’ian, and introduced me to her son-in-law, Jerome Smith, who taught me to play ki ho’alu (open-tuned guitar, Hawai’ian style).  This song was an instant hit, winning me first place at the talent show of the 1975 Ho’olaulea o Hana (the annual community festival, also known as Aloha Week), a spirited event held at Hana Bay Beach Park after sunset. 

On Aloha Week in old Hana town,

I saw her ride by in a satin gown:

A goddess of flowers, a Hawai’ian queen

That everyone calls Auntie Clara.

Descended from a line of ancient kings,

She plays ukulele and dances and sings,

And what makes her happy is to hear people laugh,

Which is easy around Auntie Clara.

She lives by the sea with the man that she loves,

And they raised eleven sisters and brothers.

And now their grandchildren number forty-two;

And soon, I bet, there will be others.

And she’s taught them all to sing and to dance,

To work real hard and to love romance,

Just by the way that she spends her days,

Being happy being Auntie Clara.

She’s delivered babies and planted trees,

And walked through volcanoes; she smiles with ease.

To me, she’s the essence of old Hana town,

Besides being dear Auntie Clara.

God bless you, my dear Auntie Clara!

12.  Living In Hawai’i Style

Music and lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel (Key A) Time: 02:43

Lead and harmony vocals, slack key guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel

“Awapuhi” means fragrant ginger (the w is pronounced v). “Ulu” means breadfruit, in this case, the great breadfruit trees of the rainforest, although it can also mean “growth”. “Kukui” is the silvery-leafed candlenut tree. “O’o” is an indigenous and endangered species of songbird. “Hula ‘auwana” (literally hula that meanders, like a stream) is the more modern form of hula, performed to melodic songs. It is the only ethnic dance in which the dancers must smile.  “’Olapa” is the ancient form of hula, serious, sacred and vigorous, performed with chanting, drums and other percussion instruments.  “Aloha” is usually translated as “love”, “hello” or “goodbye”, but literally means “the Presence (of the holy spirit) (alo) is the breath (ha).”  “Wahine” (vah-hee-nay) means “woman”, and “kanaka” means “man.”

Moving slow, laughing long, smiling the aloha smile,

Everybody loves living in Hawai’i style la la.

Down to the sea as the day is dawning,

Lavender and golden is the morning.

Snorkeling along the coral reef

Is beautiful beyond belief, oh la la.

Fragrance of the roadside awapuhi

Underneath the ulu and kukui,

Mountain apple booms; the o’o calls;

I’m swimming under waterfalls, oh la la.

The spirit of the land is the ancient chants,

The taro growing farms and the fishing camps,

Sweet hula ‘auwana, bold ‘olapa,

Aloha of wahine and kanaka.

Moving slow, laughing long, smiling the aloha smile,

Everybody loves living in Hawai’i style la la.

13.  Maui Chimes

Slack key guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel (Key G) Time: 01:57

Written by Sam Kapu in 1899, this was the first slack key piece taught to me by Clara Tolentino’s son-in-law, Jerome Smith.

14.  Kaupo

Music, lyrics and poetry by Alicia Bay Laurel (Key F) Time: 03:37

Sung and spoken vocal, slack key guitars: Alicia Bay Laurel

Kaupo literally means “arrive by night”, perhaps alluding to its remote location on the coast of the fierce Alenuihaha Channel.  “Alelelele” is the name of a stream that descends from the mountain in a series of waterfall pools, each in a box canyon.  Maunawainui: “Mauna” means mountain, “wai” means fresh water, “nui” means great.  “Nuu” means height, perhaps referring to the steep ascent to Haleakala’s summit from this coastline. “Hui” means union or gathering.

Kaupo, Kaupo, where the wild winds blow,

The shadow of your evening thrills me now.

Kaupo, the moon upon your brow

Rides high upon the desert mountain skies.

The spirits of the warrior kings

Alight upon the seashores of Kaupo.

Arrive by night, awaken to the sight

Of light caressing hillsides of Kaupo.

Oh lonely Lualailua Hills

Knowing only the sea, the sky and the mountain!

Oh mighty Maunawainui Canyon

Gathering the storm waters and flooding deeply!

Oh majestic cliffs of the Kaupo Valley

Ascending to sacred Mount Haleakala!

Oh ruthless Alenuihaha Channel!

Oh sea of engulfing waves!

Oh growling black stones of Nuu

Ever turning in the tide!

Oh waterfall upon waterfall

Singing Alelelele!

Oh Hui Aloha Church alone beside the sea

Where, in the wild winds, we gather in love!

Oh millions of stars by night!

Oh snow-capped Mauna Kea by day!

Kaupo, Kaupo, where the wild winds blow,

The shadow of your evening thrills me now.

Kaupo, the moon upon your brow

Rides high upon the desert mountain skies.

15.   Auntie Alice

Music and Lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel (Key G) Time: 02:24

Vocal and slack key guitars: Alicia Bay Laurel

 In 1975, I attended a slack key festival in Lahaina, Maui, where Alice Namakelua, court musician to Queen Lili’uokalani during her years of house arrest at Iolani Palace after the 1893 overthrow of the monarchy, performed in her own tuning.  I was totally enchanted. That night I learned her tuning and composed this piece, what Hawai’ians call a mele inoa, a song honoring a person’s name. 

In 1986, I had a job playing music on one of two horse-drawn wagons at an agricultural theme park on Maui.  The musician on the other wagon was a young Hawai’ian named Kawika who played wonderful slack key guitar. I asked him to teach me something new.  He began by demonstrating wahine tuning, and I said, “Oh, that’s Auntie Alice Namakelua’s tuning!”  He told me that his girlfriend’s aunt was Auntie Alice’s nurse.  I asked if he would send a cassette to his girlfriend’s aunt, and he agreed.  I rushed home, recorded this song, and, sure enough, received a note of appreciation from the great lady herself, only months before she passed into the spirit realm. Her letter is reproduced in these liner notes.

Vocabulary: “Wahine (vah-hee-nay) tuning” means a woman’s tuning, in this case, Auntie Alice’s tuning.  “Holoku” (literally “walk straight”) is a Victorian style gown.  “Colors of the isle” refers to the traditional colors associated with each island.  On this night, she wore a pink holuku to honor the island of Maui.  “Iolani (ee-oh-lah-nee) Palace” was the seat of the Hawai’ian monarchy, which still stands in Honolulu.  “Aloha ke akua” means “God is love.”

I heard Auntie Alice play

Slack key guitar tuned this way

(It’s called wahine tuning)

To her gentle crooning.

Her holoku was glistening;

Everyone was listening.

She wore the colors of the isle,

Made the people smile.

She was only seventeen

Playing guitar for the Queen.

Pretty Auntie Alice

At Iolani Palace.

She hears the songs the spirits sing,

Sees the light in everything,

Alice Namakelua;

Aloha ke akua.

16.  Kipahulu  

Music and lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel (Key F) Time: 03:10

Vocal and slack key guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel

Harmony guitar: Sam Ahia

The Kipahulu valley lies southeast of Hana town, on Maui.  I lived there and composed this song in 1976. 

Haleakala (“House of the Sun”) is the 10,000-foot volcano that comprises eastern Maui.  Mauna Kea (“White Mountain”) is the 14,000-foot volcano that comprises most of northern Hawaii island.  Kaupo Gap is the amphitheater-headed valley that comprises the eastern half of Haleakala’s “crater”, opening southward to the seacoast at Kaupo.  The original caldera and summit of the volcano eroded away long ago, but two enormous amphitheater-headed valleys—the other is the Ko’olau Gap, opening to the north side of the island—were united by volcanic eruptions that decimated the wall between them, creating cinder cones and other formations within the summit walls, and the illusion of a caldera.

If you want to call on me, this is where I stay:

In a meadow, by a mango, Mau’ulili Bay.

Life is simple in the shadow of Haleakala;

Moon and raindrops for my crystal candelabra.

Let your feet dance down the boulders to the rushing stream,

Floating chilly, willy-nilly, to ancestral dreams.

Hear the spirits of the valley sing in soft guitars;

Mark the passage through the heavens: wind and cloud and stars.

Hear the cattle call as the evening falls.

Bamboo canyon walls, silver waterfalls,

Birds of ancient lineage, brilliant in their plumage,

Hidden by the foliage down from Paliku.

If you come to call on me, this is how I live:

Contemplating God’s creation, learning how to give.

Kipahulu Valley people work the livelong day;

Then you’ll see us in the evening, coming out to play.

Sudden rain may slice the sunlight, disappearing down.

Floating on the sea’s horizon, Mauna Kea’s crown.

Kaupo Gap, oh gate of heaven, clouds advance, retreat.

Verdant pasture, sleepy rapture, sky and mountain meet.

Hear the cattle call as the evening falls.

Bamboo canyon walls, silver waterfalls,

Birds of ancient lineage, brilliant in their plumage,

Hidden by the foliage down from Paliku.

Reviews of Living in Hawaii Style

LIHS cover at 96 dpi

buy Living in Hawaii Syle

Review by Gerald Van Waes
Former radio producer and webmaster for radio show, Psyche Van Het Folk
Radio Centraal, Antwerp, Belgium
November 2005

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
Spring, 2002

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 by Pam Hanna
November 21, 2001

O Hawai’i!

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:
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!

Judy Barrett


September 4, 2001

Mahalo Alicia,

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
Executive Producer
Ports of Paradise


September 12, 2001

Aloha Alicia~

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.

Malama pono~

Lei’ohu Ryder


“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

Gabrielle Silva
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