Charles E. King critique of “modern” Hawaiian music, 1939.

King Says Hawaiians Ruining Island Music

Venerable Charles E. King, whose Song of the Islands is among the most widely known of all Hawaiian music, pulled no punches in a talk before the Hawaiian Civic club today on modern  day treatment of island songs.

“Hawaiian music,” said Mr. King, speaking at the club luncheon at the YWCA at noon, “is being murdered—and by Hawaiians.”

Then, emphasizing that he was speaking his own opinions and not those of the club, he said:

“The worst offenders are KGU, KGMB, the Hawaiian Tourist bureau, Harry Owens, Bowman, Holst, Macfarlane & Richardson, Ltd., and Al Perry.

“They, mostly malihinis, have the audacity to tell us to ‘pep it up because the mainlanders like the music that way,'” Mr. King said.

The taxpayers have the right and should protest the tourist bureau programs broadcast by the radio stations which do not have truly Hawaiian music, according to Mr. King.

He quoted figures of the sales of phonograph records which showed that Hawaiian songs played in the correct tempo sold much better on the mainland than those which have been syncopated.

He praised the Bina Mossman and Louise Akeo’s groups for presenting music in the Hawaiian way.

Mr. King played records and sang to illustrate his point.

“Don’t call songs Hawaiian which are in English and have only one or two Hawaiian words,” the composer said.

He said those musicians who are guilty of speeding up the tempo of Hawaiian songs use the characteristic slower Hawaiian tempo when they write English songs about Hawaii.

“If you want jazz, write your own or use songs which are intended to be played fast,” he urged. “Let us show enough pride in our own music to keep it pure.”

Mr. King maintained that Aloha Oe was truly a work of Queen Liliuokalani and not a Hungarian folk song as sometimes claimed.

Dr. W. W. Krauss told about a tour which the Pan Pacific union will sponsor on the mainland to show the racial harmony of Hawaii.

There will be no meeting of the Civic club next Thursday.

(Star-Bulletin, 3/16/1939, p. 1)


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume XLVI, Number 14509, Page 1. March 16, 1939.


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