Sonny Chillingworth - Sonny Solo

One of the most influential Slack Key guitarists of all time, Sonny Chillingworth is recorded solo for the first time in this collection, showcasing his legendary acoustic guitar and rich, romantic vocals.

Slack Key (ki ho ‘alu) is the name for the acoustic guitar styles unique to Hawaii. First woven into island tradition by Hawaiian cowboys in the early 1800s, this evocative music is characterized by a variety of tunings and the expressive moods of each individual artist.

1. Moe `Uhane (Dream Slack Key) 2 :54
2. Pua Lililehua 3 :43
3. Kaula `Ili 4 :58
4. Ho`omalu Slack Key 2 :36
5. Pua Tubarose 6 :00
6. Hi`ilawe 6 :10
7. Hula Medley 3 :34
8. Wai Ulu 4 :18
9. Charmarita/Malasadas (Portuguese Folk Song) 3 :59
10. Ka Wai Lehua `A`ala Ka Honua 6 :02
11. Papakolea 2 :58
12. Maori Brown Eyes 5 :30
13. Kukuna O Ka La 9 :01
14. Let Me Hear You Whisper 4 :53

Song Notes:

Mele Inoa No Sonny Chillingworth

'O 'oe ia e Sonny Chillingworth
'O ke kupu'eu 'oe o ke ki ho 'alu
Hoehoene ana me kahi hoa 'o ka leo
Ho'onanea ana ho'i i ka lehulehu.

Hu wale mai no ke aloha
I ke keiki Hawai'i ka'ahele honua
Honehone ana i na kini o Iapana
Pa'e ana i na kupa o 'Eulopa.

Ehuehu 'oe i ka la'i o Kamakou
E kama 'ia ke aloha a pa'a
E ola loa no 'oe a kau i ka pua aneane.
E o mai i kou inoa
'O ke kupu'eu 'oe o ke ki ho'alu.


A Name Chant in Praise of Sonny Chillingworth

It is you, Sonny Chillingworth,
You, who are the wizard of the Slack Key guitar
Rustling like leaves in the wind with its partner, your voice,
Fascinating the many who listen.

Love wells up within
For the Hawaiian son who travels the world
Making sounds beautiful and appealing to the multitudes in Japan,
Sounds travelling to the citizens of distant Europe.

You are vibrant and vigorous in the tranquility of Mt. Kamakou,
May love find and envelope you,
May you live long, until the very extremity of life.
Answer as you hear your praise,
You who are the wizard of the Slack Key guitar.

-- Kalena Silva

Composed for the Second Annual Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival in 1991, which was dedicated to Sonny.

Born July 14, 1932, the eldest son of Anna K. Purdy and Edwin Bradfield Chillingworth, Slack Key guitar (ki ho'alu) master Edwin Bradfield ";Sonny"; Chillingworth, Jr. (1932-1994) has, since 1949, proven himself to be one of the greatest and most influential Slack Key guitarists ever in Hawaiian music. His eclectic approach spans a wide spectrum of cultural traditions outside of Hawaiian music, incorporating elements of Portuguese fado, Puerto Rican katchi katchi, Mainland country & western and folk, Mexican, ragtime, blues and a bit of jazz. No matter the style, Sonny keeps his playing 'onipa'a, firmly established, in his love for the people and heritage of Hawai'i. He also possesses a marvelously warm and rich voice, ideally suited for the romantic songs and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) favorites he loves to sing.

Sonny's recorded legacy spans nearly forty yearssince he made his first recording, Makee Ailana, with the late Aunty Vikie I'i Rodrigues around 1954. He has performed with many of Hawai'i's best loved artists, including Pops Gabby Pahinui, Maddy Lam, Atta Isaacs, The Sons of Hawai'i, Marlene Sai, Leinaala Haili, Myra English and many more. He appears on over thirty albums and on many singles by other artists. The extent of his contribution to Hawaiian music was recognized when he was awarded the

Bank of Hawai'i Na Hoku Lifetime Award for Slack Key Guitar in 1992.

This recording is the first time he has been recorded strictly solo. The results are a great joy for Sonny's many old friends and an excellent introduction for new ones. Throughout this intimate hour we experience exquisite ki ho'alu, the Island legacy that expresses for many fans and players alike the essence of Hawaiian music and Hawaiian soul.

The Songs:

1. Moe 'Uhane (Dream Slack Key) (instrumental) - 6 string guitar in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up one half step to sound in A flat.

Moe 'Uhane (dream) makes its recording debut here. Sonny received the song in a dream recently. "The melody was so haunting," he says, "that it woke me up and I had to put it on tape before I forgot it." He says he's received other songs in dreams as well, but this is the first one he's managed to get down in a finished form.

As you may notice, Sonny doesn't use picks when he plays. When he first learned kiho'alu at Ho'olehua on Moloka'i, his grandfather and teacher, Harry Purdy, Sr. told him, "Son, God gave you ten fingers, use them all to play the guitar." These words remain his guide. "Using my fingers I can feel the strings more," Sonny says, "and since I learned that way, I've kept on." Played in Open G Tuning, also known as Taro Patch Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D from the lowest to highest pitched string, tuned up one half step to A flat).

In this songs Sonny uses the Spanish/Latin/Portuguese bass pattern (called the clave pattern in Latin music), where, for example in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), the thumb plays the fifth or string sixth string (depending on the chord) on beat one of the measure, and the fourth string on beat “two-and”, and beat four of the measure. Sonny was the first Slack Key guitarist to use it, and he has been the one who has used it most prominently. He first recorded it on his composition Malasadas, in the G Wahine Tuning (D-G-D-F#-B-D), on his recording WAIMEA COWBOY (Lehua Records), and it was the first recorded example of this bass pattern in the Slack Key tradition. He also used a variation of this bass pattern, playing the fifth or sixth string (depending on the chord) on beat one of the measure, and the fourth string on beat three and beat four, for example, on the instrumental part of his medley Charmarita / Malasadas (Portuguese Folk Song)[song #9] also in the G Wahine Tuning (D-G-D-F#-B-D), as well as here on this piece, and on his composition Ho’omalu Slack Key [song #4] both in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D; and he used the same type of bass pattern on the song Let Me Hear You Whisper [song #14] played in the C Samoan Mauna Loa Tuning (F-G-C-G-A-E) - all four songs are on this recording. He also used it on his composition Slack Key #2 (Mahina’s Trot), and the song Endlessly, both in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), both on his recording ENDLESSLY (Dancing Cat Records).

2. Pua Lililehua (vocal) - 6 string guitar in C Wahine Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D).

A gorgeous mele ho'oipoipo (love song) collaboration by Kahauanu Lake and Mary Kawena Pukui, Pua Lililehua, which translates as "sage blossom," takes place in Palolo Valley on the island of O'ahu. It tells of a cherished sweetheart courted by two suitors; one a human being, the other a mo'o (the legendary dragons of ancient Hawai'i). As the third verse says, hilo pa'a ia ke aloha (love is bound fast)..., 'a'ohe mea e hemo ai me a'u 'oe a mau loa (there's nothing to separate you and me forever).

Though his distinctive vocal style is very well known today throughout the Hawaiian music world, Sonny says he never tried to sing in public until he was forced to by Ray Kinney and Aunty Vicky Rodrigues in the 1950s. "After I found out I had a voice," he says, "I sang all kinds of songs, Hawaiian, Spanish, English, you name it." He especially likes nahenahe (soft) love songs, like this one.

Incidentally, the prominent vibrato in Sonny's voice exemplifies the highly prized quality of 'i'i; a vocal ornamentation that can be traced back to traditional Hawaiian chanting. It remains an important element of both Hawaiian chant and song today. Sonny plays this in a C Wahine tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D). Wahine is a term for a tuning containing a Major 7th note, here the B note.

Previously recorded by Sonny on:

  1. HERE IS HAWAII (Makaha Records MS-2063 [1960s]) - a compilation album

  2. RABBIT ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL, with the Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band (Panini Records PS-1004 [1973])

Also recorded by:

  1. Keola Beamer - SLACK KEY GUITAR IN THE REAL OLD STYLE (Music of Polynesia MOP-22000 [1973]) - in another C Wahine tuning (C-G-D-G-B-E)

  2. Keola Beamer –SOLILOQUY in his C Wahine tuning (C-G-D-G-B-E)

3. Kaula 'ili (vocal) – 6 string guitar in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D),

Also known as Pu'u Huluhulu and also as Kanaka Leo Nui, this long-time paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) favorite illustrates how traditional songs change as they travel from singer to singer or from place to place. Kaula 'ili apparently began as an O'ahu mele pana (song of place) that speaks of the rains at Ma'ili and the soft winds of Wai'anae. Over time references to the Parker Ranch on the Big Island filtered in, centering on a handsome paniolo with his trusty kaula 'ili (lariat), riding over two hills, Pu'u Kanaka Leo Nui (Loud-voiced Man Hill) and Pu'u Huluhulu (Shaggy Hill). As paniolo singer and storyteller Clyde Halema'uma'u Sproat points out, riding over the volcanic soil on the Parker Ranch can be risky; small air pockets can crack, tripping the horse and throwing the rider. Yet, "Oh, never mind, ke hina pu, (if we fall)" the song says, "ua hiki no." It's okay. You get up and ride again. "I relate that to my life," says Sonny, who has been bravely battling cancer for the past several years. "When you're down, when you're sick, you just get up, forget about it and ride again."

Sonny learned Kaula 'ili from his uncle, Harry Purdy, Jr., a longtime paniolo on the Parker Ranch. Like a number of other prominent ki ho'alu players, Sonny can trace his lineage back to several generations of Hawaiian cowboys, who were taught by Mexican vaqueros (paniolo) to rope and ride and play guitar in the 19th century. Ikua Purdy, the legendary Hawaiian roughrider who won the 1908 rodeo world championship in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is his granduncle. Tuning: G Major.

Previously recorded by Sonny on:

  1. WAIMEA COWBOY (Mahalo Records MSC-4011 [1964])

Also recorded by:

  1. The Kahumoku Brothers on SWEET AND SASSY, in the G Taro Patch Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D)

  2. Keola Beamer - WHITE MOUNTAIN JOURNAL, in the D Wahine Tuning (D-A-D-F#-A-C#)

4. Ho'omalu Slack Key (instrumental) - 6 string guitar in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D).

In addition to actively performing and recording, Sonny has been teaching Slack Key guitar since 1979. He designed this original composition, named for the street he lives on, to teach na haumana (students) some of the subtle manipulations of tone that lie at the core of Slack Key technique. Sonny himself first learned in the traditional Hawaiian method of observe, listen, follow. In addition to his grandfather, Sonny cites his uncle Jimmy “Kimo” Chillingworth as a major influence. "He played a wicked guitar," Sonny says, "he could play behind his back, behind his head, everything." Others he admired while growing up include Pops Gabby Pahinui and Marks Kahikina. "Even more so than Gabby," Sonny says, "Marks had a lot of licks I still carry on today."

"When you're learning Slack Key," Sonny says, "you have to be honest with yourself and your music." He adds that feeling is essential, that many musicians have plenty of technique yet fail to master the art because they lose touch with the soul of the tradition. "They need to play with a Hawaiian touch, with Hawaiian soul," Sonny says. "It's in the person, not the guitar."

This piece features Sonny's great hammer-on and pull-off techniques. A 'hammer-on' is an ornament produced by plucking a note and immediately fretting above that note to produce a second tone. 'Pull-off' refers to plucking a string and immediately pulling the finger off that note, producing a second note which is either open or fretted by another finger.

5. Pua Tuberose (vocal) – 6 string guitar in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up to A flat.

A frequently recorded classic, Pua Tuberose dates back to the 1920s, a time when Hawaiian music was widely available around the world on record, over the radio and in live performance. Composed by Kimo Kamana, the song uses kaona (hidden meaning) to talk simultaneously about both the tuberose flower and a person the composer adores. The lyrics poetically describe a highly aromatic tuberose flower wrapped around a more subtly scented maile vine. This is the sweet scent of a love that will never be forgotten. Sonny has played the song for years (with the Gabby Band on the GABBY PAHINUI HAWAIIAN BAND VOL. 2 [Panini PS-1008], for example) but sings it here for the first time on record.

Also recorded by Bla Pahinui on WINDWARD HEART, in the Dropped D Tuning (D-A-D-G-B-E)

6. Hi'ilawe (vocal) – C Wahine (C-G-D-G-B-D).

A true Slack Key standard closely associated with Sonny's beloved friend and frequent playing companion, Pops Gabby Pahinui (1921-1980), Hi'ilawe poetically discusses a love affair that took place in the beautiful Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Waipio was for many centuries home to a thriving Hawaiian community at the foot of Hi'ilawe and Waio'ulu, two spectacular waterfalls. The mele describes the visit to Waipi'o of a young lady from Puna. No Puna ke 'ala i hali 'ia mai(a fragrance was brought from Puna), the song says, noho i ka wailele a'o Hi'ilawe (to linger at Hi'ilawe). Apparently this visit provoked some gossip, as the song also makes reference to chattering birds from which the young lady wishes to escape.

"I first learned Hi'ilawe," Sonny says, "when I was a kid on Moloka'i. This is the song that really turned me on to Slack Key, when I heard Gabby's version on an old 78. That was beautiful. His voice was high then. We didn't have electricity on Moloka'i, but we had one of those old Victrolas with a crank. I had that record going, you know, playing and playing. And then my grandfather came in. He listened to it. At first he liked it. Than at one part where Gabby made a mistake in his Hawaiian, he grabbed that record - I thought he was gonna grab the whole Victrola - and he threw it out the window. Oh, I tell you, I was sick. Then he said, in Hawaiian, you know, 'Gabby, it's ia Hi'ilawe, not a'o Hi'ilawe.' Course, Gabby didn't care, he sang the words right or wrong. It sounded good anyway."

At 15, Sonny visited Honolulu, where his mother took him to meet Gabby at a gig. Sonny couldn't go inside, so his mother brought Gabby outside to hear her son play. "He must have liked what he heard," Sonny says, "'cause he went back in and came out with his guitar. We played all night. That was really an honor. After a few more years, we started to play together. I loved the man. Nobody else did what Gabby did. There are so many stories, so many."

On this recording of Hi'ilawe, Sonny's second, but the first with long instrumental breaks, he plays his Martin D-35 in C Wahine Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D).

Previously recorded by Sonny on:

  1. KA 'AINA 'O HAWAII (Lehua Records SL-2040 [mid-1980s])

Also recorded by:

  1. Gabby Pahinui on PURE GABBY (Hula Records HS-567 [1961]); on GABBY (Panini Records PS-1002 [1972]); on BEST OF HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY (Waikiki Records #340 [mid-1950s]) and on two 78-rpms (Aloha Records #810 [1947], and Bell Records #505 [1946] , all in “Gabby’s Hi’ilawe Tuning”, (C-G-E-G-B-E), a different C Wahine tuning from the one that Sonny used. These two 78s have been reissued on THE HISTORY OF SLACK KEY GUITAR (Hana Ola Records), a compilation including Gabby’s 5 earliest recordings from the 1940s – these two versions of Hi`ilawe originally issued on Bell Records and Aloha Records, and three other of Gabby’s tracks on Bell Records - Hula Medley, Key Kohalu, and Wai O Ke Aniani. It also has 15 other reissued late 1940s and early 1950s tracks by 8 other Slack Key guitarists.

  2. Ray Kane on NANAKULI'S RAYMOND KANE, in the G Wahine Tuning (D-G-D-F#-B-D) – this album has been reissued with all of Ray’s other early tracks on CD on Hana Ola Records, with the title THE LEGENDARY RAY KANE-OLD STYLE SLACK KEY–THE COMPLETE EARLY RECORDINGS; and he also recorded it on WA'AHILA, in a different C Wahine tuning (C-G-D-G-B-E)

  3. George Kuo on NAHENAHE (Hula Records HS-576), in Gabby's C Wahine Tuning (C-G-E-G-B-E)

  4. Keola Beamer on WHITE MOUNTAIN JOURNAL (Dancing Cat Records), IN THE g Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D).

7. Hula Medley (instrumental) – C Wahine (C-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up two half steps to the key of D,

The well-known march Nani Wale Lihu'e leads off this charming trio of songs from the late 19th century, a very musically creative time when Hawaiian musicians and the monarchy were restoring both traditional chant and hula and actively integrating the latest trends from Europe and America. Composed by Prince William Leleiohoku (1854-1877), Nani Wale Lihu'e is often performed by the Royal Hawaiian Band, Hawai'i's official band, first organized in 1836 by King Kamehameha III. The second song, Wai'alae, was written as a waltz by the prolific

composer and former Royal Hawaiian Bandleader Mekia Kealakai (1867-1944). Also a waltz, Halona, by J. Elia, praises the beauty of the mountainous country on Maui near Lahaina. A favorite of ki ho'alu musicians, Sonny learned this medley from Gabby Pahinui, who first recorded it in 1946. He loves it because it's so challenging to play. "There are so many different picking styles and tempo changes," Sonny explains. "On this one you really use your ten fingers."

Sonny tunes the C Wahine Tuning (C–G–D–G–B–D) up two half steps to the key of D, to duplicate the high-strung sound Gabby used for this song in his own F Wahine Tuning (F-C-E-G-C-E). In fact, the two tunings are related – the C Wahine “Dropped C” Tuning (C–G–D–G–B–D) has similar voicings to Gabby’s F Wahine Tuning (F-C-E–G–C–E), except that the higher pitched phrases and chords in the F Wahine Tuning are played up one string in pitch. For example, what is played on the highest pitched first string, and the second, and third strings in the F Wahine “Gabby’s F” (F-C-E–G–C–E) is played on the second, third, and fourth strings respectively in the C Wahine “Dropped C” (C–G–D–G–B–D); also the fifth and sixth strings are played the same way in both tunings.

Also recorded by:

  1. Gabby Pahinui on PURE GABBY (Hula Records HS-567 [1961]), and on a 78-rpm (Bell Records #506 [mid-1950s]) in an F Wahine tuning (F-C-E-G-C-E) – this 78 has been reissued on THE HISTORY OF SLACK KEY GUITAR (Hana Ola Records), a compilation including Gabby’s 5 earliest recordings from the 1940s – two versions of Hi`ilawe originally issued on Bell Records and Aloha Records, and three other of Gabby’s tracks on Bell Records - Hula Medley, Key Kohalu, and Wai O Ke Aniani. It also has 15 other reissued late 1940s and early 1950s tracks by 8 other Slack Key guitarists.

  2. Ray Kane on NANAKULI'S RAYMOND KANE (Tradewinds Records) – This album has been reissued with all of Ray’s other early tracks on CD on Hana Ola Records, with the title THE LEGENDARY RAY KANE-OLD STYLE SLACK KEY–THE COMPLETE EARLY RECORDINGS; and he also recorded it on WA'AHILA, a future release on Dancing Cat Records, in a C Wahine tuning (C-G-D-G-B-E)

  3. Leonard Kwan (for an upcoming Dancing Cat album) - using an F Wahine tuning different from Gabby Pahinui's (C-F-C-G-C-E).

8. Wai Ulu (instrumental) – 12 string guitar in G Major Tuning [D-G-D-G-B-D].

Also known as Awaiaulu, this classic composition, attributed to George Kalelohi Sr. and Lala Mahelona, is popular at weddings as the lyrics speak of a love secured together and built to last.. Sonny's known the song for years but has never recorded it before. As always, he learned it by ear. "It's easy for me," he says, "I listen to something and most of the time I can play it.”

Here Sonny plays a Takamine 12-string guitar, and on the fourth verse of this song, Sonny plays the guitar normally while also hitting the strings with a needle which he holds by a thread in his teeth, giving an additional mandolin or hammered dulcimer effect.

Also recorded by:

  1. Keola Beamer on SOLILOQUY, in an F Wahine tuning (C-F-C-G-C-E)

9. Charmarita/Malasadas (vocal) – 6 string guitar in G Wahine (D-G-D-F#-B-D), tuned down to F.

Portuguese sailors first visited Hawai'i in 1788. About a century later, whole families began to arrive to work on the sprawling sugar plantations. The Portuguese brought to Hawai'i the braguinha, a small fretted lute better known by its Hawaiian name, the 'ukulele. Other Portuguese contributions to Island life include a charming folk dance called the charmarita and that deep-fried pastry favorite, the malasada. Charmarita is also known in Sonny's repertoire as Portuguese Folk Song. The second half of the medley, Malasadas, is an instrumental composed by Sonny in the early 1960s.

This medley features one of Sonny's favorite Latin-tinged rhythms; the low note played on the first beat, the second note played between the second and third beats, and the third note played between the third and fourth notes.

Well known for his active promotion of traditional Portuguese music in Hawai'i, Sonny, contrary to popular belief, is not actually Portuguese. "Lots of people think I am," he says, "and sometimes they're hurt when I tell them I'm not. So what I do, I just don't say anything."

Sonny got interested in Portuguese music in 1965 through Walter Thoene, a poker partner of Sonny's uncle Jim. "When they would be playing he would sing this song, and I would listen. Finally I said 'Hey, can you teach me that?' I learned it phonetically because I don't speak Portuguese, then I sang it back to him until he said 'okay, you sound Portuguese.' After that I really got interested in Portuguese music. I especially like the stylings of the fado. I wish I could go to Portugal and learn more."

In addition to Portuguese, Sonny also plays Puerto Rican music, including some pretty mean bongos and congas. "The main reason I love it is for that beat," he says. "I tell you, everybody can be dead at a party and you start up that beat, everybody's jumping and dancing.”

Also recorded by Sonny on:

  1. SONNY CHILLINGWORTH (Lehua Records SL-2014 [mid-1960s]) - as Portuguese Folk Song

  2. WAIMEA MUSIC FESTIVAL (Panini #105-106 [1976]) - in C Wahine tuning, C-G-D-G-B-D, backed up by the Gabby Pahinui Band)

  3. WAIMEA COWBOY (Mahalo Records MSC-4011 [1964]) - the instrumental Malasadas only, in the G Wahine tuning

  4. Also, George Kuo has recorded a great piece influenced by Sonny, Kohala Charmarita, in the G Wahine Tuning (D-G-D-F#-B-D), on his recording NAHENAHE.

10. Ka Wai Lehua 'A'ala Ka Honua (vocal) – 6 string guitar in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D).

A local favorite since it was first recorded in 1982 by its composer, kumu hula (hula master) Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, this lovely mele first attracted Sonny's attention when he played a fundraising event for Frank's hula halau, Kuhai Halau O Kawaikapuokalani Pa 'Olapa Kahiko. Here Sonny sometimes plays a vocal sounding alto part on the guitar to accompany his singing in the refrains.

Also recorded by:

  1. Frank Hewett on MAKALAPUA 'OE (Prism Records, Hawai'i PRS404 [1982]) (Backed by Haunani Apoliona on Slack Key guitar in the G Major tuning [D-G-D-G-B-D]).

  2. Owana Salazar on OWANA AND KAIPO - IN KONA (Pipeline Records PL-1001 [1989]) - backed up by George Kuo on Slack Key guitar in C Wahine Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D)

11. Papakolea (instrumental) – six string guitar G Mauna Loa Tuning (D-G-D-D-G-D).

One of the many popular songs that sprang from the fertile imagination of mandolinist, singer and bandleader Johnny K. Almeida (1897-1985), this mele pana honors the Hawaiian Homestead community on the slopes of Puowaina (Punchbowl) in Honolulu.

Here Sonny plays in the G Mauna Loa tuning (D-G-D-D-G-D). The 3rd and 4th strings are tuned to exactly the same pitch to give this tuning its characteristic power and sound. Mauna Loa tunings are based on a Major chord with the top two (thinnest) strings tuned a 5th interval apart. This way these two strings can be played in 6th intervals (as the first and thicker third string usually are in several tunings), producing the recognizably sweet Mauna Loa sound. The top two strings can also be frailed (strummed) rapidly with the index finger, producing another characteristic sound of this tuning.

Previously recorded by Sonny on:

  1. SONNY CHILLINGWORTH (Lehua Records SL-2014 [mid-1960s])

Also recorded by:

  1. The Kona Polynesians (Slack Key guitarist unknown) on AUTHENTIC MUSIC OF KAUAI-MAUI-HAWAII (anthology on Waikiki Records 112 [mid-1950s]) in the G Mauna Loa Tuning (D-G-D-D-G-D)

  2. Ray Kane on PUNAHELE (Dancing Cat DC-8001) - as part of a medley in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D)

12. Maori Brown Eyes (vocal) – 6 string guitar in G6th Mauna Loa “Maori Brown Eyes” Tuning (D-G-D-E-G-D).

Written by Sonny's cousin Harold Malani's father, Claude Malani, this Slack Key classic of long standing local popularity, also prominently recorded by Slack Key guitarist Leonard Kwan (1931-2000) extols the beauty and powerful attraction of the eyes; specifically the brown eyes of a descendent of the Polynesian settlers of Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, also known as New Zealand. Claude wrote the song when stationed there during World War II. The song appears to speak from direct experience. In the first verse the text says huli aku wau 'alaua (turn your glance to me). By the end, it's ku'u ipo, Maori brown eyes, onaona (my beloved Maori sweetheart, with the alluring brown eyes!). The rumor is that the person addressed in the song became the composer's wife. This song was sometimes played as a waltz, and Sonny's ending refers to that.

Also recorded by:

  1. Leonard Kwan on SLACK KEY (Tradewinds Records TS-103 [1960]) , in the same G6th Mauna Loa Tuning (D-G-D-E-G-D).

  2. Bla Pahinui on MANA, in Dropped D Tuning (D-A-D-G-B-E)

13. Kukuna O Ka La (vocal) – 6 string guitar in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), capoed up 2 frets to A.

On this vintage Emma Bush and R. Flores composition, which translates as "the rays of the sun," Sonny attempts to imitate the sound of Abraham Konanui (an uncle of Slack Key guitarist Ledward Kaapana), who recorded an instrumental version around the late 1940s with the title Hawaiian Melody, and issued on 78 and 45 rpm on the 49th State label #103. "Abraham plays in the high, high register," Sonny explains, "so I had to tune my guitar to the pitch just before the string would break. I hate to play with a cheater (capo) but on this one I put one on the second fret."

In Abraham's version, the first half is a standard Slack Key Hi`ilawe-type piece followed by a slower tempo version of Kukuna O Ka La featuring two guitarists and a bassist. The guitarist who plays the high part is in the Standard Tuning (E-A D-G-B-E) and the second guitarist (possibly Fred Punahoa, another one of Led Kaapana’s uncles), is either in Standard Tuning or (less likely) in a high strung G Wahine tuning (G-C-E-G-B-E).

The song is also associated with Johnny Noble, Jesse Kalima, Marlene Sai, and has recently been revived by Darlene Ahuna. Kukuna O Ka La is also the name of a popular lei made from the mangrove tree. Sonny's inspired version of this piece features a long instrumental section after the vocal verses, which tells a great story on its own.

14. Let Me Hear You Whisper (vocal) – 6 string guitar in C Samoan Mauna Loa (F-G-C-G-A-E), tuned up two half steps to D.

Accompanying himself in a Samoan C Mauna Loa tuning (F-G-C-G-A-E), tuned up two half steps the key of D, Sonny sings this Samoan favorite in English. He got it from the Hawai'i State Library, in the Polynesian Section. Sonny explains. "I was killing time because I was a little early for the recording session, so at the library I was flipping through the pages of a songbook. My thumb just happened to stop on the page. I started humming and singing and it sounded so good. So I took it back to the studio and we agreed this is just what we needed." Just as this entire recording is what we fans of ki ho'alu have always wanted and will treasure for years to come.

Notes by: J. W. Junker with technical assistance by George Winston

Mahalo to: Linda De La Cruz, Myra English, Nina Keali'iwahamana, Genoa Keawe, Kindy Sproat, Dennis Ladd, Kahauanu Lake, Keoni DuPont, Sonny, Kiki and Miki Chillingworth, George and Leimomi Kuo, and Mitch Yanagida.