Hawaiian Tunes Enshrined into National Recording Registry

What do rapper Tupac Shakur, a fog horn and two of Hawaii’s legendary guitarists have in common?

They all have a spot in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, which means their selected sound recordings will be preserved as “cultural, artistic and/or historical treasures for generations to come.” Gabby Pahinui’s Hula Medley (1947) and Sol Hoopii’s Fascinating Rhythm (1938) were recently inducted into the registry, along with 23 others, as a way to represent the sounds of Old Hawaii and two popular styles of guitar playing in the islands as well.

Two Hawaiian tunes now resemble sounds of Old Hawaii in the national recording registry.

Pahinui performs the medley on a slack-key guitar while Hoopii uses a steel guitar. Both instruments originated in Hawaii, with slack-key focusing on the fingerstyle method of playing and steel using a bar or slide (called a steel) while being played horizontally. The Library of Congress acknowledged Pahinui’s medley recording as one of the first modern recordings of Hawaiian slack-key guitar. Hoopii has been credited for molding the steel guitar sounds into a jazzier, ragtime one.

For the past decade, the board and members of the public have nominated recordings into the registry. There is currently 350 recordings on the list, which include everything from a foghorn at one of the great maritime ports of the Great Lakes to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. There are also radio broadcasts and poetry readings.

Both inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, Pahinui and Hoopii were Oahu natives who played a significant role in the Hawaiian music industry. Pahinui (1921-1980) helped to bring attention to traditional Hawaiian music during the Hawaiian Renaissance, a period in the 1970s when language, music and hula were revived after years of cultural suppression. Hoopii (1902-1953), on the other hand, was one of the best steel-guitar players the world has ever seen.

Of course, a post on old Hawaiian tunes wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity for readers to actually hear the songs. You can listen to Pahinui’s Hula Medley here and Hopoii’s Fascinating Rhythm here.

Photo Credit: Noa Myers

Posted by: Bruce Fisher