Singing ‘Waimanalo Blues’

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Growing up, I’d hear the song “Waimanalo Blues” come on the radio. The soothing slack key intro always put me at ease, no matter if I was splashing around in the inflatable pool with my older brothers or dozing off immediately after, in the lawn chair next to Dad.

My dad grew up in Waimanalo, which is why – he, too – loved this song as much as me. But you would never find us singing it together (Dad never really was much of a singer); instead, we’d most likely be sitting alongside each other in the back patio; dad tapping his foot and me with my eyes closed, imagining a time that seemed to be even more carefree than these very moments of my childhood.

Take a listen for yourself: That’s probably my favorite rendition of “Waimanalo Blues.” Performed by an old Hawaiian group called Country Comfort, it is an effortless approach to this peaceful melody.

I always wondered, though, why anyone would feel so “blue” about being in Waimanalo. For me, this windward part of the island had become one of my happiest places. A place where my brothers and I would play in the shore-break and rule sand castle forts. There was nothing sad about the powdery white stretch of beach either. So why write a song about having the blues here?

That answer came later in life when I found out that it was written during the time of development in the islands, when hotels and freeways seemingly popped up over night. The song expressed the concern that Native Hawaiians had for their land, and although written about the windward side, it was a concern meant for all the islands and the rights of Native Hawaiian people.

Hearing the song today still brings back those nostalgic memories. Memories of those lazy weekend days spent outside in the backyard, swinging on the mango tree or jumping into the inflatable pool (a permanent addition to our grassy backyard). I hear laughter, see smiling children and – best of all – feel a cool tradewind breeze gently brush against my cheek.

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