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Nana’s Sunday Jams: Nani Wai’ale’ale - Steve & Teresa

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Nana’s Sunday Jams: Nani Wai’ale’ale - Steve & Teresa

Banner artwork by the majestic Trav, all of Nana's jams are gathered in this playlist.

Yes Sunday Jammers. Here we are again, edging closer into Spring - pushed along by blustery winds and breaks of sunshine. This week’s offering feels like the right tune to voice that, it’s full of warmth, passion and the sound of waves; all in my top ten of emotional and physical necessities.

Before I get into it, I have to give a shout out to The Golden Record; today’s track comes from a radio show hosted by Sarah Becker on KMNO 91.7 FM; a Hawaii based radio station. Big love Sarah, I’ve discovered some beautiful bangers listening to your show, in a time of discombobulation when often feels like we might never leave the upside down… in all that, you have often poured healing balm into my life, including today’s track. (I found The Golden Record via an Instagram wander.)

The track is by Hawaiian duo Steve & Teresa and the tune I heard on The Golden Record was Kaho’Olawe song, which led to a closer study of Steve & Teresa and today’s selection Nani Wai’ale’ale, from the album Catching a wave. This is a new discovery for me and I’m so ridiculously excited about it. I don’t know anything about this genre or the artists, bar a little that I read onlineSteve Ma’i’i & Teresa Bright came out of the live music scene in 1970s and 1980s Hawaii. Both were musicians in their own right and were deeply rooted in their culture and heritage, all reflected in their music. It’s a blend of traditional jazz standards, soul, traditional Hawaiian folk and hapa haole- a term rooted in Hawaiian culture, it refers to mixed ancestry. In musical terms it describes a sound that is structurally Hawaiian but sung in English. As a duo Steve & Teresa were well known on their local scene, internationally Teresa would become better known. I’ll feature another track from them very soon so more when I know it.

Nani Wai’ale’ale has been covered by a whole host of Hawaiian artists in varying styles, the original composer isn’t entirely clear yet, but what is clear is that it’s a loved and cherished piece of music. The word Nani in Hawaiian means glory or beautiful while Wai’ale’ale is a mountain in Kauai, Hawaii. Roughly translated it means beautiful mountain. The song is an ode to the mountain and its association with a King: Manokalanipo. It’s a story and a love song woven into one and it’s enchanting, warm and full of depth. It also has some of the most beautiful harmonies I have ever heard, that’s not just a hyperbole. They travel way down right into the soft centre and hold on tight while transporting you somewhere warm, full of fragrance and brought to life by hyperreal colours and bordered by the sea, conjuring up images of surfing and beach living.  It offers a peek into a world that I know exists but can only travel to in dreams, you can hear the influences of 70s folk and soul but still rooted in its heritage. There is an obvious gentleness that flows throughout but there is also strength, passion and pride, inextricable and intoxicating. Beautiful.  

If you’ve got serious speakers this song was made for them. Check out Catching a wave, the title track from the album- the whole thing is spectacular, so sublime. Happy Sunday.