Daily Archives: 22 October 2006

Wordcatcher Tales: Ha‘i, Puana

Listening the other night to the incomparable Auntie Genoa Keawe singing a Hawaiian song in a style often called female falsetto, I got curious about two things: the possible distinctive features of Hawaiian falsetto, and the exact meaning of a phrase that is ubiquitous in Hawaiian-language songs: Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana. So I looked both of them up.

Ha‘i ‘break, snap’ – Honolulu Star-Bulletin music critic John Berger explains it in an April 2002 story headlined That LeAnn Rimes yodel translates to Hawaiian ha‘i.

First, about ha’i. The relevant translation relates to a style in which singers voice a break when moving between their lower register (“chest voice”) and upper register (“head voice”). Hawaiian falsetto singers use this technique to emphasize or add emotional intensity to a phrase or passage, whereas traditional European-American falsetto singers try to eliminate any hint of it.

“When I was studying musical theory (in college), my voice teacher and I spent five years trying to smooth that break out,” [Amy Hanaiali’i] Gilliom said.

Certain women, like LeAnn Rimes, sing ha’i, she said, singing a few bars of Rimes’ hit “Blue” to prove her point.

Keawe agreed. “I’ve heard that recording and I hear her singing, and she sings like us with the ha’i. You can sing ha’i in any language.”

Puana ‘refrain, theme, or keynote of a song’ – Puana is the key word in the phrase, Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana. Pukui & Elbert’s Hawaiian Dictionary (1986) defines puana thus:

Attack or beginning of a song; in music, the tonic or keynote; to begin a song; summary refrain, as of a song, usually at or near the beginning of a song; theme of a song.

The whole phrase is rather awkwardly translated as

tell the summary refrain (this line followed by the refrain is at the end of many songs or precedes the name of the person in whose honor the song was composed).

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Convert NK to a US Client State? No, Thanks.

Last week, China Matters carried a long analytical post on the deteriorating relations between North Korea and its last remaining patron, China. It ends off with a bizarre suggestion.

What I believe China wants is a North Korean regime that is profoundly isolated, helpless, and totally reliant on Chinese good offices to survive.

Right now, Kim Jung Il—and the United States and Japan—are pretty much doing China’s work for it.

For China, all that’s needed now is patience—and ruthlessness.

Beijing has offered North Korea no verbal consolation, either at the diplomatic level or in its media. Hu Jintao dispatched a special envoy to meet with President Bush and, I expect, assure the United States of China’s sincere desire to put a lid on the North Korean nuclear program.

And certain Chinese actions are speaking louder than words.

The fence is going up along the Yalu to further isolate North Korea’s export trade—both licit and illicit–from the crucial Manchurian economy. Anecdotal reports in Ming Pao and the South Korean press indicate that Chinese banks are declining to remit money to North Korea, and North Korean guest workers are not receiving visa extensions.

If North Korea detonates another device, all China has to do stand aside and let foreign investment and trade—the key to the regime’s survival as an independent nation—dry up.

Ironically, by this reading, the United States could profit from the estrangement between China and North Korea by embarking on a swift rapprochement with Pyongyang.

Instead, we are doing everything within our power to force North Korea under China’s heel and, in the process, perpetuate the existence of the same failed North Korean system—and regime–that we have sworn to destroy.

What role would the cynical Kim Family Regime play in all this? They’re the parties who most want North Korea to remain isolated and under their control. Not China. If Kim Jong-il were to become another Baby Doc ruling a U.S. client state as helpless as Haiti, South Korea would scream even louder about U.S. imperialism on the peninsula–and China would laugh all the way to the bank.

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