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Bill Ali'iloa Lincoln - Hawaii's Falsetto Poet

Hawaii's Falsetto Poet

Bill Ali'iloa Lincoln

Cord International - HOCD 98000

Available from Cord International.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com).

Hanaloa Records and Cord International are performing a valuable service in reprinting a series of 1950s Hawaiian LPs in CD format, preserving a musical form still only barely being appreciated in the remaining 49 states. This reissue is a collection from a guy said to be a falsetto singer, but we'd more likely call him a countertenor, a man singing in a woman's register, what was also called 'castrato' and memorialized in the European film Farinelli, an account of an acclaimed European vocal artist whom even Handel envied.

Lincoln was the living evocation of a pedal steel guitar, with an extremely smooth ability to fluidly glide up to high registers and effortlessly down again, sparkling with a tone impossibly pure. Fans of yodel are going to love this guy, as will those cherishing group vocals, which Lincoln loved to join in profusion. However, extraordinary singing grace wasn't the guy's only claim to fame. He could play ukulele, guitar, and bass as well as dance and teach hula, performing and producing around the world. His type of singing, though, simply isn't done any more and was rare enough back through a multi-decade career, the sort of singular sound that makes ethnomusicologists go into a fever of ecstasy. In the long history of vocal music, Lincoln's falsetto is unique, belonging in a class with Gregorian chant, yodel, Tuva throat singing, and the most radical modes ever recorded.

It would be a mistake to use this CD as pleasant ethnic background music (though it certainly could be) because there's a hell of a lot going on that the casual ear will sadly miss. In his time, Lincoln was ranked among the very best our much envied state could boast of, including Gabby Pahuini and the famed Bell Records regulars, admired by the creme de la creme of Hawaiian music. For a similarly stellar collection of falsetto work, this time from a legendary female vocalist, also check out the Genoa Keawe (review here). Between the two, you're getting some of the very best island music ever issued.

Track List:

  • Ku'u Lei Liliha (1938)
  • Ku'u Lei Liliha (1945)
  • Pua Be Still
  • Halema'uma'u
  • Kawaihae
  • Nani Lawai
  • Poli Anuana
  • Ka Wai O 'Eleiele
  • Mauna Lahilahi
  • Ku'u Milimili
  • Pualeialoha
  • Ke Ana Kolu
  • Pa'ahana Hula
  • Kaipolani
  • Pua IIiahi
  • My Gnger Yellow Lei
  • Moku O Keawe (1946)
  • Moku O Keawe (1974)
  • Na Ka Pueo
  • The Magic Islands

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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