(Hawaiian pavillion at Seattle Worlds Fair, 1962)
In the beginning of the 20th century, the influence of Hawaiian music (songs and steel guitar) was far reaching: every part of the globe had his Hawaiian groups performing the romantic island songs. As seen in many cases, it is with a world fair that the craze spread: the Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915 presented songs and dances, ukulele and steel guitar at the Hawaiian pavilion. But it was not only in the USA that you could hear these island sounds…
Kostas Bezos (1905-1943) was born in a village near Corinth in Greece and was a guitarist who not only played rebetika songs, the typical Greek style of the era, but also steel guitar in Hawaiian style. He recorded songs between the 1930’s and the 1940’s for Columbia and His Master’s Voice. The rebetika songs were released under the pseudonym of A. Kostis or K. Kostis. Apparently he recorded more Hawaiian songs but it is easier to find his Greek songs on cd. Maybe some record collectors have 78rpm recordings.
Pame sti Honoloulou was recorded in Athens, Greece, in the early 30s by Bezo’s Hawaiian Guitar Ensemble. The song, a comic / romantic one, is about the lure of the islands and translate as Let’s go to Honolulu. Bezos sings, and yodels !
Another song is Ta Aspra Poulia Sta Vouna (The White Birds in the Mountains), recorded in Athens in 1936, no yodel here but a funny intro, animal sounds and surf like guitar. I’ve read that another name of the group could be Aspra Poulia (White Birds) Hawaiian Orchestra but maybe it’s just the title of the song.
As an example of his rebetika style, here are two more songs: Toubeliki – toubeliki and Troumba, recorded in the early 1930s in New York, from this collection.
Info and songs were found in the notes of this wonderful cd, Slidin’ on the Frets. The Hawaiian Steel Guitar Phenomenon, edited by Yazoo and in another great cd, Steeling Round the World, Hawaiian Style, edited by Harlequin.
Bezo’s Hawaiian Guitar Ensemble – Pame sti Honoloulou
Kostas Bezos – Ta Aspra Poulia Sta Vouna
A. Kostis – Toubeliki – toubeliki
A. Kostis – Troumba
(I found no image of Kostas Bezos… nor of the Hawaiian pavilion at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, but I like the tiki style of the pavilion at the Seattle Worlds Fair in 1962)