Sunday Manoa’s Guava Jam signaled a new direction in Hawaiian music. The trio’s definitive album, released on Hula Records in 1969, defined a new style of Hawaiian music, ushering the start of a new era in the islands known as the “Hawaiian Renaissance“—the revitalization of tradition, culture, and language of the Hawaiian people.
But in the early seventies, many found Guava Jam difficult to accept.
The music of Peter Moon, Robert Cazimero, and Roland Cazimero was ahead of its time, sounding nothing like the Hawaiian music of the era. Such innovation would soon shape the sound of the seventies in Hawaii with music that Moon once described as follows:
“The Sunday Manoa breathes new life into the music of the past, enhancing the flavor of old with the influences of today. Guava Jam means that true Hawaiian music is definitely a local product, and is disciplined and rich with feeling as any other folk music.”
Too bold for its time
The range of musicianship, choice of songs, and the way Sunday Manoa’s harmonies blended so well was not exactly an instant hit. It was said that for its time, this was too bold of a step in how these songs were created.
The old school didn’t like these new “rock ‘n’ roll”-like arrangements, while the new school were simply incorporating everything from the California sound to folk rock from the East Coast, but done in a way that was not disruptive to the true meaning of the songs.
The fans who did love it wanted more, but it would take Moon and the Cazimeros three years, and a new label, to finally enter the studio once more to record another album? Why the delay?
Sunday Manoa hits a stride
In the late 90s, I had intended on writing a book about my appreciation for Guava Jam and had written to Don McDiarmid Jr. in 2002 about receiving information about anything and everything that had to do with the recording and production of it.
As someone who grew up with rock ‘n’ roll, soul, funk, jazz and other styles of music, and got into record collecting, if I became curious about a certain record and wanted to know more about it or why it may have moved me, I had the option of reading an article about it in a collector’s magazine or hunting down a book on the creation of the album. In the last decade, one has the option to watch a documentary series like Classic Albums.
My idea for the book was to treat Hawaiian music with the same level of respect and analysis as a rock or jazz album, and I knew which record I wanted to cover.
Talking with Don McDiarmid, Jr.
While McDiarmid served as the album’s executive producer, it was someone else whose name can be found in countless Hawaiian album credits.
“The unknown star of that recording was my sound man, the great Bob Lang” said McDiarmid, who went on to talk about some of the things that went down in the studio during the recording sessions.
“As we edited Guava Jam from one end to another, I had forced Peter (Moon) into ‘uke solos that he was not capable of playing at that time, and built endings that ran a minute or more, (we) left gaps for inserted voices, all flying from the seat of my pants. Roland tuned the instruments so at least we were in tune. I used every idea I had ever had to enforce the contemporary sound.“
Tape editing was literally just that: reel-to-reel tapes and a razor blade to make sure all edits were done properly. In fact you can hear a clear edit on “Kawika” after the percussion section jumps right into the group playing ‘ukulele, guitar, and bass. All of these edits would consist of the finished master tape, done on “1/4 inch 2-track. [It] looked like patch work,” McDiarmid told me.
As for the material that ended up being part of the master recording, McDiarmid stated that “listening to the original raw recordings versus the finished master would find no resemblance [to one another].”
(Almost) digging through the Hula Records archives
I had expressed my desire to fly back home to Honolulu, get a chance to meet McDiarmid and visit the Hula archives for a chance to do some research not only about the label, but also to do some research for my planned Guava Jam book.
The concept for the book started when I had bought the album when it was released on compact disc for the first time. While I welcomed it on CD, I had felt the sound was not as good, and had wanted the volume levels to be boosted and for some liner notes to be placed in the booklet.
The 4-panel CD booklet didn’t have any of the lyrics and translations found on the original record, nor the photo of the band in the gatefold.
I had expressed interest in doing the liner notes if given the chance, and he said he loved the idea, and perhaps when it was time to press up the CD again, he would consider my suggestions.
That lead to him saying that whenever I came back home, he would allow me to check out the Hula archives.
I never got the chance, but did ask him about the existence of any tapes involving the recording of the record: “I [would] doubt that any of the working tapes or [recording session] notes still exist. The finished masters [do exist], of course.”
Cut and paste: respect for the music
McDiarmid then went into the process of recording:
“The very first things I did were on an old portable AMPEX 1/4 inch tape on 10 inch reels, and even some 7 inch (tapes). Cut and paste was the deal. Bob Lang was fearless, but for safety, we would dub the section off on another machine and work with that. He did a splice once about 15 inches long on 1/4 inch 2-track using a razor, a yard stick, and a piece of glass.
“I also did some things in monaural (mono) and later went back and faked the stereo. Bob also many times to correct a wrong word in Hawaiian, would take out a part like ‘me’ in the word ‘pumehana’ that had been sung wrong and insert from another cut [song], the correct sound.”
To me, it sounded not unlike recording session stories for rock and jazz albums, but McDiarmid clearly stated that when he recorded music for his labels, it was done out of respect for the music:
“Lots of times we just let the machines roll and would start a take and sometimes break and restart or let it roll, do three or four, if needed and then intercut stuff later. Remember with a one man company with no money we had to re-use the tape time and again and every one paid by the hour.”
“I never worried about anything but the heart of the Hawaiian music. Without that forget it. I could live with a bum chord or goof but not the heart. The other thing was making sure that the whole project had class and not just organized noise by some tree thumpers, which incidentally is what i think of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Why Sunday Manoa disbanded
There had always been rumors as to why Sunday Manoa had split up.
It was McDiarmid who chose to work with Sunday Manoa when they were Palani Vaughan’s backing group, continued to work with them with the Moon/Bla/Baby line-up, but felt that when it became Moon and the Brothers Cazimero, he knew that this lineup was the right one, although “I could see that the final Sunday Manoa (lineup) wouldn’t last, as there were too many leaders in the group.”
He claimed that in between takes, there was an obvious clash of egos, but as he and Lang managed to record and edit the songs together, there was something in the material recorded and wrapped up by saying, “I really had nothing to lose.”
It may have been too much for everyone involved, which may have lead to that three year gap before the group would enter another recording studio, again with Bob Lang, but for a different label. The Moon/Cazimero/Cazimero lineup would record two albums for Panini, 1972’s Cracked Seed and 1973’s 3, the latter bringing the producers of the record to Los Angeles to record string arrangements for a number of songs.
While Sunday Manoa 3 sounded as powerful as the Jackson 5 or the 3 Musketeers, one look at the cover photo revealed a group of men who almost looked like they didn’t want to be in the same room with one another. Yet if you have the original LP or CD, one look at their individual photos showed a more jubilant group of musicians, with the Cazimeros showing off smiles and Moon in deep concentration.
Perhaps this was a sign for what was to come in a few years.
The last appearance of Sunday Manoa was on Panini’s double album, The Waimea Music Festival, and then things went quiet. It wouldn’t be until a few more years when the brothers became officially known as The Brothers Cazimero, and Moon chose to created a new band under his own name.
Both groups would wrap up the 1970’s in a powerful way with their respective recordings (including the Peter Moon Band’s great debut, Tropical Storm, which also had the group take part in a medium known as “promotional film clips”, better known as the “music video”. There’s a video of “Island Love” that has remained unseen for years), and would take on the 1980s with style on their own individual paths.
Hawaiian music, inside and out
For all intents and purposes, Guava Jam was a focal point in recorded Hawaiian music because of how different it sounded for the first generation who heard it.
For everyone else afterwards, it was Hawaiian music inside and out. If it was revolutionary, it was so because it felt like a swift kick in the ass, especially to a generation of kids who loved Hawaiian music but wanted to show how hip it could be without making any extra statements.
The statements would be in the musicianship and the stories told, allowing the dialogue to continue instead of dying off as a mere artifact of the past.