Instrumentation in the past century of recorded music has been dominated by guitars, drums, horns, and, more recently, keyboards and synthesizers. But some instruments have left their unique mark on the recording industry, distinguishing songs from the rest of the pack and in some cases, establishing inextricable connections between the ear and the mind.

For example, what does this song remind you of? Palm trees swaying in the breeze? Pristine waters, hula dancers, etc? That’s all thanks to the Hawaiian steel guitar. You’re listening to the Waikiki Hawaiian Orchestra with My Hawaiian Evenin’ Star, an Edison Blue Amberol cylinder released in 1926.

The easy, breezy sound translated into a big hit for Santo and Johnny Farina with their 1959 hit “Sleep Walk”, probably one of the most popular instrumental pop songs of all time.

Curiosity piqued? Check out more on the Hawaiian steel.


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