DidiPop Wins Prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Award

The Mar Vista musician wins the session one grand prize in the children’s category for “The Hawaiian Alphabet Song.”

Musician Deborah Poppink—aka—DidiPop is a much-loved member of the Mar Vista community. Always on hand with a ready smile and great tunes, Poppink even wrote a special song for the community called "."

However, beyond being a fixture on the local scene, Poppink is also recognized for her superior musical skills outside of her hometown. On Sept. 1, Poppink won her second John Lennon Songwriting Award for "The Hawaiian Alphabet Song." She won in the same category in 2009 with "The Cool Alphabet Song." 

The international contest created in 1997 by Yoko Ono is open to both amateurs and professionals in 12 separate categories and divided into two sessions. Poppink won in session one and will go up against the session two winner in March for the best children’s song. If she wins that competition she’ll be entered into the song of the year competition alongside the winners of the 11 other categories.

“It’s definitely a career booster and brings you up a notch on the radar,” Poppink said of her win. “Anything that gets your name out in front of people is a good thing. We pour our hearts and souls into our music and with the industry and sales down at the moment it’s really nice to have someone acknowledge your achievements.”

Poppink said she had a good feeling about her entry this year, and actually found out she had won by getting up early the morning of Sept. 1 when she knew the winners would be announced, and heading straight to the competition website.

“I just clicked on ‘winner’ and my name came up first! I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is the feeling I felt when I got into Berkeley.' It felt kind of dreamy but I also wondered if they’d made a mistake.”

Poppink’s win was definitely no mistake and her award comes with $7,000 worth of gifts, but Poppink said she’s not sure exactly what she’ll be receiving yet. 

“I think there are gift certificates for musical equipment and a subscription to your favorite musical magazine,” she said. The prize also includes time on the John Lennon Education Tour Bus, a mobile recording studio where she’ll be able to show children how to record music.

"The Hawaiian Alphabet Song" appears on her album DidiPop Goes to Hawaii, and Poppink told Patch she definitely has an ongoing love affair with the islands.

“The very first time I went to Hawaii I was 13,” she said. “It was my first professional musical gig, playing songs with my guitar for a girls' weight loss camp in Oahu. The camp was next door to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Every day we’d go to the center and I was intrigued, amazed and enchanted by the Polynesian culture: the flowers, the singing, dancing and drumming. The magic and mythology of it all. I just felt really connected to it.”

When Poppink got married, she and her husband would often take trips to Maui where his parents lived, and they continued the tradition every year when their daughters—Delilah, 6, and Hannah, 4—were born.

It was those annual vacations, Poppink said, that gave her the idea to create a whole record based on their Hawaiian holidays. And one of those songs became "The Hawaiian Alphabet Song."

“When you’re traveling through Hawaii, there’s a lot of signs in Hawaiian and we always tried to pronounce those sounds with our kids. There’s a lot of “hooki la la’s and ooie ah ah’s,” Poppink said. She noted that although many people go to Hawaii to hit the beach and drink mai tais, she was more interested in trying to understand Hawaii’s rich history and its language.

“So while I was floating in the ocean in Kapalua Bay I asked some of the kids there if there was a Hawaiian alphabet song. That’s when I thought maybe I ought to write one that’s respectful to the language and the culture.”

Poppink noted that the Hawaiian language is an oral tradition and that if people stopped teaching it, it would soon be gone. She believed writing the alphabet song would help to preserve that tradition.

Poppink is proud to say that she wrote the song “half in Hawaii and half in Mar Vista” in 2010. Listen carefully to the song and you’ll hear her include the longest word in the Hawaiian alphabet, humu humu nuku nuku apu a’a, which she carefully spells out.

Poppink flew to Nashville to record the song. Check out the attached video for a glimpse of Poppink’s recording session.

“We recorded the song using loops and a combination of live music and percussion,” she said. “It’s a really magical thing, and my girls sang on the record too.”

Once the song was in the can, she entered it into the competition. Poppink said she was delighted when the music teacher at Overland and schools put together a spring concert about a trip around the Pacific and chose two of Poppink’s songs, including "The Hawaiian Alphabet Song."

“It meant a lot that she believed in the song to share with her schools,” Poppink said.

Next up on Poppink’s agenda is her stint as a judge in the finals of the on Sept. 24, and a gig at McCabe’s in Santa Monica on Nov. 13. Her album DidiPop Goes to Hawaii has also been submitted for Grammy consideration in the children’s category.

Despite her continued commercial success, Poppink remains rooted in traditional values.

“My songs are my babies,” she said. “I send them out into the world and I want people to love them because I love them. The songs come from love, they don’t come from a commercial place.”

You can hear a clip from "The Hawaiian Alphabet Song" on Poppink’s website here.

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