POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 13, 2010
The 86 List -- Josh86 (guitar/vocals), Otto (bass/backing vocals) and Derek86 (drums/backing vocals) -- celebrates its 11th anniversary with its fifth CD of original music. The guys' work is as impressive as in years past. They address contemporary political issues while also sharing brutally honest observations on the local underground music scene.
The opening track, "86 Guns," shows that they haven't mellowed with age and popular success. The trio describes its songs as weapons in the struggle to "right the wrong." This one is a fitting theme for it.
The guys delve into a specific political issue with "Watada," a shout-out to Lt. Ehren Watada, the Army officer who was court-martialed (and later chose discharge) after refusing to serve in Iraq. They take a broader look at American foreign policy with "Like Rome" and conclude that "like Rome, America will fall ... someday!"
Other songs describe the challenges facing alienated young members of the local underground scene.
The 2011 Hoku Awards are nine months away, but count this a front-runner in the rock album category.
"Respect" is available at Otto Cake (1160 Smith St. in Chinatown) and online at iTunes, CDbaby.com and Digstation.com.
The name and the logo will be familiar to night-life veterans who remember Tavana's Polynesian Spectacular in the pre-renovation Moana Hotel courtyard, back in the '80s -- guitarist/vocalist Tavana McMoore identifies himself as a grandson of the legendary showman. However, while High Chief Tavana produced Polynesian revues for the tourist industry, his namesake is reaching out to the world with original music that blends rock, blues and funk.
A song or two here could be claimed as contemporary hapa-haole, in so far as Tavana uses a genre of "haole" music -- pop -- as the vehicle for his lyric stories of life in Hawaii, but most of them are solid, well-crafted mainstream compositions with no island references.
Tavana opens with examples of his heavier rock and funk repertoire. With the first number, "Rhythm in My Bones," he introduces himself as an entertainer who is fully committed to his craft and his profession as a working musician. The second, "Electric Monkey," suggests an imaginative alter ego who can "play a show on two hours of sleep" and climb "into your mindframe, blasting all your switches, blowing up your game."
A flautist joins percussionist Lopaka Colon in giving a third song, "Wonderful Time," a world-music feel. The light textures of the flute belie the lyrics' message that life is something that inevitably involves pain as well as good times.
Other selections show Tavana's interest in rhythmic, semiacoustic rock and Jamaican-style rhythms, and his range and skill as a guitarist.
Tip: Let the CD continue playing for two minutes after the final listed song and an unlisted 14th track will display his talent as a hip-hop commentator and beat-boxer. It is one of the most interesting songs on the album.
Hawaii's fascination with Afro-Caribbean music has expressed itself over the past 30 years with two increasingly divergent subgenres. One is Jawaiian -- a home-grown style that prominently features reggae rhythms and faux-Jamaican accents but has no defining world view. The other is "roots reggae," an international genre rooted in Rastafari -- whose members believe that Jesus Christ returned to Earth as His Imperial Majesty Ras Tafari Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.
Some of the Hawaii resident artists on this compilation might be Rastafarian, but religious affiliation has never been a requirement for recording music and all the participants acquit themselves well.
First and foremost is Caribbean-born Maacho ("Hold On"). Another familiar name is Ooklah the Moc, a group of roots reggae veterans anchored by bassist Ryan "Jah Gumby" Murakami; Ooklah's cut, "Vibes," is one of the strongest songs in the collection.
Lead-off act A'amele establishes the religious theme with "Revolution," a somnambulant call to "rise and change the situation" by lighting a spliff. Kaikua sets an admirable example for all Hawaii reggae fans with "E Ko Makou Makua," a bilingual English/Hawaiian version of the Lord's Prayer performed to reggae-style rhythms. Little reggae-style music has been recorded in Hawaiian, but this is a reminder that it can be done.
Isouljahs ("Hard A Yard") amps up the energy level with edgier rhythms that drive political calls to "emancipate one's self." Rastar continues in similar theme with "Do Mi Wuks" -- praising Selassie I and calling on the "yout" to go in the right direction.
This would be a better showcase for Hawaii roots reggae if it included information about each participating artist and composers' credits for each song. Unfortunately, none of that basic information is found in the liner notes or at the project's website.