POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 13, 2011
Dennis Kamakahi & Steven Inglis
Dennis Kamakahi and Steven Inglis honor the victims of a dark chapter in Hawaii's history with this collection of songs that relate one way or another to the Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai, where Hansen's disease patients were sent in exile.
The duo sets the mood with the title track, one of Kamakahi's compositions, which describes in Hawaiian the hardships of the people who were forced to live there (Kamakahi translates the title as "Falling Teardrop"). Several of the other songs were written by Kalaupapa residents — one of them a teenager who arrived in the 1870s when he was just 14. Two more are by activist Bernard Punikai‘a, who led the struggle to save the Hale Mohalu treatment center on Oahu in the 1980s.
"Sunset of Kalaupapa," a hapa-haole song written by a Kalaupapa resident in the first part of the 20th century, is a bit jarring. Given the history of Kalaupapa, it is surprising to think of it as a place of beauty. On the other hand, "Kikania," a kolohe (risqué) song inspired by Kamakahi's visit in 1975, fits in nicely.
The duo completes the noteworthy album with Hawaiian lyrics, English translations and additional information at www.kamakahiandinglis.com.
Time was when Kale Hannahs was known as the long-haired bassist of ‘Ale‘a. The group — originally a quartet, later a trio — earned several Na Hoku Hanohano Awards for its beautifully produced neotraditionalist Hawaiian albums.
‘Ale‘a disbanded several years ago, and Hannahs teamed up with Matthew Sproat to form Waipuna. "E Ho‘i Mai," their second album, is certainly worthy of a Hoku or two.
They open with a catchy, up-tempo arrangement of "Kona," the Hawaiian classic by Lydia Nawahine Kekuewa, and carry on in winning style.
All but one of the songs is from Hawaii, and almost all are sung in Hawaiian. Sproat (acoustic guitar and ukulele) and Hannahs (acoustic and electric bass) do them with support from studio guests with similar traditionalist credentials.
The guests include three high-profile Hoku Award-winning musicians — Chino Montero, David Kamakahi and "Uncle Bobby" Moderow — but the duo is rarely overshadowed by any of the supporting cast.
"‘O Koke‘e," one of four songs Hannahs wrote for the project, provides a great example of how they can harmonize. It also shows they can perform as a self-contained act without additional musicians.
That said, guest pianist Alika Young enhances the sense of tradition being honored with his playing on "Ku‘u Tita" and "Nani Helena." Montero adds a bright melodic edge to "Kona," and kumu hula Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu brings strength and authenticity to a stirring medley of songs honoring the Kipu‘upu‘u warriors of Kamehameha the Great. The choral backing on "‘Ainahau" is also a nice touch.
Although Hawaiian lyrics predominate, the final songs are sung in English. "You Are My Song," written by Martin Nievera and Louie Ocampo, is not Hawaiian in origin and isn't performed hapa-haole style, but doesn't seem out of place. "Hush Baby Mine," written by Hannahs, closes the album on a soothing hapa-haole note.
Lyrics and English translations are available at www.waipunaonline.com.