For Friday, August 27, 2010
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 27, 2010
(Daniel Ho Creations)
Kawaikapuokalani Hewett's productive musical alliance with Grammy Award winner Daniel Ho pays off again with this perfectly packaged collection of chants. Some are originals, others so old that the names of their composers are no longer known. All connect in some way to the theme established by the title: "to care for, to preserve, to protect, to maintain."
Newly written or otherwise, the presentation represents musical traditions that go back to pre-1778 Hawaii. Hewett welcomes his daughter, Ula, as a second vocalist; father and daughter accompany themselves on traditional Hawaiian percussion instruments.
Hewett follows the example set by his teachers with his personal commitment to preserve and share the knowledge of previous generations. He does so here by providing the Hawaiian lyrics and their English translation; he continues with an explanation of the content or context of each selection. An autobiographical account of his experiences with his teachers and his commitment to Hawaiian culture is valuable background information.
There are loud complaints each year that the winner of the Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Music Album isn't "Hawaiian enough" or doesn't represent the traditional music of Hawaii. It doesn't get more Hawaiian or more traditional than this.
Chucky Boy Chock
(Mountain Apple Co.)
The small print in the production credits of Chucky Boy Chock's beautifully packaged album reveals that its contents cover a 15-year span from 1995 to the present. Knowing that Chock didn't write them all for this album helps explain the radical contrast between the mainstream, easy-listening sound of four instrumentals on one hand and his Hawaiian-language originals on the other.
He opens with "Sonny D in E Minor," an easy-listening instrumental that sounds similar to music Kapono Beamer recorded for a German record label in the mid-'80s. Chock's instrument of choice is ukulele rather than guitar, but the concept of pairing an acoustic string instrument with electronic instruments is similar.
Chock is joined by a pianist on the "Iwaiki Shuffle," and the two musicians trade off on the lead spot as the rhythm section unobtrusively enhances the cocktail lounge vibe. This song would fit nicely on mainstream easy-listening radio station playlists.
Chock's Hawaiian-language songs show his strength as a modern local composer; he's lived on Kauai for many years, and linguists will note his use of "ta" where Hawaiians from other islands generally use "ka." Three songs honor personal friends: Nainoa Thompson ("Nainoa — The Navigator"), Hawaiian instrument craftsman Calvin Ioane Hoe ("Ioane") and Elama and Isaac Kanahele ("Ta Pua Elama"). Chock writes, "Their translations of song will remain in my heart forever."
"Ka Tohala Nui" describes the majesty of the humpback whale, and "Alphabet Song" is a hapa-haole number that gives kids an easy way to learn the basic letters of the Hawaiian alphabet.
Chock documents his music by including the song lyrics in Hawaiian and English.
Another week, another Jawaiian band tainting good original work with imitation-Jamaican affectations! The perpetrators this week, Maoli, are much better when their vocalists represent Hawaii rather than stereotypical Rastas. "Rock Easy," released recently without fanfare or promotion, is perfect as is for Hawaii's self-styled "island music" radio stations, but several of the songs that are sung without faux accents show what the guys can do when they take their music seriously.
For instance, "Breaking My Heart" is a sincere description of conflicted feelings — he loves her but she treats him badly. It's a universal story told here with reggae-style rhythms.
Elsewhere there's Glenn Awong, the group's guitarist and resident songwriter, kick-starting "Let Your Hair Down" with an edgy guitar riff. Awong is also the writer of "Send You My Love," a timeless love song performed by a stripped-down version of the quintet — Awong (guitar), Kakana Akiu Corpuz (bass), Matt Casil (drums) and guest keyboardist Tom Mamuad.
The quintet and its squad of guest musicians do good work elsewhere. Guest keyboardist Mamuad and a three-man horn section add punch on "Would You Want Me Around." The horn section returns without Mamuad for more stellar work on "Sing Out Loud."
"Minds at Ease" is spruced up with a trumpet solo by studio guest Max Ribner and a short harmonica riff by Awong. Awong's solo here is a kissing cousin to the harmonica bridge on Millie Small's 1964 hit, "My Boy Lollipop," but bringing the harmonica into Jawaiian music is an idea he should explore in the future.
Awong shows his range as a composer when he steps out of the Jawaiian mindset entirely with "You in My Life." A little percussion, and studio guest Tom Conway playing acoustic guitar, is all he needs to create a love song that could introduce him to other audiences in the same way "More Than Words" did for Extreme almost 20 years ago.