Ben & Maila
When opportunity knocks, and then slides its ID under the door to verify its identity, the wise open the door and invite it in. Ben Vegas and Maila Gibson have frequently been called on to provide the music for island weddings, and that brought them to the attention of Tanna and Bryson Dang of the Wedding Cafe/Eden in Love. Opportunity knocked, and a 10-song CD of modern love songs was the result.
Vegas’ guitar provides most of the instrumental support as the two vocalists perform selections from a repertoire that includes compositions by Jerome Kern, Stevie Wonder and Jason Mraz. They share the vocal spotlight on some arrangements and perform as soloists on others. Old-timers who remember Vegas as a member of the Krush and 5:05 will recognize "Puanani" as an original that has been one of his musical signatures for years. Women — and perhaps some men as well — will relate to "Are You Still Gonna Love Me," one of Gibson’s originals, as she asks if love will survive the changes that come with time and age.
The duo closes with the title song, another Vegas composition, which expresses perfectly the feelings of a lucky couple on their wedding day.
"Forevermore" is available at the Wedding Cafe in Ward Center (www.weddingcafe.net).
(Aloha Music Project)
One of the recurring themes of "Island Mele" is that downloads are the state of the art in terms of how music is marketed and purchased, but the release of a project as a CD gives it additional visibility and credibility. This compilation by the Aloha Music Project provides that exposure for 13 local recording acts.
About half of the band on this collection have already released professionally produced CDs — including the Throwdowns (represented here with "Stolen Car"), Kings of Spade ("Boys in the Band"), Black Square ("The Judge"), Elephant ("Autumn Leaves"), Pimpbot ("CK") and the Deadbeats ("Bed of Nails"). Of course, all of the others now have at least one song in print. Some have additional songs up on their websites.
Veteran recording artists or first-timers, the results are an impressive sampler of what’s happening here in genres other than traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music.
This Is A Stick Up ("La Chubacabra") stands out in representing the raw sound pioneered in Honolulu by groups like M.U.G. (aka Mean Ugly Guys). And cuts by Product ("Clean Up Set"), peaceofmind ("Set Sail"), GRLFRNDS ("No Hope High School") and Sex Puppet ("Window") should prime the market for CD releases.
Maybe it’s symptomatic of the downloads-only mindset that the album contains no information about Aloha Music Project, no composers or publishers credits, and no information about the artists. However, all of the participating acts have their own websites with more information available. For instance, This Is A Stick Up describes their influences as "everything" and their music as sounding like "syncopated noise." Elephant defines its music as "Mod-Classic-Alt-Blues-Metal-Punk-Rock AND Roll-a-Rama." And Breath of Fire is the latest version of a group previously known as Buckz Boyz.
"Amplify" is available at Jelly’s in Kakaako and Aiea.
‘E Mau No’
Brittney Anelaikalani Jennings made her debut as Hawaiian falsetto singer Anelaikalani at the age of 12 with the release of her first album in 2000. She sang with an authentic natural talent that positioned her as one of the most promising young artists in Hawaiian music — two years before falsetto diva Raiatea Helm took the islands by storm with "Far Away Heaven" in 2002.
Helm’s career has soared since then, and although she continued her education after high school, she also committed to a career as a professional musician and recording artist. Anelaikalani has followed in the footsteps of Genoa Keawe, and Keawe’s talented granddaughter, falsetto vocalist Pomai Keawe Lyman, in starting a family first and doing music on the side. Her fourth album, recorded with an all-star squad of studio musicians, is a beautiful reminder of her natural talent and future potential.
Anelaikalani and her musicians get off to a great start with an arrangement of "Ahe Lau Makani" that shows off her voice without copying versions popularized by other singers. "Ke Aloha," "Ali’ipoe" and "’Iniki Malie" are also good examples of her upper-register vocalizing.
She switches to a striking lower register when singing in English, and also on "Keawaiki," where some of the studio musicians harmonize beautifully behind her. Their contributions as musicians are also important; their interplay on "Mauna Loa" is particularly noteworthy. These guys could probably do quite well if they recorded an album as an instrumental group.
What the project lacks is documentation, crucial to preserving and disseminating knowledge of Hawaiian music and culture. Anelaikalani’s producers fail to include essential information — not even composers’ credits to acknowledge the writers whose songs she interprets so well. There are no lyrics or English translations either. Some artists economize by providing information on a website, but no online address is listed here.