(Green Light Go/ Kahoano Productions)
Kamuela Kahoano has been active for the past decade as a writer, recording artist and record producer, first with "Fruit from the Tree," an album recorded with his brothers, then with groups Green Light Go and Analog/ Analogic,and most recently as a solo studio artist. He displays his range and versatility with this collection of 11 songs. Some were first heard on previous projects, but they are still fresh, imaginative and promising.
He speaks for millions with "Grumpy (She’s Grumpy It’s My Fault)." The title tells the story. The lyrics, and the female singers backing him, develop the premise in witty, engaging style. Other tracks show his command of local-style Jawaiian rock, his feel for folkish Cat Stevens-ish pop, and his talent as a solo guitarist. He steps forward as a mature balladeer as he addresses the universal experience of surviving the death of a loved one with "Life Goes On."
There’s no question that Kahoano has the potential to connect with several distinctly different audiences, here and nationally. "Stream Dreams" is available at www.kamuelamusic.com.
Japanese uke player dabbles in rock
Roy Sakuma’s annual ukulele festival in Kapiolani Park is not only a showcase for his hundreds of students and some local ukulele virtuosos, but also for foreign ukulele players. The 40th Annual Ukulele Festival last month included musicians from Canada, Japan and France.
Single-monikered Kyas was one of several Japanese participants this year. He came to Hawaii ready to network with copies of this 16-song calling card.
Kyas writes in the cover notes that the first instrument he took up was guitar and his first interest was rock. It’s understandable then that the selections here include "Stairway to Heaven," "Pipeline" and "Can’t Take My Eyes off of You" and that he accompanies himself on electric guitar on several selections and acoustic guitar on others.
"Time After Time," played as an ukulele solo with no additional instruments, is a good point of reference for Americans interested in assessing Kyas’ approach to a familiar melody. Kyas goes off on a few tangents but always returns to the familiar hooks.
The music of Earth Wind & Fire isn’t often explored by ukulele players, so even if Kyas isn’t the first to take on "September," there aren’t likely too many ahead of him.
There was a time when getting foreign recordings was difficult and expensive unless you had a friend who crewed for one of the international airlines, but no longer. Contact Kyas at email@example.com for information about obtaining his CD in commercial release.
Valuable film showcases slack key
‘Ki Ho’alu: Slack Key the Hawaiian Way’
(Hawaiian Legacy Foundation)
This 1993 documentary film about slack key music and musicians on DVD provides fans and students of ki ho’alu a valuable source of information on that important genre — and the opportunity to watch several slack key masters play as well.
Film producers Eddie and Myrna Kamae introduce ki ho’alu with a look at the things that make it uniquely Hawaiian. They continue with sections on slack key tunings, playing styles, the history and evolution of slack key and the gradual shift from traditional to modern teaching techniques. One section focuses on Niihau and guitarist Malaki Kanahele; another, on Big Island legend Fred Punahoa.
Ledward Kaapana is featured in several clips — he plays in some and shares family history in others. George Kuo demonstrates the distinct difference in the sound of guitars played with standard and slack key tunings, Manu Kahaialii speaks at length on the spiritual aspects of the genre, and Raymond Kane retells the classic tale of how he discovered slack key while living in Nanakuli. Vintage clips of Gabby Pahinui, Alice Namakelua and the Sons of Hawai’i are some of the other highlights.
Some of the other performers won’t be recognized as "names" in the way that, say, Kaapana and Pahinui are. That makes the Kamaes’ decision to include them all the more important. Their voices and their approaches to ki ho’alu are also important parts of the larger story.
George Winston established a high standard of excellence for packaging and overall documentation of the artists and their sources with his Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters series of recordings, but most local record labels have been either unable or unwilling to match Winston’s Dancing Cat label in providing background information in their CD liner notes. This DVD doesn’t absolve record labels of their responsibility to properly document the recording they put out, but it is a great addition to any collection of modern Hawaiian music.