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Kaiholu’s first album is real Hawaiian style

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  • “Swaying Sea” by Kaiholu (Ha.Ka. Entertainment)

The continuing evolution of Hawaiian and hapa-haole music is evident in "Swaying Sea," the economically packaged debut album by 2009 Ka Himeni ‘Ana contest winners Kaiholu. Some of the songs are Hawaiian-language standards. Two others are originals by the group’s bassist, Nathan Stillman.

The process of evolution is found in the final track, a medley of two songs associated with Elvis Presley’s first made-in-Hawaii film, "Blue Hawaii." One is "Ku-u-i-po (Hawaiian Sweetheart)," which was written for Elvis and is a beautiful hapa-haole song. The other is "Moonlight Swim," originally a Top 40 hit for two other singers, Nick Noble and Anthony Perkins, several years before "Blue Hawaii." The song has no ties to Hawaii musically or lyrically other than that Elvis sang it in the movie.

The key thing here in terms of evolution is that Kaiholu has taken two songs of haole (non-Hawaiian) origin and adapted them in ways that make them undeniably Hawaiian in style.

Hawaiian style is what Kaiholu is all about. The instrumentation is traditional through and through. Stillman plays an acoustic "stand-up bass" rather than an electric instrument; producer-arranger Henry Ka‘anapu plays 12-string acoustic guitar; Albert Rowland Jr., a six-string guitar; and Trax Enos an ukulele. The harmonies are reminiscent of the Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau but Kaiholu places more emphasis on solo voices than the Sons generally did. What’s more, their Ka Himeni ‘Ana win shows that they can perform without microphones or amplification. That’s old-style Hawaiian style all the way!

Stillman’s two originals, "Nani Wai‘anae" and "Keaiwa," the latter written with an assist from Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole, introduce him as a writer whose work will inspire future generations of island musicians.

Lyrics, English translations, background information and performance credits are essential components of all Hawaiian albums. Kaiholu provides them at

»"Wahine Ilikea"

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