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Kolohe Kai releases new album

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Kolohe Kai

There’s planning and there’s luck. Kolohe Kai timed the release of the group’s newest single for the week after the 38th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, held May 23, in which the group’s last album, "Paradise," was a finalist in the reggae category. Being mentioned during the televised portion of the awards program would help build momentum for this new song.

That was good planning. Winning the Hoku and getting speaking time on the televised broadcast was luck; Kolohe Kai is off to a great start.

The new single "Higher" picks up where "Paradise" left off. Roman De Peralta, the primary voice and resident composer of the group, delivers his love song to the "saltwater healing" of the ocean with his usual youthful appeal. A two-man horn section and veteran percussionist Jon Porlas enhance the easy-rocking reggae/pop tune arrangement. Watch "Higher" blow up on Hawaii’s self-styled "island music" radio stations.


I.A. featuring Pieter T

Isle hip-hop artists have been doing strong original work comparable to their mainland counterparts for years and created connections with colleagues across the Pacific in the process. Hawaii hip-hop veteran I.A. teamed up with New Zealand vocalist Pieter T and Hawaii producer Jayartraxxx to create this original slice of local street life that blends elements of hip-hop and R&B.

The theme of the song is timeless: A man seeking worldwide success — "Paris to Tokyo, San Tropez to Rio" — is also looking for a woman who "is down to ride" with him through "hard times, long days and dark nights" until they make it big time and "run the world."

LL Cool J was telling a similar story a generation ago but as I.A. and Pieter T represent "from the HI to the NZ," they make it their own.


"Reggae in Paradise 3"
Various artists
(Neos Productions) 

In the days before music downloads, people bought albums of previously released recordings to get favorite songs that were no longer available as 45 rpm singles or so they could have all of an artist’s hits on a single "greatest hits" album. Downloads have made that business model obsolete.

Nowadays the primary reason many people buy a physical CD is for the information its annotation provides. In the case of compilation albums — albums that contain new recordings by three or more artists — good annotation can create an effective showcase for unknown newcomers.

This recent release — 14 songs by an apparently random assortment of Jawaiian and "island music" artists — provides no information on who they are or on their accomplishments. Here are some of them: The Green made history in 2014 when it became the first Jawaiian/Hawaii reggae group to win group of the year at the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. Fiji made a similar breakthrough in 1998 when he won the Hoku for male vocalist.

Anuhea won two Hokus in 2010. Imua Garza is a prominent producer, composer and recording artist. Bitty McLean is a British/Jamaican recording artist with extensive international credits.

At least three of these songs are oldies. Norm Thompson released "Local Girls" in 2000, and Justin (Young) & Bitty McLean recorded "The Call" in 2001. "Gotta Be" is a track from an album The Green put out in 2011.

Fans of Jawaiian and local-style reggae will find these groups worth hearing, but good annotation would make this CD a much better value. The artists and their music deserve it.


Alx Kawakami
(No label)

Hula dancers have been inspiring songwriters for more than a century. Alx Kawakami — a founding member of ManoaDNA who is now based in Los Angeles — pays homage to a hula dancer with his first release as a solo artist.

The song is a catchy and contemporary hapa-haole mash-up of Hawaiian ukulele and acoustic guitar with a rocking pop rhythm section and assorted electronic effects. 

The opening bars focus on Kawakami the ukulele player. From there the arrangement spotlights his voice, the rhythm section, and his version of a classic island fantasy: A man watching a hula dancer heats up and wants to see more — "Shaking in your grass skirt, show a little under, so much more I wanna see … ."

"Sweating like a mai tai, melting on your shave ice, hit me with a hurricane," Kawakami sings passionately.

As a footnote: The title of the song refers to the object of his attention spinning like a Samoan fire-knife dancer.


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