comscore Kui Lee’s hapa-haole gems covered on new 2-CD album | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Kui Lee’s hapa-haole gems covered on new 2-CD album

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“The Kui Lee Songbook”
Ron Ka-ipo
(no label)

Almost 50 years after his death, Kui Lee is remembered as one of the greatest composers of hapa-haole music of the 20th century. Lee’s best-known composition, “I’ll Remember You,” was popularized by Don Ho & the Aliis shortly after he wrote it and recorded by countless others, including Elvis Presley.

“I’ll Remember You” is only one of several dozen songs Lee wrote — some were well known in his lifetime and remain memorable, others less so. Big Island recording artist Ron Ka-ipo pays homage to Lee with this 26-song, two-disc album. Ka-ipo includes all of Lee’s best-known songs and others that most people might not associate with him.

Ka-ipo and arranger Kit Ebersbach approach most of them as classic Waikiki lounge music — a milieu Lee knew well. A couple of the arrangements are a bit by-the-numbers, but with “She’s Gone Again,” “Go to Him” and “Days of My Youth,” Ka-ipo captures the intense emotions Lee must have been feeling in the last years of his life (he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1964 and died in December 1966).

Ka-ipo closes the collection with a “live” version of “Suck ’Em Up” that captures the ambience of an old-time cocktail lounge and sounds like it was taped by someone using a cassette recorder and sitting far from the stage.

The annotation is minimal, but Ka-ipo provides more information on his website.


“Aukahi (Flowing Harmony)”
Daniel Ho
(Daniel Ho Creations)

Daniel Ho’s musical odyssey has taken him far from Hawaii. Some of those experiences can be heard here as he returns to the music of the islands. Slack-key guitar is featured on some songs, and ukulele on others, and on more than half the songs, he sings. On some he incorporates instruments or rhythms from Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

The Hawaiian lyrics on seven songs are the work of his longtime collaborator, Amy Ku‘uleialoha Stillman, whose credits include the lyrics on Tia Carrere’s Grammy Award-winning Hawaiian albums, “‘Ikena” and “Huana ke Aloha.”

“Cookie Hula” is a whimsical song about the ingredients in chocolate chip cookie dough. (Yes, songs can be written in Hawaiian about everyday things.)

An instrumental titled “Kai Palaoa (The Whale Song)” displays Ho’s slack-key technique. Several others show off his skill on ukulele. Ho writes in the liner notes, “The possibilities of what can be  done on four strings are infinite.”

Whether performing as a vocalist or instrumentalist, Ho is conscientious about documenting his music. The liner notes include the original lyrics in Hawaiian or English, English translations of the Hawaiian lyrics, and background information where it is appropriate. Ho explains the structure of several compositions and shares the slack-key tunings he uses on others.


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