Island Mele: Storm, Kamaka Kukona, Lea Love
Star-Advertiser music critic John Berger shares his thoughts on the latest releases by Storm, Kamaka Kukona and Lea Love.
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Storm (Tin Idol Productions)
When Mickey Ioane wrote “Hawaii ’78,” asking what “our king and queen” would say if they could see modern Hawaii, it was one of the first modern mele ku‘e (songs of resistance). The Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau recorded it in 1978, and Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole did it again after he abruptly left the group in 1993.
Storm — a two-time Hoku Award-winner — reworks it as an expansive rock anthem in support of the Mauna Kea protesters.
Vocalist Sandy “Storm” Essman delivers Ioane’s message with compelling strength and force. The lyric reference to “highways on this sacred grounds” seems especially relevant given the issue of access to the summit for astronomers and cultural practitioners, and a newly raised issue about the legality of the road itself. Guitarist Brian Spalding adds energy with his solo work; Darren Soliven (bass) and Gerard K. Gonsalves (drums) are solid as ever as the Storm rhythm section.
Storm is donating all profits from this CD single to the Aloha ‘Aina Support Fund.
“LOVELY ‘ALA MELIA”
Kamaka Kukona (Hanu)
Hoku Award-winning kumu hula Kamaka Kukona compares his mother to the melia (plumeria) blossom, her favorite flower, with “Lovely ‘Ala Melia,” written and released as a download-only single in her memory; Lovena “Ala” Pagay Vise died in April.
Listeners fluent in Hawaiian will appreciate the images in Kukona’s lyrics. They describe plumeria blossoms as beautiful, strong and regal when they bloom, then becoming frail as their days pass. Finally, when a slight breeze blows, they begin to fall from the tree like rain from the heavens.
“WAY I AM”
Lea Love (Mensch House)
Lea Love was born in Southern California, but has island ties thanks to her Hawaiian, Japanese, and Samoan heritage. She has a voice made to heard atop the pop music charts.
Love’s work on this seven-song EP makes her an artist Hawaii can be proud to claim.
Love and her production team show an equal investment in seductive American urban pop melodies and reggae rhythms. Her song writers reference classic Top 40 pop hits of the early 1960s with the melodic progressions on “One Too Many,” the plaintive confession of a woman who knows she’s had too much to drink, and also in the “shu-bop shu-bop, my baby, shu-bop shu-bop” chorus on “No Good At Love” — another of Love’s chart-worthy charmers.
Love slips appealingly into another part of her repertoire when she turns on a faux-Jamaican accent and delves onto Caribbean exotica with a song about a person she describes as a “Murdera.”