Island Mele: Hoku Award-winners bring star-power to ‘Kuha‘o Maunakea’
Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winners Zachary Lum and Chad Takatsugi are presenting a super-sized 18-song collection of anti-TMT songs inspired by the controversy.
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Being against something can inspire much more passion than being for it. The Vietnam War inspired a bunch of memorable anti-war songs that are now considered classic. In contrast, the closest thing to a pro-Vietnam War song, Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Berets,” didn’t even mention the war by name or the nationality of the “oppressed” people that the Beret had fought for.
Jump forward to the present, and songs opposing construction of the Three Meter Telescope have been coming out almost since the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled that the project’s permits were valid and construction could resume.
Now Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winners Zachary Lum and Chad Takatsugi are presenting a super-sized 18-song collection of anti-TMT songs inspired by the controversy. The download-only compilation album was released at the end of last month. It is one of the year’s biggest releases in Hawaiian music, and that’s not hype.
The participants include Hoku Award-winners Del Beazley, Ikaika Blackburn, Manu Boyd, Robert Cazimero, Ryan “Gonzo” Gonzalez, Ho‘okena, Kawika Kahiapo, Lehua Kalima, Keauhou, Kanai‘a Nakamura, Jerry Santos, Halehaku Seabury-Akaka and Josh Tatofi.
With the star power of the musicians and song writers who join Takatsugi and Lum here, “Kuha‘o Maunakea” will certainly be under consideration for album of the year and compilation album of the year at the 2020 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. I would be very surprised if music from this album does not win both categories. The 18 songs are likewise all potential nominees for song of the year, and the Hawaiian-language songs leading contenders in the Haku Mele category.
Almost all of the songs are in Hawaiian; their messages will received by the minority who are fluent in the language. The English lyrics of the others will take the project’s message to the majority.
Many of the songs describe the beauty of Maunakea or its historical significance. Others are more direct mele ku‘e (songs of resistance) that call on supporters of the protests to stand together on this issue. None is confrontational; a comment about “heartless foreigners” is as far as any of the writers go in attacking those who oppose them.
The liner notes bring an important issue to the fore: The Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision authorizing the construction of TMT sparked the current high-profile protests, but the underlying causes of discontent involve bigger issues that go back more than a century.
For performer and composer credits, song lyrics and English translations, additional information on the project, and to purchase the music, go to kanaeokana.net/maunakea