Saturday, February 3, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, February 3, 2001

Island Sounds
Keola Beamer celebrates Island pride in new album

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

Audio sample of "Island Born" by Keola Beamer. in mp3 or RealAudio format. RealAudio requires a plug-in.

"ISLAND BORN" by Keola Beamer, Ohe Records 96118.

Carrying on a family tradition, Keola Beamer sings of ohana and aina in his newest album, declaring his unending respect for and admiration of his Island roots.

Possibly, this is more cultural than commercial, but worry not: it’s a beauty, through and through.

The title song, one of Beamer’s compositions, is a sweet and fragile musical reflection on the sunrises and seas that make Hawaii special. It’s in the spirit of his earlier signature, "Honolulu City Lights," in that a simple cruise in the car can evoke a sense of being proud about your hometown.

Of course, Beamer’s ki hoalu artistry is on exhibit here, too, on some Hawaiian classics, including "Na Ka Pueo," a hula oldie telling of a ship’s arrival in Honolulu harbor, its flag waving, and the stunning mele inoa (name song), "Hula O Makee," also about a ship named after a Capt. Makee which runs aground off Kauai.

Beamer’s mastery of the Hawaiian language is unmistakable; his arrangements and interpretation convert familiar tunes into new, joyous discoveries. For instance, his mom Nona Beamer’s "Kahuli Aku," has long been an indelible hula favorite with child-like innocence (about a land shell), but it is brilliantly reshaped with Beamer joined by Princess Keliihoomalu on vocals. Similarly, "Olapa Ka Uila i Kaneohe," about the arrival of electricity on the Windward side, yields sparks of rediscovery.

And "Leahi," with harmony by George Kahumoku Jr., evokes images of Beamer bursting into an impromptu dance. Ditto, "Kuu Hoa," a song by Beamer’s late grandfather Pono, with its understated double-entendre meanings. Again, Beamer’s insights add new pleasures, new insights into these musical morsels, crammed with family roots and pride.

But one of the true gifts of the set is "True Hawaiian Way," a Beamer composition that was a present to his mom, Nona, on her 76th birthday last Aug. 15; not only is there an earnest son’s homage to his mom, an inspiration to him and many others, but Jerry Santos’ harmony also is a measure (and pleasure) of Hawaiian trueness, too.

The cultural aspect is particularly loud and clear in a medley of "Wao Lipo," a Beamer instrumental piece, coupled with Mary Kawena Pukui’s "Ke Ao Nani," with Beamer performing on nose flute on his composition; "nature sounds" recorded by his wife, Moanalani Beamer, in the forests of Wailua Valley on Kauai, underscores this effort. Clearly, it’s a celebration of truly being Island born.

Audio sample of "Ami Ami Slack Key" by Led Kaapana and Bob Brozman. in mp3 or RealAudio format. RealAudio requires a plug-in.

"IN THE SADDLE" by Ledward Kaapana and Bob Brozman, Dancing Cat Records, 08022-28051-2.

It’s party time again, as guitarist Ledward Kaapana and steel guitarist Bob Brozman team up for their second songfest of slack and steel duets.

There’s one appealing vocal here, "Meleana E," but otherwise, it’s all sprightly, sizzling, soulful stuff, occasionally playful, frequently flashy, and uniformly engaging.

From the opening "Ami Ami Slack Key," rich with upbeat

tempos and zesty give-and-take, to the closing "Pua Be Still," with its imagery about flowers, this set is flavored with genuine passion.

What’s delightful is the new personality brought to familiar favorites, like the gently wafting mood on "No Ke Ano Ahiahi," commonly rendered as an upbeat tune, or the paniolo-country twang on "Lei Ohu," the classic often linked with Gabby Pahinui.

And just when you think there’s far too much giddy fun, the pair offer two precious and romantic waltzes - the slightly upbeat "Waialae Waltz" with reminders of monarchial elegance, and the medium-beat "Ahoe Hakuloa," with Tahitian roots. Outstanding work.

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