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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

Hawaiian sounds take the spotlight

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Hawaiiana rules, with two exceptional treasures from a wahine and a kane.

No need to fret about the disappearance of Hawaiian sounds; with these CDs, island music is being preserved with flair and honesty.

• • •

"Wahine Slack 'n' Steel" by Owana Salazar; Moonbow Records

  • Genre: Traditional and contemporary Hawaiian, with vocals and ki ho'alu (slack-key).
  • Distinguishing notes: Owana Salazar long has been a singer too often taken for granted. Here, her blissful vocal style is delicately meshed with ki ho'alu, proving she is a certified jewel of a talent. Best of all, she takes risk, combining traditional island sounds with modern stuff — exemplified by her stunning medley of the classic Sam Li'a composition, "Hi'ilawe," combined with, get this, Jimi Hendrix's "Waterfall." The medley cascades through the generations — a soulful slack-key guitar adding a seal of unmistakable originality. The fare runs the gamut, from oldies ("Hula Blues," an instrumental, and "Makee 'Ailana," a vocal) to newer models of Hawaiiana (like her original composition, "Kapalua," and Dennis Kamakahi's "Kou Aloha Mau A Mau").
  • The outlook: Outstanding repertoire in Hawaiian and in English, skillfully performed, wisely annotated with meaningful liner notes and, yes, lyrics — a real contender for anyone's collection. Scan the credits and you'll discover an all-star backup crew including such favorites as Ocean Kaowili, John Koko, Bailey Matsuda, Randy Lorenzo, Herb Ohta Jr. and more — folks who undoubtedly recognize the depth and breadth of her talent.
  • Our take: This is the one that will put Salazar on the map, once and for all.
"Hula Blues" by Owana Salazar. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

• • •

"Pa'ina" by Ata Damaso; Ululoa Productions

  • Genre: Traditional Hawaiian.
  • Distinguishing notes: For his second CD, Ata Damaso has composed a handful of originals, which stand up nicely, thank you, alongside time-honored repertory favorites. He writes and performs with authority, straight from the heart, making the likes of "Nani Wale E Pakala," "Aia Ni'ihau," and "Na Wehi O Wailuku" radiate with old-time grace and soul. And his interpretations of "Mauna Loa," "Green Rose Hula" and "Pua Ahihi" clearly suggest he's trained and studied well from the masters. Damaso plays a myriad of instruments here, including 'ukulele, guitar, piano and bass, plus a very nostalgic 100-year-old upright bass with Weed Whacker cord strings. Way to go, Ata.
  • The outlook: A likely favorite for hula students, because many of the songs have dance inclinations.
  • Our take: For those hungry for traditional Hawaiian music, "Pa'ina" is a feast for the ears and the heart.
"Mauna Loa" by Ata Damaso. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com, 525-8067 or by faxing 525-8055.