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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 25, 2002

DVDs cull archives for footage of Bruddah Iz

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

Had your fill of Iz yet?

"Island Music, Island Hearts: The Man and His Music," Mountain Apple Co.

"Hot Hawaiian Nights," Mountain Apple Co.

Hawai'i's adoration and admiration of the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole — Bruddah Iz to his fans — continues with the release tomorrow of two DVDs, originally recorded in the mid-1990s before he became a national Hawaiian music icon.

A pair of TV specials — "Island Music, Island Hearts" (1995) on KGMB-9, and "Hot Hawaiian Nights" (1993, 1995) on KFVE-5 — bring back casual performances on location at island spots as well as in the studio, complete with the requisite off-the-cuff Iz-isms that typified his live shows. With DVD technology, the revived images are crisp, the sound still simple but pure, no doubt a vast improvement on a home videotaping of the original shows.

At their best, both shows present, with honesty and charm, the accessible style and patter of a gentle giant.

Unfortunately, the shows lack the expected DVD extras — outtakes, a portfolio of photos or other previously unavailable images or tunes, something beyond the taped shows — because only the original archival video was kept. (Outtakes likely were erased.)

Still, it's quite endearing and revealing, particularly if you missed the original airings, to see Iz at work and at play, quick of wit, skillful in honing a familiar melody to suit his sweet voice. His huge physicality is a marked contrast to his boyish zeal; clearly, he always had that wide-eyed energy and enthusiasm of a soul out to find the joy in his music and in his life.

The programs depict Iz with different back-up bands, reflecting the change as well as the camaraderie he had with his peers.

"Island Music" features his stalwart supporters Mel Amina, Analu Aina, Mike Muldoon, Gaylord Holomalia and Jason Swangel.

He kibitzes often, signifying his fondness for his craft; in one instance, he addresses his hugeness, saying "the body needs oxygen, being this size," following a performance of one of his early signatures, "White Sandy Beach," performed solo on the water's edge. There's both innocence and wisdom in this snippet.

He gets maximum pleasure with minimum effort on other classics, including "Henehene," rendered at Waioli Team Room in Manoa, and "Margarita," a Tahitian tune performed at remote Miloli'i on the Big Island. At the latter taping, it's pure country motif: no stage, no seats, no formal theatrics, just barebones vocals performed for a small but appreciative crowd, which joins in on a hand-holding "Hawai'i Aloha" finale.

"Hawai'i '78," a bonus tract, has music-video nuances with archival photos adding visual points to the tune's political posture. It's always been one of Iz's must-perform tunes, so its presence here is meaningful.

"Hot Hawaiian Nights" is pure studio stuff, with Iz mainly joined by musicians Mel Amina and Roland Cazimero.

A few titles repeat, including "Kamalani," the lingering trademark song composed by Kaua'i's Larry Rivera. Those who remember Iz's tuneful salute to sumotori Akebono, Musashimaru and Konishiki will delight in the ditty with the witty lyrics, too.

"Hot Hawaiian Nights" was culled from two different segments, one in 1993 and the other in 1995, when Aina, Holomalia and Muldoon were part of the jam.

Neither DVD features "Over the Rainbow," that song that awakened a generation of new Iz fans, because it hadn't yet been recorded. Surely, there's a video version in a vault somewhere, begging for release.