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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 20, 2003

Traditional groups release must-haves

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

A pair of traditional Hawaiian-music CDs by two groups carrying on a custom very much in vogue tops this week's new albums.

And a popular contemporary island music band does stellar work building on its own foundation and traditions.

Check 'em out:

• • •

"Ke aloha pau'ole" by Kanilau; Nani Lawa'i Records

Genre: Traditional Hawaiian.

Distinguishing notes: Kanilau is Roland Chang, his sister Alapa'i Chang and Kimo Artis. Noelani Chang, composer and singer, often joins the group and is kumu hula for Na Mamo 'O Ka'ala. The group's sound is mellow, heavily oriented toward hula, marked by sweetly endearing harmonies. Whether it's a mele with a chant orientation ("Eia Ka Makana") or a richly melodic ballad ("Ke Aloha Pau'ole," "Ke Kai Le'a"), the group doesn't disappoint, using notes as colors to paint an exquisite portrait of places and people. The bottom line is a richly Hawaiian texture, reflective of times long gone but happily still alive. There are originals from the ranks (Noelani Chang's title song, Kimo Artis' "Ku'u Home I Halawa") and some borrowed entries (James Kaholukula's "Waikana Nui," Kaipo Hale's "Ho'okipa Hawai'i" with the traditional "Hilo Hula"), all rendered with precision and imagination.

The outlook: Simple arrangements performed with skill and integrity should make this one soar; Kanilau's time has come.

Our take: With rigorous new appeal and attention to traditional Hawaiian music, Kanilau should be stepping into the winner's circle.

"Eia Ka Makana" by Kanilau. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

• • •

"Kuleana" by Maunalua; Lokahi Records

Genre: Traditional Hawaiian.

Distinguishing notes: Maunalua is a stylish trio with a contagious, relaxing backyard sound. Members are Bruce Spencer, Bobby Moderow Jr. and Kahi Kaonohi, who have assembled an exquisite sampler of their powerful, poignant sound. From the gently coaxing "Kealohalani" to the fragrant "Ka Loke (the Rose)," from the still-stirring Jon Osorio composition "Hawaiian Soul" to a Moderow co-composition "Pa Konane," Maunalua takes the listener on a journey that upholds the foundation of Hawaiian music.

The outlook: Treats include falsetto selections, a taste of ki ho'alu, even a stunning appearance by the revered Leina'ala Haili on "Pua Tuberose."

Our take: Make it your kuleana (responsibility) to include "Kuleana" in your CD collection.

"Kealohalani" by Maunalua. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

• • •

"All For You" by the Opihi Pickers; Go Aloha Entertainment

Genre: Contemporary island sounds.

Distinguishing notes: The Opihi Pickers have evolved into a hot contemporary ensemble now featuring Imua Garza, brother Hoku Garza, cousin Kahele Morales, plus Kevin Okimoto and Shawn Ishimoto. Lively 'ukulele elements still punctuate their work, and there's quite a bit of real-life emotion — "Meant To Be" reflects a positive attitude to life, "Remember When?" is a reflection on losing a loved one, "Girl Can I" is a valentine-with-a-beat about a guy trying to win over a girl. Imua Garza remains the big gun — the resident composer and lead voice, though Okimoto takes on several lead tracks. There's a wrenching personal story to "One of the Seven," a poem inspired by the death of a family member.

The outlook: The Opihi Pickers are to be commended for recording what's in their collective hearts, not what radio programmers want to air.

Our take: Picking Opihi never has been so satisfying.

"Meant To Be" by Opihi Pickers. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

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