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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 29, 2004

Top slam poet steps up to the mike for a new CD

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Slam poetry makes an unexpected appearance on a CD, demonstrating the wit of an emerging star with the gift of gab.

A duo with a sweet country brew bursts onto the scene, blending harmony with the sounds of the 'ukulele and guitar.

And a fresh new group, also capitalizing on the popularity of the 'ukulele, is easy on the ears in its premier album.

"Kealoha" by Kealoha; Hawaii Slam Records

• Genre: Slam poetry.

• Distinguishing notes: Kealoha is an emerging slam poetry artist; this is an introductory sampler of what makes him tick, how he connects with an audience, where he's destined to go in the future. Kealoha has been a staple at First Thursdays at Studio 1; his ramblings seem improvisational, but in fact, these are thoughtful and provocative takes on life's highs and lows, mixing the funny with the serious. The poetry is blended with occasional musical riffs. The tracks are mind-bending and soul-cleansing (with an occasional burst of expletives) ... the very essence of a bright young mind seeking a place in the world

Kealoha and a Hawai'i slam poetry team just returned from the National Poetry Slam and missed making the semi-finals but earned the privilege of becoming opening acts for the semis and the finals. While much of the spoken words are by Kealoha, contributors include Hawaiian Ryan, Gloria Baraquio, Selah Geissler and Hapa's Barry Flanagan.

• The outlook: Poetry is difficult to market and sustain as a CD entity; yet there's energy, honesty, integrity and creativity in this endeavor.

• Our take: A winner awaiting your seal of approval.

"Exist" by Kealoha. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

"Let the Good Times Roll" by Kalaeloa; no label

• Genre: Country; Island rhythms.

• Distinguishing notes: Kalaeloa is composed of Les Harris and Taz Vega, who present a sweet harmonic blend set to 'ukulele and guitar strumming. "Kiss You in the Morning" typifies Kalaeloa's signature sound — delicate tones, a compelling and romantic moment, a very delicate and precise snapshot of meaningful love ... and an original from Vega's pen. Think "Blue Darling" for a new generation. Of course, there are other nuggets of quiet eloquence — "You Broke My Heart" (Vega), "Jonny" (Harris) and "Let the Good Times Roll" (Vega). "On the Beach at Waikiki," a cover, may seem out of place , but the wholesome flavor fits with the precious landscape Kalaeloa concocts.

• The outlook: Easy-going manner and music should captivate new fans.

• Our take: Clearly, Kalaeloa is a duo to watch; it's bundled the spirit of aloha in a cloak of country charm.

"Let the Good Times Roll" by Kalaeloa. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

"THE 'UKULELE EXPERIMENT" by Kaimoku; Kahuku Watermelon Productions

• Genre: 'Ukulele instrumentals.

• Distinguishing notes: Kaimoku features Louis "Zorro" Maka'ehu on 'ukulele and guitar, Lori-Ann Lopez on percussion and piano, and Kekai 'Awa on guitar, bass and dobro. Its sound is crisp, hardly experimental but essentially faithful to the 'ukulele genre in full bloom now. The selections are safe, proven and popular, from a classic "Hi'ilawe" (with Lopaka Igarta-Devera performing chant) to hapa-haole "Tiny Bubbles," with traditional Hawaiian staples such as "Kaulana Na Pua," "Hawai'i Aloha" and "Ahi Wela." Maka'ehu composes four originals.

• The outlook: Kaimoku is a real find; a group that brings joy and brightness to the music scene with its 'ukulele precision and power, capturing the tradition of old with a fresh new outlook.

• Our take: An easy-to-appreciate entry that deserves a spot in any CD collection.

"Hi'ilawe" by Kaimoku. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

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