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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, October 17, 2004


'Kaulupono' fine mix of Island harmonies, soft-rock favorites

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

'Ale'a, a Hawaiian trio, blazes forward with a splendid third album that reflects continued growth.

A falsetto tradition lives on, with a compilation of more winners.

A Florida 'ukulele strummer looks back at music of the monarchy.

"KAULUPONO" by 'Ale'a; Poki Records

• Genre: Contemporary Hawaiian.

• Distinguishing notes: Since its debut two albums and seven years ago, 'Ale'a has undergone growth and change. This third CD retains the drive and spirit of the group's concept of respecting tradition while blazing new paths. Ryan Gonzalez, Kale Hannahs and Chad Takatsugi offer fresh harmonies, shimmering vision and splendid performances, including upbeat, hula-inspiring versions of Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett's "Halalu" and Dennis Kamakahi's "E Kiss Kaua." There's seductive and reverent aloha for hapa-haole faves (with Nina Keali'iwahamana doing a guest turn) and new "place" songs like "Kekahao'iolani" by Kapalai'ula de Silva, which pays homage to the home of the late 'Iolani Luahine at Napo'opo'o.

'Ale'a also continues to "adopt" pop favorites (The Eagles' "The Best of My Love," Creedence Clearwater Clearwater's "Long As I Can See the Light"). Best track: "Ka Lehua Punono," a tribute to the lehua blossom, composed by Takatsugi and Kalikolihau Hannahs. It sounds precisely like the kind of melody that would appeal to Keali'i Reichel ... who happens to provide guest vocals.

• The outlook: This is a joyous release and should cause a stir.

Our take: Easy-listening, breezy performances, easily the best yet from a still-emerging force in Island music.

"Halalu" by 'A'lea. Audio sample available in mp3 format.


Genre: Hawaiian falsetto.

• Distinguishing notes: High marks are in order for these high-voiced male singers, who sashay from tenor to soprano tones. High five, too, for Hula Records, for maintaining the "prize" — a series of compilations of emerging masters of this falsetto (leo ki'eki'e) tradition. Whether it's "Ku'u Lei Hoku" by Imipono Cabrinha (O'ahu), "Lae Lae" by Matthew Sproat (Big Island) or "Haleakala Hula" by Kamaka Fernandez (Maui), you're likely to find your own favorite.

• The outlook: So who of the three will be the first break-out star?

• Our take: A feast for the ears.

"Ku'u Lei Hoku" by Imipono Cabrinha. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

"ROYAL HAWAIIAN MUSIC" by John King; Nalu Music

• Genre: 'Ukulele instrumentals.

• Distinguishing notes: This import from Florida is a 16-song salute to vintage Island songs and pioneering composers such as King David Kalakaua, Queen Lili'uokalani, Princess Likelike and Prince Leleiohoku, who helped popularize an emerging musical style based on Island tradition but influenced by New England. It's performed with germane, music-box tranquility.

• The outlook: Look elsewhere for flash; more academic than entertaining.

Our take: A commendable effort that might have significance to ethnomusicologists.

"Kalakaua March" by John King. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

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