Posted on: Sunday, August 6, 2006
'Mana Maoli' mix diverse, expressive
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
"Mana Maoli, Vol. II and III" is ambitious and occasionally revealing.
Nathan Aweau goes it alone again with a dandy assembly of appealing Island classics.
Jeff Gere offers a new collection of kiddie tales — some goofy, some spooky.
"MANA MAOLI, VOL. II AND III" BY VARIOUS ARTISTS; MANA MAOLI
Genre: World music in a diversity of styles and talent, ranging from backyard jams to traditional studio renderings.
Distinguishing notes: This vibrant, if uneven, snapshot of the multitextured artistry comes from the folks of Na Lei Na'auao, an alliance of a dozen Hawaiian charter schools. The two discs, "InnoNative" and "Change Is Coming," assemble freestyle vocals, instrumentals, spoken-word poetry set to music, unconventional and occasionally rough, raw material.
The impression created alternates between honesty and innocence, sharing the temperament and emotions of young talent, who are not necessarily awaiting approval or conventional success.
Some material will have lasting life, a few will wilt prematurely. Some are musical, in a folkie way, such as "Listen, Ho'olohe, Xicaquica," by Moku Young Moemoea and Kalei Young Moemoea; some have Hawaiian foundations with a reggae/rap jacket, like Kaikua Cleveland's "E Ko Makou Makua," with its Hawaiian lyrics and updated beats.
Rising star Paula Fuga shows up with pals on a modest freestyle ditty, "From Darkness We Shine," which sounds like an unpretentious backyard jam; Jack Johnson joins Fuga to sing (and whistle) on her "Country Road," which could surface as the track of choice (for obvious reasons); John Cruz's reflective, philosophical "The Song Remains" also has commercial clout. You can't get more Hawaiian than Kamuela Yim's oli, with choral chanting.
The outlook: "Mana Maoli" isn't about widespread airplay — its importance is in its mission of providing an arena for cultural exchange. Guests such as Johnson and O-shen provide sparks and polish, but the laid-back and natural mana'o is what you'll remember. Available at www.halaukumana .org.
Our take: A curiosity that could open ears and eyes — and possibly launch careers.
"THE HAWAI'I CLASSICS SERIES: VOL. II HULA" BY NATHAN AWEAU; B.P. MUSIC ARTS
Genre: Contemporary and traditional Hawaiian.
Distinguishing notes: A strong solo vocalist and member of Hapa, Nathan Aweau's new CD will only cement his appeal. He tackles a host of popular tunes: "Pua Hone," "Wahine Ilikea," "Hi'ilawe," "Ikona," "Na Ka Pueo," singing in a normal register and his beautiful falsetto. A couple of hapa-haole entries, "Pearly Shells" and "My Little Grass Shack," are more visitor-friendly than talent-appropriate. The ki ho'alu accompaniment yields a laid-back listen. Liner lyrics should trigger sing-alongs.
The outlook: Attractive, clean packaging further enhances the CD.
Our take: Aweau has become an artist for all reasons. Well worth owning.
"SILLY 'N SPOOKY: TALES OF KIDS IN HAWAII" BY JEFF GERE; TALK STORY MASTERS
Genre: Spoken word; tales of Island living.
Distinguishing notes: In this youth-oriented collection, master storyteller Jeff Gere delivers goofy anecdotes, sometimes with pidgin inflections and childlike vocals. There's a playful entry about a boy with zipper woes; those who like the eerie will find thrills on " 'Aiea Heiau"; a Halloween-perfect "Secret Weapon" is worth attention for its texture and mystique. Pianist Les Adams' simple but vital background music establishes mood; Alana Cini's didgeridoo and Sandra Lee Akaka's screeches also lend aural ambience. One caveat: Some tales run long for modern kids with short attention spans.
The outlook: Gere still has the gift of gab.
Our take: There's honest, good-fun treasure here.
Reach Wayne Harada at firstname.lastname@example.org.