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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 22, 2006

Four-part harmonies get boost from stars

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

A release by Kaukahi is loaded with rich, pure harmonies and guest appearances by Jack Johnson and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom. Two others by Ho'omalie and 'O Wai La bear watching.

For a stroll down memory lane (specifically, the 1950s), check out a compilation that brings back some blasts from the past.


  • Genre: Traditional and contemporary Hawaiian.

  • Distinguishing notes: Guest appearances by Grammy Award nominees Jack Johnson (on his "Constellation," realigned for Kaukahi's gentle sound) and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom (who duets with singer Barrett Awai on "Lei Ho'okahi") may steal some of the thunder, but the four-member Kaukahi (meaning "singleness of purpose") is a contender. Awai (vocals, upright bass), Kawika Kahiapo (vocals, guitar), Dean Wilhelm (vocals, guitar) and Walt Keale (vocals, 'ukulele, and a nephew of the late Moe Keale and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole) provide feel-good nahenahe sounds reminiscent of easy-going backyard jams. Their sweet, pure harmonies, coupled with moodsetting ki ho'alu, have an acoustic folk accent. Still, the Island spirit prevails, on some known ("Ulili E," "E Ala E") and some new (Kahiapo's collaborative effort with Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett's "He Wai Wai Nui," Kahiapo's "Islands" (title tune).

    Johnson has recognized Kaukahi's potential, tapping Kahiapo for his Kokua Festivals and as a guest musician for his "Curious George" soundtrack. Just listen to the Gilliom track, plus "E Na Punahele," to be swept away on a blissful journey that speaks of the aloha spirit. If you like Ho'okena, 'Ale'a and Maunalua, you'll adore Kaukahi. Exquisite liner book included, too, complete with lyrics.

  • Our take: If ever there is a vocally prominent entity from these Islands that can break the spell of mostly slack-key projects in the Hawaiian Grammy category, Kaukahi can do it.

    "Constellations" by Kaukahi. Audio sample available in mp3 format.


  • Genre: Traditional and contemporary Hawaiian.

  • Distinguishing notes: Ho'omalie is another harmonic foursome (its name means "to soothe or to make calm") with a sweet, soothing sound. Members John-Heizer Enos, Lopaka Ho'opi'i, Kimo Hussey and Zanuck Kapala Lindsey are names you'll recognize from previous alliances. They enlisted a little help from their friends (the all-star roster includes Kapono Beamer, Ed Collier, DeShannon Higa, Nina Keali'iwahamana, George Kuo, Greg Sardinha, Abe Lagrimas Jr. and Dean Taba).

    Memories abound, magic swirls as Ho'omalie puts its stamp on such favorites as "Kawohikukapulani," "The Queen's Prayer," "Ka'ahumanu/Kona Kai 'Opua," "Pohai Kealoha" and more. En route, the guys traipse to different genres, from Hawaiian jazz to innovative Invitations-like four-part harmonies.

  • Our take: Here's another superb combo with something fresh to offer.

    "Kawohikukapulani" by Ho'omaile. Audio sample available in mp3 format.


  • Genre: Traditional and contemporary Hawaiian.

  • Distinguishing notes: 'O Wai La features Jason "Iakona" Shimizu (vocals, 'ukulele), Kahualaulani Mick (vocals, guitar) and Jason "Manuwai" Mejia (vocals, electric and acoustic upright bass). Its sound has folk roots, best exemplified in "Mele Mua" ("Hello, Waimanalo"/"Na Pe'ao O Hokule'a"). There's style and synergy in the group's medleys; "Na Ono" collates tunes about kau kau; "No'eno'e Maika'i Kealoha/Kawika" links mele honoring King David Kalakaua; "Ka Huliau 'Ana/I'a Stew" pairs tunes about the Polynesian Voyaging Society's Hokule'a. "Pua Pakalana," a Mejia original, might have lasting and lingering appeal a tune favoring the pakalana, a likely repertory number for hula enthusiasts.

  • Our take: Another recording proves Hawaiiana thrives.

    "Mele Mua" by 'O Wai La. Audio sample available in mp3 format.


  • Genre: Compilation of '50s Island rock.

  • Distinguishing notes: If you grew up in the Fabulous Fifties, this is your bridge to the past pubescent ballads, doo-wop, chartbusters, local-style. Relive the era with The Royal Drifters' "Da Kine," Darlene "Masako" Yoshimoto's "Frankie" and "Stupid Cupid," Ronnie Diamond's "Why (Did You Leave Me)," Robin Luke's "Susie Darlin'," The Jokers' "I Do" and Lance Curtis' (aka Dick Jensen) "Bye Bye Baby" and "Leahi." Vintage photos and period bios fill the liner; alas, updates are not provided (Jensen, Masako are both deceased, for example).

  • Our take: If the recording sounds "thin," this is monaural stuff in their original glory, mastered by Dunbar Wakayama; consider this an aural page from Hawai'i's musical history, with voices still in formative stage.

    "Da Kine" by Royal Drifters. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.