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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wasabi album spices up old favorites

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

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Cover band Wasabi embraces flashbacks and enriches the memory bank.

A Big Island singer-composer hooks his star on the Irie wagon but is it necessary?

And the mayor croons and articulates for a good cause.


  • Genre: Contemporary, nostalgic pop

  • Distinguishing notes: To sushi and sashimi fans, wasabi is that hot staple that adds zest to your shoyu dip. In music, Wasabi is a hot cover band doing oldies (and some more recent vibes) with the flavor and spirit of the originals. Headed by lead singer and guitarist Milton Koga, Wasabi's lineup is Kenton Koga on keyboards, sax and flute; Paul Arquette on guitar and drums (he sings too); and vocalist Doreen Nakamoto.

    The group strolls down memory lane, embracing "Diana," "Calendar Girl," "Secret Agent Man," "I'm Telling You Now," "Here Comes My Baby" and such instrumental unforgettables as "Tequila" and "Pipeline." Flashback never sounded better. The journey also includes more recent faves such as "Europa."

    Memories thrive, even if the liner fails to define the era and impact of the hit music.

  • The outlook: With Wasabi spicing up the night scene at clubs in Westridge, Waikiki and 'Aiea, the CD should be, in parlance of yesteryear, a smasheroo.

  • Our take: Wholesome, winsome and richly nostalgic, from start to finish.


  • Genre: Reggae, world music

  • Distinguishing notes: Big Island artist Ryan Hiraoka wrote, produced and performed the 13 tunes that comprise his debut CD. He has been on the periphery of the industry now he's ready for his closeup. Damon Williams guests on three tracks, including "Haters" and "Girl I Know," which reflect Hiraoka's perception in lyrical content (it's kind of a payback; Ryan, as he prefers to be called, participated in Williams' latest CD). On a romantic note, "Still Trying to Figure It Out" demonstrates his reflective nature beyond the reggae format. The universal implications of his personal outlook ("Small Kid Days," "Big Pig Hunting") should help extend his popularity statewide.

    Hiraoka is best when he's himself, as on "Let the Candles Burn," instead of jamming out the Jawaiian tempos. So a niggling question persists: Why do local kids still insist on structuring their music to the ways and manner of the Irie generation?

  • The outlook: Ryan's hope for bright and sunny days could be ahead, once he formulates his own style.

  • Our take: An auspicious debut; the next one should shape his future.


  • Genre: World music

  • Distinguishing notes: Inasmuch as he is a potential candidate for a local music award, let's give Mayor Hannemann some brownie points; he can carry a tune, sell a song, and market a DVD. No matter what your political affiliation or orientation, this modest four-minute entry features Hizzonner waxing romantic he's smooth with lyrics, has the art of articulation down pat and embraces scenic visuals that appeal. Simply, Hannemann brings warmth and new life to Donald Neil McKay's popular anthem about Our Honolulu.

    Piilani Smith, as featured hula dancer, makes the outing visitor-friendly. The in-studio production, under the tutelage of Frannie Kirk and arranger David Kauahikaua, projects Hannemann as a suave crooner. And it's all for a good cause proceeds benefit the Honolulu Hale Ho'okipa Project.

  • The outlook: Should remain a promotional tool for the city.

  • Our take: Does this mean Hannemann has a future beyond his politics?

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.