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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 26, 2006

ISLAND SOUNDS
Manny K. carries you back to old Hawai'i

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

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A nostalgic journey, already an award-winner, hurls Manny K. Fernandez into the spotlight.

Two CDs from Maui one by a reggae artist, the other corralling four female singers offer diversity with uneven results.

"MY ISLAND PARADISE" BY MANNY K. FERNANDEZ; PEKEKINI RECORDS

  • Genre: Traditional Hawaiian.

  • Distinguishing notes: Manny K. Fernandez has won a Hawaii Music Award for this entry. The selections evoke a bygone era in mood and in delivery, when combos like Fernandez's proliferated on the Waikiki strip. Manning an eight-string Kamaka 'ukulele, Fernandez serves up a sweet 12-song sampler that taps "Sweet Singing Bamboo," "Haleakala," "Nani Kaua'i," "He Ala Nei E Mapu Mai Nei" and "Ku'u Home (Old Plantation)." He introduces Rene Pearson on a duet of the original wedding song "Lei Aloha, Lei Makamae." There's good fun and hearty vibrations, too, on "Ke Ala Ka Jeep," a classic from Eddie Kamae and Mary Kawena Pukui's songbook.

  • The outlook: A commendable release, complete with sing-along lyric book.

  • Our take: An unpretentious, reflective performance that suits backyard jams.

    "He Ala Nei E Mapu Mai Nei" by Manny K. Fernandez. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

    • • •

    "KOKO MEETS OOKLAH THE MOC: STRUGGLING SOLDIER" BY KOKO; GHETTO CIRCUS RECORDS

  • Genre: Reggae, world music.

  • Distinguishing notes: Koko is Cody Nemet (aka Kodymon), a singer-'ukulele player from Waihe'e, Maui. His original songs offer up impressionsof-life sentiments, set to reggae rhythms. It's clean, simple and listenable stuff, devoid of overdone accents and intrusive musical accompaniment. Ooklah the Moc, roots reggae dependables, are under-the-radar mentors here. While reggae has been imitated, duplicated, modified and magnified the Jawaiian movement remains a major force Koko delivers no-frills snapshots worth your time. Best bet: "Style." But "Guiding Star," "Rude Boy," "One Big Family," "My Woman" and "Struggling Soldier" reflect his vision. Ooklah's Ryan Murakami (aka "Jah Gumby") bumps up the interpretations; too bad the lyrics aren't included.

  • The outlook: Mostly for reggae enthusiasts.

  • Our take: Sometimes, straightforwardness works best; it does here.

    "One Big Family" by Koko. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

    • • •

    "MAUI GIRLS" BY VARIOUS ARTISTS; LYRI-COOL PRODUCTIONS

  • Genre: Contemporary, world music.

  • Distinguishing notes: Five Maui female singers Tiana, Chantelle, Melissa Yanos, Mandi Seekings and Tawney perform 11 songs, some with male duets or backup on this limited-appeal compilation. There's strength in numbers, at least in concept; it might be a hard sell to do a full-on CD based on the efforts here. Still, there's some promise when Tiana sings "Each Time," Chantelle performs "Sweet Love," Mandi inhabits "When I Dream of You" and Melissa wonders about "Should've, Would've, Could've" ... which might have been a mini-review of the disc's saleability.

  • The outlook: Support outside of Maui may be slim.

  • Our take: A convenient way to market budding talent; however, the execution falls short.

    "No More War" by Tiana. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

    • • •

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.