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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 28, 2006

ISLAND SOUNDS
'Shack 4' blends local, global reggae with melodious vibes

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

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"Island Love Shack 4" compiles reggae and Jawaiian tracks ... with a romantic posture. It's like having a party, with a bunch of all-stars dropping in.

"Drum Beats of the Pacific" not only explores the rhythms of Rarotonga, but shows you how to create those hypnotic percussion sounds, too.

"Through the Years" is a recapitulation of the many charms of the Kamehameha Alumni Glee Club.

"ISLAND LOVE SHACK 4" BY VARIOUS ARTISTS; NEOS PRODUCTIONS

  • Genre: Reggae, world music.

  • Distinguishing notes: Another compilation of local and global reggae meisters (18 of them) zooms in on the more melodic and romantic side of reggae and Jawaiian. B.E.T.'s "If It Ain't Real Love" (punctuated by splendid 'ukulele work) leads the pack; but there are other charmers. Like: "Angel," by Shaggy (with Rayvon); "Hopin' and Prayin'" by Natural Vibrations; "I Want a Love I Can See," by Bitty McLean and Rocky Brown; "Take This Raft," by iNoA'ole; "Tropically Fine," by O-shen; "Here I Am," by Reid Hashiro; "Down in the Valley," by Ekolu; and "Groove Witcha," by Norm. The disc lists related CDs by the acts and lacks enlightening liner notes. Still, since most folks simply insert the CD and start jammin', who's to quibble?

  • The outlook: If you've subscribed to earlier volumes, this will satisfy your romantic spirit.

  • Our take: This one's very much like having a party at home, with a retinue of all-stars taking the mike.

    "DRUM BEATS OF THE PACIFIC" BY JON JONASSEN; HULA RECORDS

  • Genre: World music; drum selections from Rarotonga in the South Cook Islands.

  • Distinguishing notes: If you've ever been to a Tihati Productions revue or the Polynesian Cultural Center's centerpiece main show, you know there comes a time when the drummer goes into a frenzy, often with wiggling hips, shimmying legs and arms following the tempo. This disc, by master drummer Jon Jonassan, captures the spirit and soul of such a moment. "Tiavaru," the opening track, sets the pace.

    You won't be familiar with the songs, but who cares the frenetic percussion work defining the syncopation of a culture needs no explanation. Some vocals augment specific tracks, like on "Tiavaru," and the liner booklet is laden with valid and helpful illustrations of drums and sticks ... even quick lessons on how to sound like a native.

    Lyrics are provided; not that you'd sing along. But translations and brief explanations shed light on the material.

  • The outlook: Not for everyone, but this entry should have appeal to those who are culturally curious about what makes a drum tick.

  • Our take: Beat the drums; this is a rare find.

    "THROUGH THE YEARS" BY THE KAMEHAMEHA ALUMNI GLEE CLUB; HULA RECORDS

  • Genre: Hawaiian choral music.

  • Distinguishing notes: The Kamehameha Alumni Glee Club has a cherished history as part of the Kamehameha Schools campus, but it also maintains a life of its own apart from the school. Since the glee club started in the 1950s, the alums have embraced a rich repertoire of Island mele, imposing their mostly a cappella choral style (frequently embellished with music) and creating their own treasures. This disc compiles 20 tracks that span the decade, displaying the purity of the voices and the simplicity of the selections in a choral environment.

    "Honolulu," " 'Ulili E," "Hi'ilawe," "Kamehameha March," "Lei of Stars" and a couple of medleys bring back memories and demonstrate the lasting appeal of this storied group.

    As is the Hula Records tradition, liner historical notes only amplify the versatility and importance of the glee men and women.

  • The outlook: Voices in harmony, songs that have shelf life; who can ask for anything more?

  • Our take: A wonderful stroll down memory lane.

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.