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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 7, 2007

'Ukulele newbie partners with greats on debut CD

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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"Food for the Soul" by Shaun Reyes; Kani Makou Entertainment

  • Genre: 'Ukulele instruments, some vocals.

  • Distinguishing notes: For Pauoa-raised performer Shaun Reyes, now a Hawai'i Kai resident, music has been a hobby. He earned a degree in fire and environmental response and worked with the fire department. But he counts among his pals Jake Shimabukuro, Herb Ohta Jr., Vernon Sakata and Gary Shimabukuro and claims mentorship by Jon Yamasato, Dave Tucciarone, BB Shawn and Natural Vibrations, so it's not surprising that some Yamasato, Ohta, Sakata, along with Nathan Aweau participate on his debut CD, which showcases his frisky strumming.

    The happy mix of old and new Ohta plucks marvelously on "Hi'ilawe," "Liani" features Sakata, "Nathan's Song" (of course) has fingerprints from Aweau himself suggests that Reyes also has good advisers, seeking a broad fan base.

    "Into the Mystic" is a gentle entry in the folk vein, with Reyes providing vocals. "On and On," the Stephen Bishop classic, is another Reyes vocal that welcomes those Gibson women, Maila and Kanoe, with blessedly sweet harmonies.

    "Kawika" is that classic revisited with precise fingering and an arrangement that reaches to a new generation of potential fans. "No Ke Ano Ahiahi" is another oldie retooled with vocals.

    "You Don't Know Me" is another demonstration of Reyes' eloquent fingers. If folks tune in to Reyes' craft, they certainly will know and love him, the way the community has embraced strummers such as Ohta and Daniel Ho, who continue to bolster the uke tradition.

    Reyes might have opted to provide liner notes to extend interest and narrow the gap for those curious to know a bit more about him and his music.

  • Our take: "Food" is nourishing stuff, from a newbie with great potential.

    Sample song: "Kawika" by Shaun Reyes

    "Na Lani 'Eha" by Ku'uipo Kumukahi and the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders

  • Genre: Traditional Hawaiian.

  • Distinguishing notes: "Na Lani 'Eha" is an assembly of familiar tunes composed by the royals that is, the artistic and creative side of Kalakaua, Lili'uokalani, Leleiohoku and Likelike. Ku'uipo Kumukahi, who is both lead singer and an instrumentalist with the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders (Dr. Isaac Akuna, James Kimo Stone, Joe Winchester, Steve Kramer and narrator Karen Aiu), fronts the historic parade of tunes that commoners have enjoyed for years.

    Much of the fare already is enmeshed in the fabric of Hawai'i's music, from Kala-kaua's anthem "Hawai'i Pono'i" to his "Koni Au," from Lili'u's "Ke Aloha O Ka Haku" to her "He 'Ala Nei E Mapu Mai Nei," from Leleiohoku's "Moani Ke 'Ala" to Likelike's "'Ainahau."

    The renderings are no-frills-traditional, perhaps the way the royals might have had them performed for backyard jams or ceremonial gatherings, with small combo support and earnest yet ebullient vocalizing. Kumukahi surely represents a songbird schooled in sharing the style of the old for the current listener, with a voice that serves as the requisite bridge between then and now.

    While handsomely packaged, with historical photos of the composers and archival design, the CD would have served the audience with a few more insights about the mission of the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame to preserve and perpetuate the culture and music of the past. This is a wonderful start to expose the public to the goals and provide the product that links the generation of history with the generation of now and the future.

  • Our take: Part history lesson, part modern serenade, all in the old-fashioned style.

    Sample song: "Hawai'i Pono'i" by Ku'uipo Kumukahi and The Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders

    "Field of Stones" by D. Shoji Nakamoto; DSN Creative Art

  • Genre: Adult contemporary.

  • Distinguishing notes: Derek Shoji Nakamoto is a singer-guitarist-composer focusing on the folkie style of the 1970s and '80s. He's had somewhat of a career, doing small gigs and parties to pursue what appears to be a lifelong passion.

    His melodies are an echo of the past, when Gordon Lightfoot and Paul Simon frequented the charts. The 14 songs are melodic, personal, reflective, dealing with human emotions that speak of relationships, family and loved ones, with titles such as "Field of Stones," "Sandcastles in the Rain," "By the Light of Summer's Moon."

    The CD, clearly a labor of love, is self-produced with a longtime pal, Karl Nishio, and certainly caps a goal to get his songbag Out There. Commercial, it's not; it offers, however, a simple and honest path to the heart and soul of a poet who has things to share. It's not what radio is playing, and that is a challenge for anyone making a recording. Appeal is limited, but his die-hard fans will welcome an actual recording to take home to play.

  • Our take: This might be termed a vanity recording, but Nakamoto shares a lot of earnest desire.

    Sample song: "Avalon" by Derek Shoji Nakamoto

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.