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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 6, 2007

Gems derive inspiration from the past

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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"Ka Lehua 'Ula" by Weldon Kekauoha; 'Ohelo Records

  • Genre: Traditional Hawaiian.

  • Distinguishing notes: Weldon Kekauoha has come a long way since his most-promising artist win in the 2004 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards competition. His solo endeavors, along with his intermittent presence in The Mana'o Company, have earned him an audience and enriched his experiences.

    Through it all, Kekauoha has maintained a keen interest in and commitment to traditional Hawaiian music, and this outing, in which he sings, writes and arranges the music, furthers those admirable goals.

    There are gems galore here. "He Mele No Kaua'i Kuapapa," a composition by Ipolani Vaughan, is a nostalgic place song that speaks of historic Garden Isle haunts.

    "Ka 'Aina Kaulana 'O Hana Nei" is an atmospheric contribution by Kaiolohia Smith about a favored Maui spot, enabling Kekauoha to get into falsetto mode.

    His original song "Ka Lehua 'Ula," about the lehua blossom, sounds like a hula fave in the making, with Hawaiian lyrics and tempo begging choreography.

    The classic "wind" tune, Matthew Kane's "Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha," stirs fresh breezes in Kekauoha's hands. And the little island stands tall with Kekauoha's nahenahe delivery of Val Kepilino's "Mele O Lana'i."

    An enviable musical crew Bobby Ingano (steel), Chino Montero (lead guitar fills), Zanuck Kapala Lindsey (lead guitar fills), Aaron Sala (piano) and Wendell Ching (drums) helps provide the wonderful wrap-around sound to Kekauoha's uke, guitar and bass riffs.

  • Our take: With this release, Kekauoha has reached his zenith; it doesn't get any better than this.

    Sample song: "Ka Lehua 'Ula" by Weldon Kekauoha

    "Kahikina" by Keale; Rhythm & Roots Records

  • Genre: Traditional and contemporary Hawaiian.

  • Distinguishing notes: Walter Keale has shelved his first name for this outing, so as Keale, he carries on a family tradition, singing and sharing Hawaiiana. Keale's uncle is the late Moe Keale, inspirational singer and mentor; the Kamakawiwo'ole icons as in Israel and Skippy were his first cousins. As a member of the emerging group Kaukahi, Keale is also active in another musical realm. But this solo journey revisits tunes from the fondly remembered past.

    Keale takes a slightly rhythmic stance to update "E Ku'u Morning Dew," and puts a solemn stamp and English branding (and laments of "auwe") on "Hawai'i '78." "Uncle Moe" is a reach into the family vaults a Del Beazley composition paying homage to Moe Keale, who is heard here along with nephew Walter in a technological trick. Other mele emulate Moe: "Mele O Hauwahine," "Mele Tutu," "Eia No Makou Nei." The omnipresent 'ukulele, played by Keale (along with native instruments), is another Moe aspect retained here.

    "Ua Nani Ni'ihau," a Keale composition with lyrics by Auntie Emalia Licayan, is a homage to the Keale home, the Forbidden Island, where natural and historic secrets still thrive, and stories of love are enhanced by hidden meaning. The tune, the final one of the disc, is fused with a tribute to na kupuna, members of the Keale 'ohana, rendering of "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World," performed by Keale in the spirit of Iz, complete with lyrics and verse errors and mispronounced words. No mention of Iz, however, on the CD lineup or liner notes a gaffe.

    The gallery of musicians includes David Kahiapo, Chris Lau, Kris Lee, Dwight Kanae, Paul Togioka, Mike Kaawa and Ledward Ka'apana.

  • Our take: Keale honors his family while he strikes a path of his own on "Kahikina."

    Sample song: "E Ku'u Morning Dew" by Keale

    "Island Lion" by Pau Hana; Island Lion Publishing

  • Genre: Island reggae.

  • Distinguishing notes: Reggae party songs prevail here, and the tunes are far better than the inferior CD cover graphics. There's power and juice, and a moving, assertive swagger from Polynesian Bad Boys Shannon K & J-Soul, 'Ukulele Souljah, David "Chap" Mico, Bob "350" Swiegart, George "Sandman" Slayter, Todd "TC" Corrente, Mark Roberti, Hagoth Aiono and Drew Miller, who score points with "Party Going On," "She Was My Lady" and "No."

    The inner grid of graphics would have made a far better cover to lure potential fans; so in this case, don't judge the book by its cover.

  • Our take: This one's mostly for the diehard reggae fans.

    Sample song: "Party Going On" by Pau Hana

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.