When it comes to music, influences can come from any and all sources, and it can also be adapted in many ways too. Check out this live performance from Grammy-winning musician/producer Daniel Ho, as he plays the ‘ukulele to a well known Irish jig. This was performed at Australia’s National Folk Festival last month.
With the amount of music I receive on a regular basis to review, sometimes the albums I’ve been meaning to write about gets pushed back. After hearing the failure that is Ultimate Collection: Songs Of Love, I had to get back to some true blue Hawaiian music treated with respect, da kine that goin’ give me instant chicken skin and make me rock and forth while i CRAI.
Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2: Live From Maui (Daniel Ho Creations) is a live album recorded very well featuring some of the best ki ho’alu (slack key) musicians in Hawaiian music, both old and new. I’ve always been a fan of Dennis Kamakahi guitar work, and his rendition of “No Ke Ano Ahiahi” is similar to the arrangement made famous by The Sons Of Hawai’i on their 1971 Panini album. While the Gabby Pahinui touch isn’t here, I still sense the pride in a song about one who awaits the coming of the night, and what the evening can provide. Richard Ho’opi’i, one half of The Ho’opi’i Brothers, takes things back to the old cha-lang-a-lang style with “Kupa Landing”, while Keoki Kahumoki performs “Kealia” in a way that shows that it can still be relevant to modern times. Despite all of the men that dominate on the album, a wahine is more than capable of playing ki ho’alu and Owana Salazar represents with a fantastic performance of “Makee ‘Ailana”, and takes it home as the song moves along.
Since its release a few months ago, Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2: Live From Maui has been nominated for a Grammy next year, so it will hopefully continue to move people to hear a style of Hawaiian music and guitar playing that was almost left for dead. For me, it reminds me of an old Hawai’i, or at least the Hawai’i I remember growing up in 30 years ago when tuning to KCCN 1420am meant hearing music like this *all the time*. Daniel Ho has done an incredible job preserving these songs and making these live performance available for everyone. I hope he continues to do this with live recordings from other locales, to show how people react to these songs in different settings. As it stands, this is a Hawaiian compilation worth including in your collection and giving to honors.
Singer/actress Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho have united once again in a formula that has won them a Grammy, and the good thing about it is that they’re really good at what they do together. Their new collaborationis called He Nani (Daniel Ho Creations), and as with their earlier albums, Ho handles all of the instrumentation. The songs here range from observing and respecting the land (the title track), which is explored even further in “Ho’opo’omaika’i”, a song which simply says to be thankful through the spirit of aloha. Some of the lyrics are playful and may be considered double entendre, but that’s for you to figure out.
One of the album’s finest moments is what is called The Pumehana Trilogy, which brings together “‘Aina Pumehana”, “Home Pumehana”, and “Me Ke Aloha Pumehana”, a triad of songs that were written by Amy Ku’uleialoha Stillman and Ho as a wedding gift for Ho and his wife, who married last year. What I also like is how Carrere and Ho can be very playful, showing some of Carrere’s old school sensibilities and love of her hanabata days, as she does in “The Dessert Song”. Here, she talks about the delicious German chocolate and French butter cream cakes, pastries with haupia, and occasionally messing up the mouth despite its delights. All someone needs to do now is a song about the greatness of Liliha Bakery, and it will be a sweet tooth battle.
Carrere & Ho are a great duo,and hopefully in the future they’ll be able to bring together not only additional Hawaiian musicians and singers to get involved, but also artists from the rock, pop, and country world, just to see how much more developed the sound could be. However, some may feel that it doesn’t need that, keep things simply without going overboard. It’s good time Hawaiian music with a traditional feel, and a sensibility that comes from those who not only long for the good ol’ days, but those who wish to share it to those in today’s modern world.
It has been a few years since we last heard from Darlene Ahuna, to where I wondered if she decided to retire and never make music professionally again. A few weeks ago I discovered that Ahuna has returned. The liner notes seemed to hint at a few things in life that pulled her away from recording, maybe a mixture of good and bad, but she doesn’t get in detail. Nonetheless, one can listen to the songs and her vocals on Aloha Pumehana (Daniel Ho Creations) and tell… *something*. But again, no need be all maha’oe, but what we can pay attention to is the fact there’s a full length Ahuna album with 10 songs, definitely kicking it old school with that.
On this she does a number of Hawaiian classics and standards, including “Hi’ilawe”, “Pua O Ka Makahala”, “Nani Kaua’i”, and the instant homesick feeling (for me, anyway) of “Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua”, where her vocals and playing of the 12-string guitar will make fans realize that this was worth the weight. She is backed only by co-producer Daniel Ho, who through the help of multi-tracking plays the ‘ukulele, bass, and piano. Even with a full sound like this, it still sounds like a very intimate two person performance, even when the songs are full. Often times when one person is in charge of all of the music, what’s missing is the “other person” element, and that was one of the best things about Ahuna’s previous albums. It’s the fact that there was healthy interaction among three or more people, just like a good kanikapila. The musicianship is fantastic, as is most oh Ho’s productions (he also mixed and mastered this), but to my ears it still sounds like two people in the room.
Again, the end result of this is that it sounds very intimate, and Aloha Pumehana at times sounds like something she would only play among family or very close friends, as if this was a personal diary. There’s an old feel, and those of you who have read my reviews of Hawaiian music or those who know me will know how much I love the artistry of Hawaiian recordings from the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s. When Ahuna reaches the high notes in “Nani Kaua’i”, and Ho reaches in for the bass to hit the low notes after a few bars, it goes back to the days of backyard luaus, baby showers, and neverending Sunday’s, a time when no other radio station mattered but KCCN. If the weekend meant knowing your grandfather would come over to bring over huli huli chicken, enough to where it would be lunch and dinner that day, right on. Ho’s piano work gives Ahuna’s songs a slightly jazzy and cabaret feel, not unlike some of Robert Cazimero‘s more elaborate work, check out “Waiehu” for the proof. If anything, Aloha Pumehana is a testament to the talent of Ahuna, and it is fantastic to hear her at home once again.
Congratulations are in order for Tia Carrere & Daniel Ho for winning the Best Hawaiian Music Album award for their collaboration album, Ikena (as reviewed in The Run-Off Groove #227.) The award was given out during the pre-broadcast ceremonies.
(The album can be ordered directly from Daniel Ho Creations.)