Wasted led way
to wider audience
for Makaha Sons
Makaha Sons Sing GoldenBy John Berger
Hawaiian Melodies. Review below
Special to the Star-Bulletin
JEROME Koko, the Makaha Sons' fast-quipping master of ceremonies, has been promoting the group's latest album in his own inimitable style.
"I've been telling people in the shows that we were doing a hapa-haole album because our traditional CDs wasn't selling, so we're going for a million with this one -- or we will do a reggae album next. No, a country-and-western one, then reggae!"
"The Makaha Sons Sing Golden Hawaiian Melodies," the group's fifth album, was released and delivered to local record stores Tuesday.
It is a change of focus for the Sons, primarily in that almost all the songs are English rather than Hawaiian. Back in their days as the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau, the group rarely recorded songs with English lyrics. "Pakalolo," by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, was a notable exception, and it was due to Kamakawiwo'ole's influence as much as anyone's that the old group's live repertoire also included "The Curly Shuffle," "Wasted on the Way" and songs about pakalolo (marijuana) and cocaine.
Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, leader of the Makaha Sons, is a traditionalist when it comes to Hawaiian music but he believes in running the group as a democracy. Kauakahi stuck to his principles even when his bandmates, John and Jerome Koko, agreed to record the album of Territorial Era hapa-haole songs.
"The reason we're doing more English songs is that we're doing a lot of tours now -- touring the mainland, touring Japan. They're more familiar with the hapa-haole songs," John explained.
The popularity of the drug songs of the past showed that Sons' fans would accept English-language songs, but Kauakahi says he felt the Sons should record traditional Hawaiian music.
"I think it started with 'Wasted on the Way.' I never expected to record it. I think we needed one more song and I was planning to do a traditional song but Israel, John and Jerry outvoted me. I was working on the arrangement I thought we were going to do and Lea (Uehara, Poki Records president) came out into the lobby and told me that everybody wanted to do 'Wasted on the Way' and I said 'No. No. No. No.'
"I think we stayed out in the lobby for almost an hour and I finally gave in and we recorded 'Wasted on the Way.'
"From that time on it became a pattern. Even though we would do all traditional Hawaiian music, there would be something out of the ordinary that we would put on the album."
The Sons explored an impressive assortment of hapa-haole (half foreign or half non-Hawaiian) music on the 1996 album, "Kuikawa," with selections that included several hapa-haole medleys. An imaginative blending of "Spanish Harlem," "Spanish Eyes" and "Los Dos" was one of the highlights. Another was the medley that tied Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs' "Ta-Ha-Ua-La" with a contemporary hapa-haole song, " 'Round in Waikiki," written by Kauakahi.
The new album took a year-and-a-half to complete. The Sons tour nine months a year despite Kauakahi's full-time day job with the Army National Guard. Between touring and appearing as guests on other artists albums, the Sons found they finally had to make time to finish their own.
"The scary part about this album is that now that it's finished and you listen to the final product it's beautiful. I enjoy it," said John. "Jerome, do you enjoy it?"
"It's wonderful," Jerome agrees. His eyes sparkle mischievously.
"Moon?" John asks innocently.
Kauakahi looks at both of them and hides a smile.
"I have no comment."
Fresh take on isle classics
The Makaha Sons Sing Golden Hawaiian Melodies
Makaha Sons (Poki - SPCD 9063)
By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin
THE Makaha Sons again display their talent and imagination as song stylists with this collection of island classics.
Like the Cazimeros before them, the Sons don't duplicate the arrangements of the Territorial Era. Each song here is presented in new and distinctive style. It's 100 percent Makaha Sons, but the group accords each selection the traditional dignity and respect it deserves. Many of the songs were written by Hawaiians or island-born composers such as R. Alex Anderson.
A masterful reinterpretation of "Blue Hawaii" offers a dramatic alternative to the familiar version recorded by Elvis Presley in 1961. The Sons' treatment of "Lahaina Luna" is likewise a fresh look at a local standard.
Nina Keali'iwahamana joins the trio for a more traditional take on "Ke Kali Ne Au"/"The Hawaiian Wedding Song."
The Sons' familiar, smooth harmonies and traditional acoustic instrumentation -- featuring John Koko on acoustic bass, Jerome Koko and Moon Kauakahi on acoustic guitars -- is the common denominator. Michael Grande does a fine job over all in slipping a synthetic string section under the trio on several numbers, but the Sons really should have had a live horn section backing them on "Get Hep to Swing."
Mpeg Audio Clips:
Keep Your Eyes On The Hands
Ke Kali Nei Au
with Nina Kealiiwahamana
Quicktime | MPEG-3 info
Tropical Music, P.O. Box 1494, Honolulu, HI 96806
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