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Star-Bulletin Features


Sunday, November 25, 2001


art

"Wa'ahila"
Various artists

Album captures Manoa but
lacks a few key songs


Review by John Berger
jberger@starbulletin.com

Songs about special places are a popular tradition in Hawaiian music. This compilation album produced and released in conjunction with an upcoming book, "Kahalaopuna: The Beauty of Manoa," consists in part of songs about Manoa Valley. A couple of obvious "Manoa songs" are missing, and some songs aren't about Manoa at all, but there's no faulting the craftsmanship of the music.

Appreciating these songs may require prior knowledge of the songs' history since most are Hawaiian rather than hapa-haole. "Ka Beauty A'o Manoa" won a Hoku Award for composer Tony Conjugacion. It is heard here as recorded by Maunalua; the Hoku Award-winning trio does a fine job with it.

Three other Hoku winners also distinguish themselves. Ku'uipo Kumukahi's "Nani Manoa" is exquisite. Robert Cazimero's "Rain Tuahine" and O'Brien Eselu's "Kahalaopuna" are also standouts.

Kala'i Stern, a Hoku winner with 'Ale'a, sings "Rain," a modern hapa-haole song set to a Colón-style arrangement. Pai'ea's rendition of "No Kou Aloha E" reaffirms their place as peers of 'Ale'a and Maunalua and one of the top young neo-traditionalist Hawaiian groups.

Most island residents don't understand Hawaiian, but the order of the songs may tell a story. "Rain" is the first song and by far the most contemporary, English lyrics disappear entirely in the middle third of the album, and "No Loko Ku'u 'Upu" closes things with a chant by kumu hula Leina'ala Kalama Heine.

But who picked the songs? "Another Rainbow" and "The Rainbow Connection" don't mention Manoa at all. Joanie Komatsu's "Moon Over Manoa" and "Manoa Rain" by Rob Schwend and Gary Kewley would have been better choices for an album about the beauty of Manoa.

John Feary ("Blue Manoa") and Kenneth Makuakane ("Ku'u Home 'O Manoa") support the nominal theme.


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