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Star-Bulletin Features


Tuesday, January 1, 2002


The year ahead



’02 not the year
Jawaiian dies,
but look out


By John Berger
jberger@starbulletin.com

Can anyone accurately predict the future? Not likely, but we can make a few guesses. What will 2002 hold for us in terms of entertainment? Most likely, more of the same.

>> Jawaiian vs. non-Jawaiian: The division between reggae-beat music and other styles of local music will continue to be the great divide in the music scene here. No type of music here evokes stronger feelings pro and con.

Jawaiian is to local music what disco was to the national music scene in the late 1970s -- new (since 1990), different, controversial. The "Disco Sucks" movement has its counterpart here in the bumper stickers that show the word "Jawaiian" covered by the international symbol for "No."

"Island music" has become a synonym for "Jawaiian" but the island culture represented is Jamaican, not Hawaiian.

However, as disco evolved into "dance music" so is Jawaiian/"island music." Fiji, an "island music" and local rap innovator, has been distancing himself from the old imitation-Jamaican sound while slipping in a stronger sense of his Fijian heritage. Sean Na'auao, an old-time Jawaiian as a member of Mana'o Company, has also been working on new style of contemporary hapa-haole music with Jamaican influences. He is also setting an example for young musicians by reclaiming his Hawaiian heritage.

With Willie K releasing his first traditional Hawaiian album in 2001, and a new generation of like-minded musicians coming along, we can expect to see traditional Hawaiian music become more visible in 2002. Other artists, Reign for one, will continue their experiments with musical formulas that retain Jamaican rhythms to some extent but are less derivative of Afro-Caribbean music.

As unpalatable as it is for many traditionalists to accept, the day will come when some form of reggae-beat music will be considered much a legitimate part of Hawaii's musical history as the hapa-haole hits of years past.

>> 2002 = A tough year for entertainment: The impact of the Sept. 11 attacks on Hawaii's fragile economy will make this another tough year for the local industry. Fewer visitors spending money here means fewer visitor industry workers with money to spend and a downturn across the board. Fewer people will feel they can afford to go out and party, and clubs have to layoff workers and cut costs to survive. One place to cut costs is entertainment; a band is replaced by a duo or a soloist, or no entertainment at all.

The proposed 100 percent increase in the state liquor tax will only make things worse. If the price of alcohol goes up more people will decide to skip the clubs, buy beverages at a liquor store where the cost per ounce is lower, and drink anywhere other than clubs and restaurants.

>> More local recordings: Hawaii's record industry came out with slightly more new titles in 2001 than in 2000. The pace didn't slacken after dark September, and a number of local artists are now finishing albums that will be released early this year.

Hawaii's major local labels may be a little more conservative this year but we can expect to see many new titles from aspiring stars who have the means to record and assemble self-produced CDs at home. The on-line music industry is still below the radar but will become increasingly visible in 2002 as on-line artists become more adept at marketing and promoting their work.


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