Island Mele

John Berger

Friday, May 7, 2004



"Keiki Kupuna"

Dennis Pavao
The Mountain Apple Co.

This album contains songs Pavao recorded shortly before his death two years ago. Leialoha Pavao contributes an eloquent eulogy to her husband and reveals that he made these recordings "for our children," but doesn't acknowledge the songwriters, let alone share the meaning of the songs or why Dennis thought them important.

Even so, the music is beautiful. From the opening "Kupuna," an earnest look back to an idealized past, to the final expansive rendition of "Love Song of Kalua," Pavao never sounded better. "My Darling" reaffirms his place as one of the great Hawaiian falsetto voices of the last century.

Pavao (on Tahitian ukulele and guitar) and Kalama-Ku Koanui (steel guitar and bass) are the key musicians and keep the sound traditional for the most part, but studio embellishments have rarely been used to better effect than they are here.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "Kupuna"
Bullet "My Darling"
Bullet "I Love You"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info




Kauakoko Foundation

The living legacy of kumu hula Robert Cazimero is evident throughout this album by two longtime students and protégés. There's plenty of Cazimero-style piano, a cute skit that bookends a song about surfing, and choral arrangements reminiscent of Cazimero's recordings with his halau.

There's also the name. Some people refer to the Brothers Cazimero as "The Caz," and now here come Karl Veto Baker and Michael Lanakila Casupang performing as KUmZ. The spelling looks like a hip-hop rendering of the word "kumus," but the music is Hawaiian throughout. Most of the songs are originals from within the halau.

The liner notes for this perfect Hawaiian album share lyrics, translations and background information on such topics as the deeper meanings in a song about falling water, and the circumstances that inspired "an obituary for Hawaii."

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "Ku'u Mana'o la 'Oe"
Bullet "Live On... My Hawai'i"
Bullet "Just Around the Corner"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info



"Straight to the Top"

So Divine

So Divine is a quartet that enlisted producer Pierre Grill to back them on keyboards. Grill makes them sound bigger than four guys playing guitars, ukulele and bass. The group didn't need the help. Had So Divine recorded this album on their own, they likely would have sounded more original. Like a Jawaiian string quartet instead of a clone of every other Jawaiian band out there.

Catchy Jawaiian originals are the studio group's forte. Some of the lyrics to their ballads have the earnest awkwardness of middle-school poetry. "Give to You," while their best ballad, needs a stronger arrangement.

But don't count these guys out. Both the title track and "Groovin'" are songs tailor-made for island music radio. "Queen's Jubilee" shows that So Divine can sing Hawaiian songs just as well.

Write to:
SD Records
84-937 Hanalei St.
Waianae, HI 96792

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "Straight to the Top"
Bullet "Give to You"
Bullet "Queen's Jubilee"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info

See the Columnists section for some past reviews.

John Berger, who has covered the local entertainment scene since 1972, writes reviews of recordings produced by Hawaii artists. See the Star-Bulletin's Today section on Fridays for the latest reviews. Contact John Berger at


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