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Saturday, July 2, 2005
Hawaiians were probably as familiar with the violin during the late 19th century as they were with the guitar, and they were playing the acoustic string bass in its original Western context as the bottom instrument of a string quartet many years before they picked up the modern jazz-style "slapping" technique that anchors the rhythm section in cha-lang-alang groups today.
History aside, violinists in particular will enjoy the musicians' work. Folks with a more general interest in music will find the quartet's imaginative project a striking example of the many possibilities for innovation within mainstream Hawaiian music. The biggest difference here is that violin and guitar share the melodic duties instead of guitar and ukulele.
Gypsy Pacific's arrangements of "Sophisticated Hula" and "Hawaiian War Chant" are good benchmarks for comparing the quartet's "gypsy jazz" approach with traditional Hawaiian and hapa-haole music. "On A Little Street in Singapore" has been "local" by adoption since the Peter Moon Band recorded it in 1982. "Beyond the Sea" doesn't really fit the concept in terms of its origin, but the theme was a popular one in 20th century hapa-haole music.
Gypsy Pacific offers exciting listening for people looking for fresh ideas in Hawaiian music.
"More Authentic Island Songs"Mahi Beamer
Hula Records has always set high standards for recording and packaging Hawaiian music. This re-issue -- produced by Donald P. "Flip" McDiarmid III and with revised annotation by Mahi and Gaye Beamer -- is perfect in every way.
People who know Beamer only as the legendary "Uncle Mahi" will again be amazed as these recordings reaffirm his billing as "...Hawaii's most remarkable voice," and one of the great Hawaiian male falsetto singers of the 20th century.
As with his first album, Beamer featured the compositions of his grandmother, Helen Desha Beamer; the one exception is a chant, "Ka Ha'a La Puna," that had been performed by the family for many years. The album shares another important slice of Helen Desha Beamer's musical legacy. It includes "Halehuki," which she wrote about the family home across the Wailuku River from Hilo town, and "Pua Malihini," a wedding gift for her son-in-law, Charles Dahlberg.
With 12 pages of annotation, including song lyrics, translations and cultural information, this re-issue is a perfect introduction to Mahi Beamer and his music. Aside from the music itself, the most important reason to buy this re-issue is because it includes Mahi's new translations by of his grandmother's lyrics.
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"Don't Stop The Feeling"Aaron Aranita
The most interesting tracks are the contemporary recordings that feature Russian jazz legend Valery Ponomarev on trumpet. Ponomarev was hit on Honolulu's jazz scene when he came out for some gigs in 2004. Ponomarev's solos on "Jazzamba" and "Never Say Never" are fine mementos of his stay here and make the album of interest outside Hawaii.
Aranita produced the album, as well as played or "programed" several instruments in the various sessions. He proves especially astute in choosing the order in which each song is heard. The musical journey starts off on a promising note, spending a considerable amount of time revisiting the 1980s, and then soars to a cheerful conclusion.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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