"Hawaiiana" Tia Carrere (Daniel Ho Creations)
Strong 'Hawaiiana' heralds Carrere's return to roots
HAWAII knew her first as Althea Janairo,* a contestant in KIKI's "Brown Bags to Stardom" talent competition in the 1980s. The world has embraced her as Tia Carrere, a glamorous actress/singer whose film credits stretch from "Wayne's World" and "True Lies" in the early 1990s, to providing the voice of Lilo's sister, Nani, in Disney's animated "Lilo and Stitch," and its sequels.
"Hawaiiana," produced by two-time Grammy Award-winner Daniel Ho, a friend from Carrere's "Brown Bags" days, is a musical return to the songs she grew up with. With Ho providing accompaniment on ukulele and slack-key guitar, it is a perfect homecoming.
Carrere opens with "Aloha 'Oe," an odd choice given the song's kaona (hidden meanings) but a shrewd one considering that this is the song that people who know her from "Lilo and Stitch" are most likely to recognize. Although it's been more than 20 years since "Brown Bags," and more than a decade since her last full-length album, Carrere reaffirms her credentials as a singer and song stylist with the first few verses. It isn't hard at all to visualize "Hawaiiana" as a winner in the 2008 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards -- and perhaps in the Best Hawaiian Album category at the Grammys as well.
That impression is maintained through the songs that follow as Carrere and Ho carry on with exquisite renditions of popular Hawaiian and hapa-haole standards. "He Aloha Mele," "Pupu Hinuhinu" and "Hi'ilawe" are three that merit particular comment. Each has been done many times over the years, but Carrere and Ho make their versions worth hearing. For instance, Carrere captures the hapa-haole imagery and the parental love contained in "He Aloha Mele." "Hi'ilawe" is often performed as a hula song, but Carrere and Ho emphasize the lyrics rather than the rhythm. This works well, too.
An acoustic arrangement of "Sing" adds one of Carrere's favorite oldies to the project, and perhaps will bring mainstream play on "easy-listening" radio. Carrere's tranquil take on "Po La'i E (Silent Night)" gives her entrée to seasonal radio play forever.
Ho wisely keeps studio add-ons minimal. Carrere's multitracked vocals create a choral effect on "Pupu Hinuhinu," but the instrumental arrangements are clean and acoustic throughout. No synth tracks mar the natural acoustic beauty of these recordings. Ho's guitar and ukulele are all that are needed to make "Hawaiiana" one of the prettiest Hawaiian albums so far this year.
Carrere and Ho complete this beautiful album by including her comments about the personal significance of the songs and archival photos of her early years here.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Tia Carrere's real name is Althea Janairo. We originally misspelled her last name as Janario in this article.