Star-Bulletin Features

Photo courtesy of Hapa
Some fans would like to see Keali'i Kaneali'i
and Barry Flanagan perform in pareau and kilt,
but it's not likely to happen soon.


A two-man music factory

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Most recording artists follow the standard cyclical pattern: Record an album. Release the album. Release as many singles as possible off the album. Return to studio and record another next album.

Not Hapa.

Barry Flanagan and Keali'i Kaneali'i found it more interesting to work on three completely different projects simultaneously.

"Almost four if you include the (1995) Christmas album, and there's more to come," Flanagan clarified over lunch at Bernard's New York Deli last week.

(New York-born and a long-time New Jersey native, he recommends the pastrami.)

"We'd work on one until we got bored and then do something else. A little here, a little there. In the middle of the surf stuff we'd do a Christmas song - like at 4:30 in the morning - save the ears," Kaneali'i added.

The creative cross-pollination spawned "In the Name of Love" (unofficially known as "Hapa II"), which was released in July as the long-anticipated follow-up to the duo's self-titled mega-hit 1993 debut album. The next album, "Surf Madness" was released this week.

"We don't own electric guitars," Flanagan says, explaining that "Surf Madness" began as an exercise to test newly installed sound gear at Studio Kahala. The project took on a life of it own and became full-length celebration of the classic "surf guitar" sound of the early '60s.

"We recorded about 52 songs," Flanagan, the self-styled "studio rat," adds.

Yet another completely different project is scheduled for release in 1998.

"People on the mainland seem to be more into ('In the Name of Love')," Kaneali'i says cautiously. To date, the album doesn't appear to be as big locally as the 1993 album was; Flanagan believes "it's a matter of time."

Time has certainly accelerated for the duo in recent years. They met at a party in 1983, several years after Flanagan arrived in the islands. Ten years later they released their debut album, "Hapa." ("It was eight years of trying to get $70- or $80-grand together to do a top-shelf production, and two years trying to finish it while working full-time," Flanagan recalls.)

The album won six categories at the 1994 Hoku Awards. Two of Flanagan's compositions - "Lei Pikake" and "Ku'ulei Ku'uipo" became instant musical signatures.

Among the stops on the way to fame was a gig at a Lahaina restaurant named Cheese Burger in Paradise. Flanagan and Kaneali'i will doubtlessly experience a bit of deja vu when they play at a invitation-only event this Saturday for the pre-opening of Cheese Burger in Paradise in Waikiki.

(Hapa will give a public concert at the Waikiki Shell in December; a 1998 date at the Hawai'i Theatre is pending.)

"People ask us where we're playing, but there aren't that may places you can play where people are there to listen (to you)," Kaneali'i said.

Flanagan adds, "We've worked up a nice two-hour show with Charles Kaupu who chants with us and is more of a storyteller.

"Instead of (us) just playing music he comes out to set things up. He's very eloquent and adds a nice level of Hawaiian class to the show along with the chanting and our hula dancer, Healani Yuen.

"It's really changed the appeal of the show, but it's not the kind of stuff you can do in a bar."

If Flanagan had his choice, there would be a Hawaiian music showroom somewhere with the ambience of the Bishop Museum. "The Brothers Cazimero at Bishop Museum was the greatest Hawaiian show I've ever seen," he said. "It was the total Hawaiian experience."

In the meantime, Hapa is more visible as a mainland concert act than here at home. Flanagan says some fans expect them to perform as pictured on the cover of "In the Name of Love," in which both are bare-chested. Flanagan wears a kilt and Kaneali'i is in a pareau.

"It would be too cold," Kaneali'i emphatically points out.

Nor are they likely to perform in the thrift-shop garb they wear as "Axel & Barneldo" on the cover of "Surf Madness."

Will they ever?

Flanagan considers the idea: "Maybe sometime for an encore."

Do It Electric!

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