Island Mele


POSTED: Friday, February 13, 2009

”;Cloud Warriors”;

Keli'i Tau'a and David Kauahikaua


; Keli'i Tau'a has been known since the 1970s as a Hawaiian composer and occasional recording artist. David Kauahikaua has had a high-profile career for two decades as Frank DeLima's keyboardist, although his showroom credits go back much farther. In short, Tau'a and Kauahikaua both bring solid musical credentials to this highly significant project.

Call it “;Hawaiian”; because of the lyrics, or “;hapa haole”; because many of the arrangements and much of the instrumentation are not Hawaiian in the traditional sense. But whatever you choose to call it, Tau'a and Kauahikaua are exploring a new frontier in Hawaiian-language music.

True, they are not the first in the last few decades to set Hawaiian lyrics to some type of contemporary “;haole”; (non-Hawaiian) music—jazz, rock, rap or pop—but it hasn't been done often.

“;Place songs”; have been a tradition in Hawaiian music for generations, and almost all of these newly written songs relate to Maui in some way. “;No Ka 'Oi”; celebrates the beauty of several scenic locations, four significant winds and the spirit of the people. Other compositions honor alii, famous clouds or demigods. Another describes the magic of watching a night rainbow over Haiku on a misty evening.

The duo also works in English. They add a memorable lounge-style tune with “;Hana Breeze,”; a romantic paean to the “;village they call heaven by the sea.”;

Traditional chant provides a link to the past in “;Pueo Hoot Hoot,”; a song about how “;one of Hawaii's favorite 'aumakua”; saved a family member from harm. Western percussion adds a contemporary rock feel.

Tradition is also honored—in language and in the choice of instruments—on “;Ka Me'e O Ka Wa,”; as Tau'a and Kauahikaua proclaim the true Hawaiian hero of these days and times as “;the simple kanaka who plants his taro, cares for his family, paddles his canoe or just shares what he has with everyone.”;

The duo reaches out to hula students and the mainstream English-speaking audience alike with an illustrated 14-page liner notes booklet that completes this Grammy-worthy album with the Hawaiian lyrics, English translations and important cultural information.


;» “Ha‘iku Rainbow”
;» “Humuhumunukunuku’apua’a”
;» “Hana Breeze”

”;A Sense of Urgency”;

Upstanding Youth

(Upstanding Youth)

;The frenetic tempo of modern ska makes it a natural vehicle for conveying a feeling of urgency about taking action, be the issue political or personal. Ska veterans Upstanding Youth make another significant contribution with 11 tight, energetic originals that address everything from the dangers of a world at war to the torment of dysfunctional romantic relationships. The collection includes songs that suggest episodes of tension between band members.

It isn't all rock-till-you-drop. The sextet brings the pace down to reggae speed near the mid-point, a rhythmic breather as it were, and then kicks it up again for a rocking lament about having “;empty pockets”; emotionally as well as financially.


;» “Warning Call”
;» “Wailing and Gnashing”
;» “Empty Pockets”