Island Mele


POSTED: Friday, February 27, 2009

”;Auntie May's Hula Favorites”;

May Kamai

; This album of traditional Hawaiian music is a delightful collection of standards performed hula-style—with no instrumental breaks—by “;Aunty May”; Kamai and an all-star trio: producer William “;Baba”; Alimoot (bass and ukulele), Dwight Kanae (guitar and ukulele), and Casey Olsen (steel guitar).

Kamai and the guys set the mood with the first verse of their opening number, “;Kaulana Moloka'i,”; and maintain it throughout the eleven songs that follow. Kamai's soprano vocals are smoothly supported by the high harmonies of the trio, while Olsen embellishes the strummed melodies with the sweetness of steel guitar.

But in keeping with tradition, the arrangements are first and foremost about the voices and the all-important lyrics. Hula does not exist without lyrics in one language or another.

“;E Huli Makou,”; “;Ipo Hula”; and “;Mauna Loa”; are among the classics revived and freshly interpreted here.

At a time when all too many “;new”; Hawaiian CDs are re-issues of beloved vintage recordings, it is wonderful to have new versions of these evergreens—for use by hula dancers, and simply for their beauty.

Hula Records has set a high standard over the years with its liner notes, and producer Alimoot maintains that tradition by including English translations and cultural information.



;» “Kaulana Moloka‘i”
;» “Lei Nani”
;» “E Huli Makou”

”;Searider Productions Presents ... Jam Sessions”;

Various artists
(Searider Productions)

; If “;jam sessions”; implies some kind of casual improv project, this release does not fit the bill. Rather, this collection of recordings by Waianae High School students consists of carefully crafted original music. Some songs sound ready for play on Hawaii's self-styled “;island music”; radio stations as is. They all are worthy representatives of the next generation of talented local writers and recording artists.

Shawn Fonoti demonstrates his command of the familiar Jawaiian idiom, and also delivers a positive socially conscious message, with “;One Love (Family).”; “;I'm In Love,”; a Jawaiian slow-jam, introduces a promising female vocalist whose name, unfortunately, is not in the liner notes.

The mood changes towards the end of the album as an unidentified male singer presents a wistful “;wish you would notice me”; love song (”;Wonderful”;), and Alexis Mason describes her search for the right man with an edgy hip-hop tune, “;I Want A Soldier.”;

Credit David “;DJ2X”; Peterson, Mika Pitolo and Keoki Van Blyenburg with sharing their expertise with the young artists.

“;Jam Sessions”; is available online at iTunes, amazonmp3, napster and several other outlets.



;» “I Need Your Love”
;» “Love Mood”
;» “Wonderful”

”;Daini shu”;

Shinsei Band

; Michael Cord brought back welcome memories for many older Japanese-Americans in 2000, when he took the calculated risk of re-issuing a series of Japanese-language recordings released in Hawaii after World War II.

An anthology, “;Hawaiian Nisei Songs,”; which Cord originally thought would sell only in Japan, did so well here and on the West Coast that it was followed by two larger collections. Those recordings were by Club Nisei, a major Japanese-American band of the era, and all of them had been out of print since the demise of George Ching's 49th State Hawaii label in the 1950s.

Cord is now expanding his Japanese catalog with the reissue of this album by the Shinsei Band. Japanese-Americans of a certain age will recognize Shinsei as being from the mainland—San Francisco, to be exact—but anyone who welcomed the Club Nisei reissues will be interested in this re-release as well.

And, in addition to the 10 songs that were on the original album, released by Golden State Records in 1969, Cord is including two versions of a Shinsei Band single, “;Sakura Matsuri Ondo,”; as well.

Translations are not included in the liner notes of this economically packaged album, but presumably most of its target audience speaks Japanese.



;» “Meoto Shunshu”
;» “Koko Ga Ii No Yo”
;» “Gunkan March”


Jake Shimabukuro

; Jake Shimabukuro has been known as a charismatic stage performer ever since he burst on the local entertainment scene as a member of Pure Heart in 1998. Shimabukuro gave Pure Heart its visual sizzle—playing rhythm, playing lead, it didn't matter—and his solo performances since then have been almost as interesting to watch as they were to hear.

Shimabukuro approaches his music and his live performances from a different perspective with this self-produced album. The 20 tracks represent shows in eight different venues in the United States and Japan. The key difference is that they capture him playing in the moment, and for a live audience, rather than for a tech crew in a sterile studio environment—and yet, unlike some “;live”; albums, these tracks are certainly not “;any old jam will do”; material. Shimabukuro sounds as sharp as ever.

Most of the melodies are originals, but he also includes a piece by Bach, one from Chick Corea (”;Spain”;), a Japanese folk song and “;While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”;

The stand-out number for many fans will probably be “;Thriller,”; as Shimabukuro pays homage to Michael Jackson (and composer Rod Temperton) with a driving and dramatic arrangement of Jackson's mega-hit.

Other listeners will enjoy the range of his original work as a composer and musician. Shimabukuro can thrill a concert crowd with super-fast strumming, and several tracks capture that facet of his repertoire. On other selections, the emphasis is on precise note-by-note fingering and execution. He also demonstrates the dramatic impact that can be achieved when he allows each note a moment of silence in which to “;breathe”; before he plays the next one.

Bravo, Jake! Bravo!

Note: “;Live”; goes on advance sale at Target Hawaii Stores on March 8. Its release date is April 14.



;» “Piano-Forte”
;» “Bach Two-Part Invention No. 4 in D minor”
;» “Thriller”