A homage to exotica


POSTED: Friday, August 28, 2009

'Adventures in Paradise'

The Waitiki 7
(Pass Out)

; Lopaka Colon is much too modest and self-spoken to claim the title, but he is without doubt the foremost “;exotica”; percussionist of his generation. His father, Augie Colon, created the genre with Martin Denny more than 50 years ago, and Lopaka has perpetuated his father's legacy as a member of Pure Heart, Don Tiki and now with the Waitiki 7.

The septet—Colon, Jim Benoit, Zaccai Curtis, Abe Lagrimas Jr., Helen Liu, Tim Mayer and Randy Wong—pays homage to the founders of exotica with new arrangements of tunes by Denny, Lex Baxter and Lionel Newman. Seven originals bring the genre into the new century.

Colon's animal calls add the trademark jungle ambience to several numbers; vibes or xylophone do the trick elsewhere. Liu's violin takes the exotic concept in another direction on “;L'ours Chinios.”;

Producers Wong and Meyer complete the album with information on the group and the genre, and include recipes for exotica-themed drinks and pupus.


;» ”;Coronation”;
;» ”;Totem Pole”;
;» ”;Manila”;


Keli'i Kaneali'i
(Mountain Apple Co.)

; It takes nothing away from the artistic accomplishments of the talented twosome currently performing as HAPA—Barry Flanagan and Nathan Aweau—to note that the original duo consisted of guitar virtuoso Flanagan and guitarist/vocalist Keli'i Kaneali'i. It was Flanagan and Kaneali'i who spent years paying their dues on Maui, hit statewide with one of the shrewdest marketing campaigns of the '90s and then won six Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, including Album of the Year and Group of the Year, in 1994. They released a second milestone album, “;In the Name of Love,”; in 1997 and then displayed their versatility with “;Surf Madness,”; an album of surf-rock instrumentals they recorded as Axel & Barneldo.

Flanagan and Kaneali'i ended their partnership shortly afterward, and Flanagan formed a new duo with Aweau. Kaneali'i now ends a self-imposed break from recording with the release of his first solo album. It is a welcome return.

Hapa fans might be surprised at his command of soulful acoustic rock as demonstrated with “;All to You,”; one of several English-language originals. “;I Love Kaua'i,”; another English-language original, pays tribute to the Garden Island and its landmarks with heartfelt sincerity. Some visitor industry group should already be using it as the theme of a campaign to increase visitor traffic there.

Kaneali'i sings Hawaiian songs with equal effectiveness. Unfortunately, no English translations are provided for them, leaving them to be fully appreciated by a smaller audience.


;» ”;Kalihiwai E”;
;» ”;I Love Kaua‘i”;
;» ”;Kamalani O Keaukaha”;

'Hot Hits'

Sean Na'auao
(Mountain Apple Co.)

; Sean Na'auao was a founding member of the Mana'o Company, successfully established himself as a solo artist on the Fat Katz label in the mid-'90s and thereafter has enjoyed parallel careers as a Hawaiian and a Jawaiian artist.

“;Fish & Poi,”; his second Fat Katz album, won Na'auao his first Hoku Award in 1998; the title song, a shopping list of favorite local food items set to a catchy pseudo-reggae beat, is one of the best Jawaiian songs of the decade.

Na'auao also made an admirable commitment to recording traditional Hawaiian music, and became one of the few Hawaii artists to successfully release two albums at the same time with the release of “;Holomua”; and “;Progression”; on his Poi Pounder label in 2001. “;Progression”; won Best Reggae Album in 2002; a song on “;Holomua”; won a Haku Mele for composer Kawaikapuokalani Hewett. Na'auao has also won a Hoku in the Christmas Album category.

None of his accomplishments are mentioned in the skimpy liner notes for this anthology, apparently released for people who aren't yet into legal downloads. It contains songs from six prior albums, but the version of “;Fish & Poi”; heard here is not the original hit. Na'auao's recording of “;Aloha Ku'u Home a i ke 'Aloha,”; the Haku Mele winner, is also missing.

Missing too are composer's credits that would give Na'auao the credit he deserves while also acknowledging the composers of his covers of “;Where Is the Love”; and “;Drop Baby Drop”;/”;Who Loves You.”;


;» ”;Ka‘ililauokekoa”;
;» ”;Surf Pa‘ina”;
;» ”;Punani Patrol”;