Island Mele

John Berger



"Destination: Hawaii"

Various artists
Sugo Music

This anthology is one in a series produced by Sugo Music for National Geographic. It covers a broad spectrum of Hawaiian music within its 14 songs, including chant, slack key, ukulele, steel guitar, solo and group singing, and male and female falsetto. Almost every selection is a classic and almost every one adds another genre or major artist to the collection.

There's Genoa Keawe's 1964 recording of "'Alika," The Sunday Manoa's landmark version of "Kawika" and Keali'i Reichel's signature hit "Kawaipunahele." Edith Kanaka'ole and Maiki Aiu Lake represent chant, and Ledward Kaapana and the Ho'opi'i Brothers the two styles of male falsetto. Makana adds an example of postmodern Hawaiian/world music with "Ku'u Lei Awapuhi," plus much more.

While some listeners may know the history of "Puamana" and "Pua 'Ahihi," there's plenty of cultural information provided for those who don't.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Kawaipunahele
Bullet 'Alika
Bullet Ia 'Oe E Ka La E 'Alohi Nei

Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info



"Sounds of the City"

Honolulu Jazz Quartet
HJQ Records

There's no sweeter sound for many jazz purists than that of a tight acoustic combo. That's the sound that the Honolulu Jazz Quartet lays down on its long-awaited debut album, and, as local jazz fans know, these guys are great!

John Kolivas (acoustic bass) and Adam Baron (drums) give the HJQ a solid foundation while Dan Del Negro (piano) and Tim Tsukiyama (sax) do most of the melodic work. Kolivas is no slouch as a soloist, however, and the arrangements give all four men room to shine.

This will probably stand as the best local jazz album of the year on the strength of the music alone, but composers Kolivas and Del Negro enhance it with liner notes that reveal the stories behind the melodies and offer jazz neophytes insights into the arrangements as well.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Speed Trap
Bullet Ole Buddy
Bullet Remembrance

Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info




Derek Nakamoto
Daniel Ho Creations

Keyboardist Derek Nakamoto's second instrumental album for Daniel Ho's Los Angeles-based label clones the first so closely that it uses the same brief liner notes. Like many of Ho's releases, there's a sense that this is an assembly-line product for the label, but Nakamoto's piano interpretations of Hawaiian classics are more than that.

A nine-minute exploration of "Days of My Youth" uses contrasts between piano and synthesized sonic washes to suggest both the joys and the sorrows associated with the Kui Lee composition. Nakamoto's arrangement is beautiful throughout.

He also approaches six other melodies in a similar New Age setting. The overall ambience creates a soothing, tranquil atmosphere that makes "Maluhia" a perfect stress-reliever even for people conditioned to avoid the worst of this stuff.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Days of My Youth
Bullet E Maliu Mai
Bullet Hawaii Aloha

Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info

See the Columnists section for some past reviews.

John Berger, who has covered the local entertainment scene since 1972, writes reviews of recordings produced by Hawaii artists. See the Star-Bulletin's Today section on Fridays for the latest reviews. Contact John Berger at


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