Island Mele

John Berger



"Rhyme & Punishment"

Flip the Bird Entertainment

Most local rap and hip-hop artists come off either as sounding like would-be clones of some national star or as generic pimp/ gangsta-wannabe posers trying to sound streetwise. Emirc is a welcome exception, with material that is original and remake-free. A brief opening vignette is a conventional narrative intro but establishes where Emirc is coming from.

The essential thing for his national prospects is that Emirc and his team have a smooth natural flow that combines solid rhythms with catchy lyrics. "Honolulu" is a frank description of modern Hawaii that probably won't thrill the tourist industry. "Unfazed" adds political commentary. Other tracks describe Emirc's struggle for national success and contempt for those who challenge his progress.

With "Rhyme & Punishment," Emirc joins the very short list of A-List rap and hip-hop artists to emerge from the local scene. (See feature on Emirc.)

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet A.K.I.R.A
Bullet Honolulu
Bullet Unfazed
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info



"Then & Now"

Tihati Productions

Kale Chang founded Reign several years ago for the purpose of doing something creative vocally with the musical traditions of Hawaii, Samoa and black America. Reign showed it was possible, and Ua is a spin-off group that consists of Chang and two fellow Reign-men, Afatia Thompson and Kuhio Yim.

Taken strictly as music for an audience thoroughly versed in traditional Hawaiian music, "Then & Now" is delightful. The trio plays ukulele, acoustic guitar and bass, and Yim's instrumental arrangements are almost entirely synth-free. Chang's smooth vocal arrangements bring a slightly contemporary feel to an assortment of island standards.

A lack of informative liner notes, however, is the only failing to this otherwise solid album.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Haole Hula
Bullet Maunaloa
Bullet Kauhale O Kamapua'a
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info



"Brain Child"

Andy Bumatai
Hula Records International

Andy Bumatai introduced standup comedy to the local entertainment scene 25 years ago and he has been Hawaii's foremost comic ever since. Bumatai no longer performs full-time, but "Brain Child" proves he's still at the top of his game.

Much of the material on the album will be familiar to anyone who has seen him in recent years. There's the "non-ethnic joke" inspired by Frank DeLima, for instance, and Bumatai's contemptuous dismissal of souped-up Asian cars as "turbo-charged sewing machines." None of the material has lost its punch, and Bumatai's brief character impressions add another facet to his repertoire. Several relatively new bits date from after America's invasion of Iraq.

Bumatai sets a fine example for younger comics, showing that it isn't necessary to be vulgar to get laughs -- a reference to "pee" is as far as he goes. Local standup doesn't get any better than this.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Fast Food
Bullet Neighbor Island Directions
Bullet Beggars
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


E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --