Hawaii's Top 10


POSTED: Friday, January 02, 2009

Although the total number of local releases dropped significantly in 2008, Hawaii saw no shortage of new titles. In “;Island Mele,”; we cover everything recorded locally (as well as Hawaiian music recorded elsewhere), and this year-end list takes a look back—in alphabetical order—at the 10 albums of 2008 in Hawaiian music that best exemplified excellence in content, packaging and annotation:

  1. “;Aloha 'Anianiau”; Leilani Riviera Bond (Leilani): Bond's voice is warm and melodic, the arrangements are uncluttered and the songs all relate to her home island of Kauai. Guests contribute other voices and additional instrumentation but never intrusively. (Nov. 28)

  2. “;'Ahea? Ano!”; Holunape (Roy Sakuma Productions): Holunape honors tradition with their acoustic instrumentation, smooth harmonies and many of their selections, but they also bring it forward. The guys show their affection for hapa-haole music, their feel for comedy and their individual talents in solo vocals. (May 2)

3. “;'Aumakua”; Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom (Ua): Gilliom comes full circle in demonstrating her unquestioned talent as a mainstream pop singer while also perpetuating her Hawaiian heritage. Several selections draw on her formal training in musical theater. New songs, co-written with various people, honor her beloved grandmother and commemorate the birth of her daughter. (Aug. 29)

4. “;Destiny”; Brothers Cazimero (Mountain Apple Company): The duo's instantly recognizable voices and imaginative arrangements are two common denominators in this long-awaited album. Tradition is honored and contemporary music is represented with equal success. An up-tempo rendition of “;Waimanalo Blues”; is one of the surprises here; an imaginative cross-cultural medley about rain is another. (May 19)

5. “;Force of Nature”; Ledward Kaapana & Mike Kaawa (no label): Led Kaapana and Mike Kaawa have each recorded memorable “;live”; albums in years past, and this souvenir of their work together features Kaapana's talents as a slack-key guitarist and falsetto vocalist early on. The album shows how well the two men's styles fit together. (June 20)

  6. “;Honehone i ka Poli”; Kawaikapuokalani Hewett (Daniel Ho Creations): Hewett has been a significant figure in Hawaiian music for more than a quarter-century and—no surprise—his work here is imaginative in concept and excellent in execution. He has never sounded more soulful in this collection of all-original songs, and the arrangements explore a type of hapa-haole music in which the language is Hawaiian but some of the arrangements are not. (June 27)

  7. “;Hula Mai Kakou”; Na Leo (One Hawaii): ”;Do The Hula”; sets the mood as Na Leo delivers another collection of local classics arranged for their unmistakable three-part harmonies. Each of the trio takes the lead on a song or two before the final number, “;Pupu Hinuhinu,”; which brings them together again for those gorgeous harmonies. (June 20)

8. “;'I”; Natalie Ai Kamauu (Keko): Kamauu sings beautifully through a diverse repertoire that includes Hawaiian standards, original compositions and poetry that she set to music. Several selections show that she not only honors her heritage, but contributes to its evolution as well. A particular gem: an enchanting remake of “;Evergreen.”; (Nov. 7)

9. “;'Ikena”; Tia Carrere & Daniel Ho (Daniel Ho Creations): Carrere and Ho built on last year's Grammy finalist album with “;'Ikena.”; They both sing on this one, and Ho uses a broader palette of acoustic instrumentation. Ethnomusicologist Amy Ku'uleialoha Stillman is the Hawaiian lyricist on newly written songs that add to the progressive contemporary feel of the duo's imaginative collaboration. (Sept. 12)

10. “;Manoa Voices”; Manoa Voices (Hula Records International): Imaginative vocal arrangements, traditionalist acoustic instrumentation and an eclectic repertoire make Manoa Voice's self-titled debut album one of 2008's most significant Hawaiian albums. All five members are strong lead voices and their harmonies are smooth and tight. (May 23)