Island Mele


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009

”;Alive and Well”;

King Kekai
(Ekahi Entertainment)

; The title tells the story. Yes, King Kekai is back with a new collection of original insights, rhythms and rhymes that assays out as Hoku award-worthy work throughout.

Kekai sets the mood with the opening track. The sound is old school but the message is fresh, as Kekai reintroduces himself as the artist who “;shook up the game like when Captain Cook came”; and then is joined by Hoku Haiku of “;Ill Valley”; fame to proclaim that “;Hawaiian hip-hop is alive and well.”; The duo salutes Hawaiian hip-hop pioneers Sudden Rush and deplores the fact that when it comes to the younger generation, “;half of these kids know about Lil Wayne but they don't know Uncle Gabby (Pahinui) and that's a shame.”;

Kekai shows his range as an arranger in utilizing studio sidemen Rocky Holmes and Troy Fernandez. He also moves beyond the one-size-fits-all beats and electronic riffs that so often defines local hip-hop. “;Woman”; swaps out those familiar electronics for a smooth R&B feel. “;Island Girl,”; a Jawaiian/hip-hop hybrid, extols the virtues of a perfect island woman.

Kekai also shows his romantic side with “;Lovely Day,”; a hapa-haole account of good times in Hawaii that interpolates Bill Withers' 1977 Top 30 hit. (Props to the King for acknowledging his debt to Withers and Withers' publisher in the credits).

“;Naha Stone”; took a frank look at Hawaii's problems with “;Take A Walk With Me,”; and Kekai resumes his role as a political observer with “;Mr. Governor”;—anti-biotech, anti-GMO, and apparently, anti-Superferry.

;» “Alive And Well”
;» “Island Girl”
;» “Lovely Day”

”;Nothing But The Goodtimes”;

(Living Aloha)

; Hawaii pop music fans remember Marja Apisaloma as one half of Reality, the duo that seemed most qualified of the local “;girl groups”; of the 1990s to follow Tenderoni in getting a mainland record deal.

That deal never came through, and her singing partner, Shivon Ines, married reggae guitarist Binghi T. “;Life”; happened, but 10 years later, Marja is a single-monikered singer-songwriter with a smooth adult pop sound. Her voice is as seductive as ever and her writing more mature.

Marja is well served by her studio musicians. The core trio is a solid team; sax master David Choy joins them to add a touch of funk to “;Hazy Saturday.”; Where some of Reality's arrangements were cookie-cutter stuff, Marja's team here works with a broader musical palate: Toward the jazz side on some songs, closer to acoustic pop on others. And, yes, there's a bit of Jawaiian too.

Marja's lyrics describe the ups and downs that can be part of a relationship. Hopefully, “;goodtimes”; is where she is now.

;» “Nothing But The Goodtimes”
;» “Another Summer”
;» “Hazy Saturday”

”;Aloha For Now”;


; The Hawai'i Academy of Recording Artists (HARA) eliminated the Single of the Year category in 2004, but singles continue to be released. Kaleo Esperanza included two versions of the title song in this four-song year-end release. “;Can We Pretend It's Christmas”; has year-round romantic appeal; “;Caramel Coffee”; completes the collection with a whimsical account of a gourmet coffee break for two.

It's a shame Kaleo's single can't compete for a Hoku, but it is an excellent introduction to his repertoire.

;» “Aloha For Now”
;» “Can We Pretend It’s Christmas”
;» “Caramel Coffee”

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