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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews

August 2005

“Kī Hō`alu (Loosen The Key)”

“Music with the Island Touch

The world of slack-key guitar is represented by two wonderful award-winning documentaries by filmmaker Kenneth K. Martinez Burgmaier. The 90-minute “Kī Hō`alu (Loosen The Key)” (`Ohe) profiles Keola Beamer with plenty of concert footage, mixed with interviews of Beamer himself (discussing everything from the history of slack-key, to his family, to the concept of `aumakua), as well as commentary from his mother, his wife, and musicians Cyril Pahinui, Ledward Ka`apana, George Winston, Ozzie Kotani, Cindy Combs, and two Willies – K and Nelson. In addition to being a great program about Beamer, the past, present and future of slack-key is covered in extensive detail. A more recent film from the same writer/producer/director is “Music with the Island Touch” ( Homestead ) , which follows the Big Island ’s John Keawe as he performs in concert and shows us around the places important to his life and family. Similar in structure to the Beamer film, in this hour, we also hear from guests such as the Mākaha Sons, Brother Noland, Keola Beamer, and Keawe’s hula-dancing wife, Hope. The first “Pure Hawaiian” volume, issued back in 2001, was one of the most successful Hawaiian music compilations in years, in terms of both Mainland and Island sales; no surprise – it was an excellent collection, with an eye-catching cover photo by Kim Taylor Reese, and came out on the heels of a series of “Pure Moods” and other “Pure …” compilations.

“The History of the Sons of Hawai`i"

Musical documentaries translate well to DVD, and the latest from Eddie Kamae’s Hawaiian Legacy Foundation is no exception. After a half-dozen films on various historical topics, many of which will also be released on DVD in the future, Kamae (along with wife and partner Myrna) turns the camera on himself and the band of which he has been a part for decades, in “The History of the Sons of Hawai`i" (Mountain Apple). An 80-minute work, this captivating film tells the story of this influential group’s formation, history, and evolving line-up of members, including Gabby Pahinui, Joe Marshall, “Feet” Rogers, Moe Keale, Dennis Kamakahi, Pekelo Cosma and others. Filled with priceless recordings and footage of dozens of great musicians and memorable performances, festivals, and events from the renaissance of Hawaiian music, this is a resource that will draw you into times and places that you may or may not have experienced first-hand, but will never forget, after seeing them in this context.

“Holo Mai Pele - The Epic Hula Myth”

“Hawai`i – Songs of Aloha”

Two programs that were presented on public television have been issued on disc in recent years. “Holo Mai Pele - The Epic Hula Myth” (Pacific Islanders In Communication) was part of the “Dance in America” series, and is an hour-long original hula performed by Hālau O Kekuhi, under the direction of kumu hula/choreographers Pualani Kanaka`ole Kanahele and Nalani Kanaka`ole. Bonus segments include an interview with Kanahele, and subtitles in Japanese. Filmed in concert at the Hawai`i Theatre Center in August of 2000, “Hawai`i – Songs of Aloha” (Mountain Apple) showcases some of the biggest names in Hawaiian music today: Amy & Willie K, the Brothers Cazimero, O’Brian Eselu, the Mākaha Sons, Nā Leo, Hapa, Ledward Ka`apana, Cyril Pahinui, Jake Shimabukuro , and the Kamehameha Schools Glee Club, as well as many talented hula dancers. The DVD features material that was edited out of the television broadcast, and runs nearly an hour and a quarter.

“Maoli Nō – Truly Native”

The only DVD reviewed that is not commercially available, “Maoli Nō – Truly Native” (produced by Mountain Apple for the Nature Conservancy), focuses on the endangered flora and fauna of Hawai`i , within historical contexts of humanity’s evolving relationship to the land and animals over the generations. Interspersed throughout are several Hawaiian songs about places, plants and animals of the Islands, performed by acts such as Hapa, the Brothers Cazimero, Aunty Genoa Keawe, Keola Beamer, Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, Gary Haleamau and more. This is only available as a free promotional item from Hawaiian offices of the Nature Conservancy, so you’ll have to get it in the Islands while supplies last – and a donation for their efforts to preserve the unique and swiftly-vanishing species would make for a nice “mahalo.”

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