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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews

July 2005

“IZ: The Man Behind the Music”



The focus of the next two months’ reviews is on the visual – DVD’s of Hawaiian music; most of these are available at stores and online services that also carry Hawaiian music CDs.

We begin with three releases of TV programs starring one of the most popular musicians of the past decade-plus, the innovative and influential Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, who passed away eight years ago at the young age of 38. “IZ: The Man Behind the Music” (Mountain Apple) was produced as a biography/documentary which aired in 2004. Only 45 minutes long, the program is packed with extensive footage from IZ’s brief life, combined with contemporary interviews from those who were involved with the big man; family (such as his widow and daughter), childhood friends, musicians (including Roland Cazimero and Del Beazley), other music business professionals, and even his doctor. We learn how his battle with obesity and other health problems began in childhood, about his admiration for and musical rivalry with brother Skippy, the foundation of the Mākaha Sons of Ni`ihau and his departure for a solo career (described as driven by a need to provide for his family, as he knew he was not likely to live long), the touching reunion with the Sons at the Hōkū Awards in 1996, the challenges he faced with travel, substance abuse, and long hospital stays, and the growing popularity of his music following his death. The DVD also contains bonus footage of stories and interviews left out of the final program, concert footage, a photo gallery, and a music video for “Over the Rainbow.”

“Hot Hawaiian Nights”

“IZ: The Man and His Music”

“Hot Hawaiian Nights” (Mountain Apple) features two performances by IZ from the long-running series, the first from 1993, where it’s clear that IZ is still developing his solo direction (though he is backed up by strong support from Roland Cazimero and Mel Amina); the second from 1995, where IZ and his band have clearly been working on their material and stage presence. “IZ: The Man and His Music” (Mountain Apple) is the DVD reissue of a previously-available video, this time from the “Island Music, Island Hearts” series. This program was produced and aired while IZ was still alive in 1995, and is filled with special performances, in both solo and group settings.

“25 th Annual May Day Concert 2002”

Turning next to one of the most successful of Hawaiian musical acts, The Brothers Cazimero, whose annual May Day concerts are one of the performance highlights of the Hawaiian year. To celebrate a quarter-century of these shows, their grand performance at Waikīkī Shell was videotaped and released as “25 th Annual May Day Concert 2002” (Mountain Apple). The concert footage, running an hour and fifteen minutes, features hula segments and special musical guests, including the Mākaha Sons, Amy Hānaiali`i Gilliom, Henry Kapono, Tony Conjugacion, Jerry Santos, Sean Na`auao, and many others. This is some of the best Hawaiian concert footage you’ll ever see, capturing the essence, magic and fun of the full program, beautifully photographed. The Caz’s 1990 video postcard, “25 th Annual May Day Concert 2002” (Mountain Apple) , has also been reissued on disc. This slightly-under-an-hour presentation is filled with scenic views (most of it shot from the air) of the natural beauty and human activities of the Islands, and the Brothers make a couple of brief appearances (not in concert, but lip-synching while on the beach, as Jackie Booth dances beautiful hula.)

“Million Miles Away”

“Play Loud Ukulele”

Young `ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro has released a couple of videos in the past couple of years. His most recent, “Million Miles Away” (Hitchhike), follows Jake for an hour on one of his many tours of Japan (he’s been there over twenty times already), playing in a shopping mall and an outdoor festival in Yokohama, on stage with the Devil’s Strings Quartet in Tokyo, and solo in a lively beach-house party setting. He also runs to a radio interview, signs CDs and greets fans in a record store (the hand-shaking montage is a great segment), celebrates his manager’s birthday, and reflects for us on his technique, touring, and songwriting. The video clip of “Rainbow,” which has been used for Hawai`i Tourism’s Japan campaign and the Honolulu Marathon, is included as a bonus. “Play Loud Ukulele” (Hitchhike), also features live footage from Japan ( Tokyo in 2003), mixed with interviews, music videos, and a fascinating half-hour lesson in `ukulele techniques, as well as instruction on how to play the Beatles song, “Yesterday.” Both DVDs were produced in Japan .

Next month, we’ll have info rmation on documentaries on slack-key guitar, an influential band, public TV specials, and a music-meets-nature program.


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