Gregg Porter's Music Reviews
A fine collection of traditional island classics (and one original slack-key instrumental), by a contemporary quintet, if you remember the sound of Buddy Fo and the Invitations, you’ll appreciate their strong four-part harmonies. Leader Paul Martinez has played with and provided vocal arrangements for many of Hawai`i’s well-known entertainers, and his `ukulele stylings ring true. Two of the other members of the group were formerly part of Ka`eo, and the falsetto vocals are strong. A good classic sound throughout.
Even though this is the first album from this group, they are not unknowns on the island music scene. UA is a spin-off from the contemporary Samoan vocal group, Reign (“Ua” being Hawaiian for rain), both bands founded by vocal arranger, musician and engineer Kale Chang. With one exception, all the songs are classics (Hawaiian and Tahitian), and the band admits their debt to groups like the Kahauanu Lake Trio – the classic “Hapa-Haole Hulas” album is clearly visible on a shelf behind Chang in a liner photo, the kind of product placement I like to see. Modern voices plus classic sounds, very tastefully and respectfully presented.
Revered O`ahu kumu hula Hewitt presents an album of songs that help fulfill his responsibility to carry the stories of his family and their past into the present, with hope that they will move on to the future. These are wonderful songs, primarily of Kaua`i and Ni`ihau, sung with a heartfelt warmth. Some songs, like “Ka`ililauokekoa,” have already been shared by other performers (in this case, Sean Na`auao), but Hewitt brings a gentle simplicity to them, as only their “father” can. Musicians throughout include Jerry Santos of Olomana, Lorna Lim, Hoku Zuttermeister and Kenneth Makuakāne. Especially noteworthy is the violin work of Calvin Murasaki, a sound not common to Hawaiian music today.
For fans of the Territorial Era, this collection of standard Hawaiian and hapa-haole hits will certainly satisfy. Manny K. (as he is billed) fits 23 classics onto this disc, from peppy numbers like “Ku`u Hoa” and “Papālina Lahi Lahi”, to gentle ballads such as “Maui Waltz” and “Paoakalani.” All of the musicians, incidentally, reside in the Pacific Northwest now, including Manny and his wife, Betty Jean, who run a Hawaiiana website (www.hawaiiangatherings.com) out of their home in Aloha, Oregon.
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