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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews


March 2009


“Ha`ina `ia mai ana ka puana…”


Let the story be told… of Hawaiian music over the past five years. One big story would have to be a new recognition of this music’s status in the world, with a category for “Best Hawaiian Music Album” at the Grammy Awards. Granted, each of the awards presented has come with its share of controversy and complaint, but as our beloved music evolves through multiple styles of presentation (satisfying the ears of some while annoying others), the discussion and debate of how these recordings represent the form is healthy and encouraging. It shows what a vibrant, lively and valuable art form has been developed on some tiny and isolated islands.

In the past five years, we’ve had to say sad farewells to some influential artists and musical lights: Genoa Keawe, Raymond Kāne, Don Ho, Nona Beamer, Tau Moe, Jerry Byrd, Kindy Sproat, Martin Denny, Leonard Young, Sonny Kamahele, Sol Kawaihoa, George Young, Tony Lindsey, Mary (Kaye) Ka`aihue, Kawai Cockett and Del Courtney among them.

Through the years of writing these reviews and articles, I’ve had so many doors opened for me, passages into the Hawaiian music world that a non-Islander is truly fortunate to be granted. I’ve heard some of the finest music recorded, often before it’s in the stores, and been able to share my discoveries with you; I’ve met some hugely talented and incredibly humble performers, producers, engineers and music executives; and I’ve even been given access to a few of them for interviews (Keali`i Reichel, Daniel Ho, Owana Salazar, Cindy Combs, Brittni Paiva, Raiatea Helm, Charles Michael Brotman).

I’ve been pleased to see an increase in area performances by so many great musicians, at venues ranging from downtown Seattle to performance spaces in Edmonds, Kirkland and Kent, to annual festivals near (Seattle Center) and far (Kalama). In addition to emcee opportunities, I’ve also been afforded a few nerve-wracking chances to play a little music alongside some famous folks, and I will always be grateful to them for pushing me forward in my playing.

I’ve had just as much fun, if not more, playing music with so many wonderful people in the local community at our regular kanikapila sessions at Kona Kitchen, at a home in Bellevue, and with folks from the Seattle `Ukulele Players Association. Speaking of `ukulele, the recent growth of interest in that little four-stringed instrument has both astounded and thrilled me, from all the hot young players on the scene (like Jake Shimabukuro, Herb Ohta, Jr., Brittni Paiva, Taimane Gardner, James Hill, and the ever-young centenarian Bill Tapia), to the growth of groups like SUPA and similar gatherings in places like Tacoma, Portland, Eugene and Boise.

I want to thank a few people before checking out: our luna ho`oponopono of da pepa, Rochelle delaCruz; my “Hawai`i Radio Connection” co-hosts, Manono McMillan and Braddah Steven Gomes; my kumu hula, Gloria Napualani Nahalea and her husband, Bill. Each of them has provided caring guidance and welcoming into their corners of Island culture. Special love goes to “Momi” – my strongest link to Hawai`i.

Finally, mahalo nui loa to all of you who have read these columns and this newspaper through the years. If you enjoyed just one CD based on my recommendations, something you might not have known of otherwise or just weren’t sure about, then I’ve succeeded in what I had hoped to do with my fumble-fingered features. I’ll see you out there at live shows and talk with you every month on the radio, where we like to sign off with ... “Aloha – a hui hou!”

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