Island Mele: ‘Ha’a’ opens new chapter for Na Palapalai
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
The group’s roots went back well before 2002, but that was the year thatNa Palapalai broke out as the hot “new” act in neo-traditionalist Hawaiian music. When it happened the group was a trio — founding members Kuana Torres Kahele and Kehau Tamure, plus multi-talented Keao Costa. Their debut album, “Makani ‘Olu‘olu,” released in 2002, won a pace-setting five Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in 2003 including Group of the Year, Hawaiian Album of the Year and Album of the Year. Their second, “Ke‘ala Beauty,” won Group of the Year and Hawaiian Album of the Year in 2005.
Na Palapalai (KTK)
The beautiful traditionalist sound of the group with its emphasis on Hawaiian lyrics and falsetto harmonies was maintained through several personnel changes. Costa left, and Kahele and Tamure carried on as a duo; then Ioane Burns joined them and Na Palapalai was a trio once again. This perfectly produced album — the sixth Na Palapalai project if you include a 2010 “best of” anthology — introduces the group as a male duo. Torres plays guitar and ipu, and Burns plays base; both men sing. All things considered, “Ha‘a” is an instant front-runner in five or six categories in next year’s Hoku Awards.
With Kahele also contributing as arranger and co-producer (with Dave Tucciarone) the overall impression is of continuity despite the changes. Tamure and Costa were each valueable members of the group in their time but Kahele and Burns are moving forward in fine style. The duo sets the bar high with their opener, “Ka Manu,” demonstrate their command of traditional hapa haole material with “Haunani Mine,” and live up to expectations from there on out.
“Ka Pua ‘Ano Lani,” one of the six compositions Kahele contributes to the project, stands out as a delicate, sweet and tranquil love song. With another original, “Kaua I Ka Holo,” he imaginatively reworks a theme of Clarence Kinney’s classic “Holoholo Ka‘a” to describe a journey on the Big Island that involve several types of transportation. The big difference is that the travelers in Kahele’s song are going to a church camp rather than a secluded romantic interlude.
“Nani Mokihana” and “Lei Mokihana” are the work of other composers but fit together nicely here as a medley with a Kauai island theme.
Co-producers Kahele and Tucciarone complete this beautiful Hawaiian album with a 14-page booklet that provides the Hawaiian lyrics, English translations, background information on the songs and a brief history of the group. The liner notes also reveal the two applicable meanings of ha‘a — “to be humbled” and “a term used for hula in the mid 1850’s.” Kahele and Burns are “humbled” by the “unwavering support” of their fans and dedicate the album to “all the hula dancers around the world.”
“Ha‘a” is due in stores June 26.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.