Island Mele: De Lima rides rail with ‘Da Rail Blues’
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
‘Da Rail Blues’
Frank De Lima (Pocholinga Productions)
Frank De Lima and his writing partner, Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning lyricist Patrick Downes, have been addressing hot-button political issues by pairing original pidgin lyrics with familiar mainstream pop hits for more than two decades. A Gilbert & Sullivan operetta provided the melody when they commented on the tremendous financial benefits of being a Bishop Estate trustee in the ’90s, the theme from “Gilligan’s Island” became a song about the opposition to inter-island ferry service, and “Born in the U.S.A.” was the vehicle for last year’s download-single about political fringe groups’ claims that President Obama was born in Kenya.
De Lima and Downes are now using Johnny Cash’s long-time musical signature, “Folsom Prison Blues,” to address the increasingly bitter controversy surrounding Oahu’s $5.27-billion rail project with “Da Rail Blues.”
“Dey say da train stay coming / Maybe, I don’t know/Some people dey no like ‘em / Some say dats it a go / Some say no mo maney / And oddahs say stay get / We eedah raise da taxes / Or we in some big kine debt,” De Lima sings earnestly over musical director David Kauahikaua’s rollicking arrangement of Cash’s iconic melody.
De Lima and Downes have put their personal views into some of their creations but with the exception of the lines about “raise da taxes” and big kine debt” they’re as neutral on this one as the emcee of a political candidates’ debate — “Is it jus one nightmea/O is it still one dream?”
Time will tell.
Whatever the outcome, the song is topical and shows that De Lima and Downes are still tops locally when it comes to commenting musically on current events when a subject inspires them.
“Da Rail Blues” is available for free as a download at www.frankdelima.com, but a payment of any amount supports his nonprofit Frank De Lima Student Enrichment Program. (Cash’s heirs will appreciate the composer’s royalty as well.)
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.