Island Mele: Beamer, Na Hoa honor tradition
REVIEWS BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Malama Ko Aloha (Keep Your Love)’
Keola Beamer (‘Ohe)
With career accomplishments starting in the early ‘70s and continuing through the release of this album Keola Beamer needs no hype or hyperbole regarding his importance as a slack key guitarist, composer, vocalist, recording artist and educator.
“Malama Ko Aloha (Keep Your Love),” described in the liner notes as “inspired by“ a nationally televised PBS Hawaii television special of the same name, is a beautifully crafted overview of his work in recent years. It includes a song that represents his work with native-American flautist R. Carlos Nakai, another drawn from his popular musical partnership with Raiatea Helm, a third that honors the musical legacy of his mother and a fourth that he wrote in her memory.
It’s indicative of Beamer’s commitment to quality as an artist/producer that he and his musical ohana use “live” instruments — including bassoon — where others would resort to computer tracks. The various combinations of European, native-American and traditional Hawaiian instruments make each selection interesting.
There’s “Pupu Hinuhinu” for example, recorded countless times over the years but made fresh and mesmerizing by the interplay between Beamer’s guitar and Geoffrey Keezer’s piano. Their work together on “Kaulana Na Pua”/“One Hanau” is imaginative as well.
Na Hoa (Na Hoa)
Na Hoa — Ikaika Blackburn (ukulele), Halehaku Seabury-Akaka (guitar) and Keoni Souza (acoustic bass) — makes a welcome debut as recording artists with this long-awaited release.
The trio drew an overflow crowd to their CD release party Aug. 12 at Gordon Biersch. The album should quickly build them an even larger following. Folks who enjoy the traditional-style falsetto harmonies of Na Palapalai can expect to enjoy Na Hoa as well.
The guys make an excellent impression with the opener, “Ku‘u Tita,” and maintain it throughout. Casey Olson (steel guitar) adds his instrumental magic to several selections. Pianist Iwalani Ho‘omanawanui Apo joins the trio on others. Trombonist Pat Hennesey adds a touch of wacky nostalgia to “Carburetor Song,” a mainland “novelty song” of the 1940s that was later popularized in Hawaii by Myrtle K. Hilo. The Hawaiian songs are beautiful but that one English-language hapa-haole song is a nice change of mood and material.
New recording artists and their record labels sometimes overlook the basics in all the excitement of doing that first project. Next time around they should be sure that the liner notes include the composers’ credits for the songs they didn’t write even if they decide to omit the Hawaiian lyrics and translations.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at email@example.com.