Island Mele: ‘Ho‘omaopopo’ by Steven Espaniola
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Steven Espaniola (Shego)
Falsetto vocals are the foundation as Steven Espaniola follows his 2006 debut album, “Ho‘omaka,” with a second collection of beautifully old-style Hawaiian music. He opens with an original, “Ka Wahine Helekahi,” and slips another orignal in later. Most of the others are standards.
“Ka Wahine Helekahi” is a convincing introduction to Espaniola’s falsetto talents, but his arrangement of “Meleana E” is mesmerizing. Espaniola’s voice floats in and out of his falsetto register as he tells the classic kolohe (risque) story of a woman named Meleana (Mary Ann) known for her skill at “massaging the fish,” in this case a sexual euphemism.
Only those who know the public kaona (hidden meaning) of the song will appreciate the contrast between Espaniola’s soothing delivery, so sweet and romantic, and the sexual subject matter. His ability to hold individual notes for dramatic effect adds to the overall impact.
Espaniola could have done the album as one man studio project accompanying himself on percussion, ‘ukulele, acoustic guitar and electric bass. Instead he welcomes slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson on Ku‘u Lio,” steel guitarist Casey Olsen on “Ka Wahine Helekahi” and “Ka Ano‘i,” and ‘ukulele virtuoso Bryan Tolentino on “Waiulu” and “E Ku‘u Lei E Ku‘u Ipo.” Each instrumental pairing works well. Tolentino’s uke adds a nice bright bounce to “E Ku‘u Lei E Ku‘u Ipo.’
Lyrics and translations are not included with the CD but Espaniola writes in the liner notes that they will be posted at www.stevenespaniola.com
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.