Island Mele: Stars brighten ‘Island Vibrations’
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
Typical Hawaiians broke out big in 1999. The trio — Thomson Palakiko Enos, Taz Vegas and Bruce Zulueta — won the Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Best Reggae Album in 2000, and Enos kept the group going in the years that followed.
Various Artists (TH Productions)
This compilation is Enos’ debut as the producer of a larger project that involves a long list of other artists. Mainstream Afro-Caribbean rhythms and polished studio production values are the commonalities that tie the 18 songs together into a solid and unified package. Enos doesn’t provide any information on who these people are, but several of them are major figures in local music.
For instance, Jamin “Chief Ragga” Wong was a member of Ho‘aikane during that group’s remarkable evolution from kanakafarian Jawaiian copycats to imaginative island music innovators and continued exploring fresh ideas as a solo artist. O-Shen has made unique contributions to local music with his successful blending of Jamaican, American, Hawaiian and Melanesian music.
Caleb “Da Reddeye” Richards is an alumnus of Sudden Rush. The quartet — Richards, Don “King Don 1″ Ke’ala Kawa’auhau Jr., Shane “Kid Dynomite” Viencent and “Radical Rob” Onekea — introduced new ways of blending Hawaiian chant with hip-hop.
All three of those music scene veterans do memorable work. Several other contributors also stand out. Kalei Kahalewai (“Imua Hawai‘i”) calls on Hawaiians to respect each other, respect the past and get an education.
There is an element of unintended irony when Marty Dread uses standard Afro-Caribbean rhythms to deliver a message about the importance of preserving Hawaiian culture. However, Hawaiian musicians have been adopting and adapting haole (non-Hawaiian) ideas for more than 200 years and so some form of Afro-Caribbean rhythms will eventually be considered Hawaiian.
And, yes, some of the other artists Enos included are perpetuating the faux-rasta and imitation-Jamaican accents that have been part of Jawaiian music since the late 1980s.
Enos doesn’t mention how many of these songs were recorded for release on this compilation but one of most memorable, “Aloha Summer Time,” was first released as a music video and CD in 2013. Another highlight selection, “Primo Beer Song,” has also been around for while — and is an excellent commercial for Hawaii’s original island-brewed beer.