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Island Mele: ‘Born and Raised’ has potential
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Born and Raised’
Bo Napoleon feat. Pena-Bu (Robert Sterling Music)
The lyrics of Bo Napoleon’s current single should have distributors of Heineken beer knocking on his door with an endorsement deal in hand. Napoleon, a native Hawaiian singer/songwriter now residing in California, doesn’t just mention “green bottles” in this song about being “born and raised Hawaiian” — after all, there are several brands of beer that come in tinted bottles.
“One foot on sand, one hand Heineken,” is the jingle-ready slogan heard in Napoleon’s vision of Hawaiian culture in the 21st century. Heineken has been popular with fans of Jamaican-style music in Hawaii and California alike for several decades, and the song has a hook to catch the ears of “kanakafarians” everywhere.
The song is about more than drinking beer at the beach. “Born and raised Hawaiian/I am the diamond in the rough” is how Napoleon describes himself. He also speaks with pride of being Hawaiian, calls on others to be positive and righteous (“don’t sell your soul to Satan”), and describes Hawaii as “the land we flourish on.”
Napoleon’s statement that he is also “from the land of Zion” poses questions. When Rastafari, the Jamaican religious group that spearheaded the evolution of reggae music from its beginnings more than 50 years ago, speak of Zion they’re referring to Ethiopia or the continent of Africa, the ancestral home of Afro-Caribbeans, rather than Hawaii or Polynesia.
Kapena De Lima — working here as Pena-Bu — provides the solid, soulful Jamaican-style rhythms that propel Napoleon’s call for love, unity, honoring the past and maintaining the land. There’s a hint of a conch shell heard in the opening bars and an untranslated bit of Hawaiian chant as a bridge.
“Born and Raised” is available as a digital single at iTunes. Given Napoleon’s commercial appeal he should soon graduate to releasing traditional hard copy CDs as well.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at email@example.com.