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Island Mele: ‘Huliau’ a milestone for Ho’okena
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Ho‘okena (Ho‘omau Music)
Louis “Moon” Kauakahi writes in the liner notes of Ho‘okena’s newly released eleventh album that the title can be translated three ways: “past recollection,” “a turning point” and “a time of change.” All three translations apply.
Boyd, William “Ama” Aarona, Horace Dudoit III, Bozo Hanohano and Glen Smith founded Ho’okena in 1989; the group’s first album, “Thirst Quencher,” won three Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in 1990. Hanohano left shortly afterwards and Ho‘okena was a quartet until Chris Kamaka joined the line-up in 1999. The group downsized to four a second time when Aarona departed in 2003. With Boyd’s departure earlier this year Ho‘okena is performing and recording as a trio for the first time.
The third meaning of huliau, “past recollection,” describes Ho‘okena’s direct links to a predecessor group, Kipona Leo Hawai‘i, that consisted of Aarona, Boyd, Dudoit and Kamaka (Kipona Leo Hawai‘i won the Ka Himeni ‘Ana Hawaiian Song Contest in 1986). Anyone discovering Ho‘okena with this album will enjoy the trio’s smooth vocal arrangements. Long-time fans will be impressed at the fullness Dudoit, Kamaka and Smith achieve with three voices.
The album is by design a hybrid. The presence of seven Christmas standards position it as a sequel to Ho‘okena’s 2001 Hoku-winning Christmas album, “Home for the Holidays,” but four other selections depart from that format and show how well the new trio does acoustic Hawaiian and hapa haole music. They honor the musical legacy of the Kalakaua Dynasty with their arrangements of “Koni Au” and “Nohea Mu‘olaulani,” and recall the hapa haole vocal groups of the mid-20th century with “Jungle Rain.” The harmonizing on “Jungle Rain” is beautiful indeed!
A third Hawaiian-language song, “Wakinekona,” written by Kauakahi, speaks of the experiences of Hawaiians today who live elsewhere.
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.