Posted | Comments Off
Island Mele: New Aiko CD Grammy-worthy
BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Poina ‘Ole ‘Ia (Unforgettable)’
Gary Aiko (Genoa Keawe)
The title of Gary Aiko’s long-awaited album is appropriate for several reasons. It describes his family’s impact on modern Hawaiian music. It applies as well to Aiko personally although he is far too modest to describe himself that way. It applies for a third reason that Aiko reveals in the liner notes.
When Genoa began singing professionally — several years after Gary’s birth — Edward initially felt it unbecoming for a Keawe-Aiko to be performing in commercial venues rather than for family parties and church functions. By way of compromise, she became Genoa Keawe, and from there one of the greatest female Hawaiian vocalists of the 20th century.
Gary, a recording artist at 15 and a professional entertainer from his late-teens to the present, uses the last half of the family name; his youngest brother, Eric, who appears as the featured vocalist on “Lately,” follows their mother’s lead and is known as Eric Keawe. Eric’s daughter, known professionally as Pomaika‘i Keawe Lyman, joins Aiko on “E Maliu Mai” and brings the family’s musical traditions forward another generation.
Aiko sounds superb throughout. He has perpetuated the traditions of Territorial Era hapa-haole music for decades and does so here with a beautiful collection of island standards — “Aloha Ka Manini,” “Ho‘omalimali” and “Hawaiian Cowboy,” to name three. “Bali Hai” and “Tiare No Tahiti,” the latter sung in Tahitian, fit in nicely as well.
Kaipo Asing (guitar) and Alan Akaka (steel guitar/dobro/ukulele) back Aiko and his acoustic bass. Their work together is magic from the opening bars of “Poina ‘Ole ‘Ia (Unforgettable)” through the closing notes of the final song, “Hawai‘i Sang Me to Sleep.”
Aiko completes his Grammy Award-worthy album with a beautifully illustrated liner notes booklet that provides song lyrics, English translations of Hawaiian lyrics, and short explanations of why he chose each song for the project. He even makes note of places where he changed the lyrics for personal reasons. Vintage photos show him in all stages of dress from dinner jacket and aloha wear to the self-designed leopard-print Speedo-style garb he sometimes wore while riding horse.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at email@example.com.