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Otokichi

"The Wild Hawaiian" by Henry Kapono

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Capsule review: Henry Kapono plugs in and Rocks!

Henry Kapono Ka'aihue has burned hot and cold between Rock, Pop, and "Cecilio & Kapono mellow" since the 1970's, when C&K strolled onto the Hawai'i music scene.

For 2006, Henry Kapono decided to honor family, home, and the future. Instead of issuing an all-instrumental Slack Key set, that's been silencing many singers, he starts off by turning the traditional "Na Ali'i" to "11" on the Rock scale. This tribute to Hawaiian chiefs of the past moves quickly to "He'eia," a place name song of this favorite surf spot of King Kalakaua. (Known as "The Merrie Monarch," he clearly enjoyed surf, song, and scotch!) Staying on the surfboard, "Taboo" would do Dick Dale proud as an addition to the surf music genre. "Hawai'i Aloha (A Mau Loa)" isn't Rev. Lorenzo Lyons' hymn celebrating Hawaii in song. This is a series of vignettes of the natural wonders known to locals. Here sex, sailing, and a day at the beach meld into a perfect memory. "E Ho Mai," a chant written by a legendary Hula teacher becomes a Rock gospel prayer. Another place name song, "Hilo Hanakahi," is sung as a round, between Kapono and a male chorus. Touring "The Big Island" will never be the same.

"Na Makua" is a tribute to elders, specifically beach boys, who taught kids to respect the ocean and themselves. A traditional love song, "Hi'ilawe," is changed into a Rock ballad celebrating young love prevailing in spite of parental objections. Finally, Queen Lili'uokalani's "Ke Aloha O Ka Haku," (aka "The Queen's Prayer") shifts gears from hymn to a call to prevail in the face of adversity. This CD release has generated quite a bit of interest locally, and may finally break the "Slack Key Only" mindset of Hawaiian music Grammy voters. (Yeah, right! Raiatea Helm's "Sweet & Lovely" CD lost out to an Instrumental collection in spite of being the only vocal nominee.)

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Thank you for your review, Otochiki. I'll admit that I know next to nothing about Hawaiian music, but your words have made me realize that even though a genre of music may be specific to a certain area, music in general touches us all with basically the same emotions and themes.

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