Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole @ Musical Instrument Museum
On the opening track of Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole's eponymous 2008 album, the traditional island music is interrupted by a chant provided by Kanaka'ole's grandmother. Delivering recitations in Hawaiian, her part acts as a bridge between generations and traditions. In fact the entire album, Kanaka'ole's third, is a family affair, as more Hawaiian chanting comes on the track "Aina Po." What sounds like hundreds of people is actually just the voices of Kanaka'ole, his mother and his grandmother layered atop one another. While the disc balances oli (chants) and mele (songs), modern sounds work their way into the mix, as when "Kulanihakoi" suggests Queen's arena-rock sounds. Kanaka'ole drops the ball occasionally, introducing some ambient grooves into his recordings, genericizing what should be a unique creation. While the "world music" crowd certainly would dig Kanaka'ole's music, the sometimes bland production adopts the tropes that sand down what should be peaks and valleys in the music. Few places in the United States are as aware of native populations as we are in the Southwest, so giving a listen to one of our neighbors from the west should be especially rewarding.
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