The 25 Greatest Hawaii Albums of the New Century

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17) Maui

Hapa, 2005

Maui the demigod turns up throughout Polynesia, connecting the enormous region through mythology.  Maui, the album, makes pan-Polynesian connections, too. In this incarnation of Hapa, Barry Flanagan collaborated with Nathan Aweau to blend Hawaiian, Tahitian and Tokelauan influences with jazz, blues, a little slam poetry and some Bob Marley. The album’s grand musical ambition is matched by its packaging: a 12-page booklet of liner notes and a CD case that unfolds into a 27-inch mini-mural depicting the album’s supernatural namesake hauling a load of islands off the seafloor with his magic fish hook.
 

18) Life in These Islands

Kaukahi, 2006

For band member Kawika Kahiapo, “Life in These Islands” is more than just an album. “It captures life in Hawaii. There’s a certain way we do things, every day.” The slow pacing, calm melodies and beautiful vocals immediately bring to mind a relaxed, Island lifestyle. The four guys in Kaukahi began their recording in Jack Johnson’s studio, and you can even hear Johnson playing slack key, a skill he was taught by Kahiapo, on “Constellations.”

 

19) Nau Oe

Kainani Kahaunaele, 2009

"Teaching is my main career, but music is my passion,” says Kahaunaele. Nau Oe originally began as songs she composed for music curriculum at Aha Punana Leo, the Hawaiian-language immersion school. Needless to say, the music didn’t stay long in the classroom. She compiled them into an album, each song filled with poetic phrases drawing from her fluency with the Hawaiian language. “We wanted to provide real life examples of Hawaii,” says Kahaunaele, “The songs are about love for land, people and kupuna.”

20) E

Natalie Ai Kamauu, 2005

Kamauu named her debut CD with a single vowel because E translates from Hawaiian as “strange” or “unusual,” and that’s how she felt stepping from behind the hula dancers she had long played behind to take center stage herself. The former Miss Aloha Hula also knew that if a self-produced album with no label behind it was going to get noticed, it would need a hook (she applied the same reasoning to her subsequent albums, A and I). But it’s really the tenderness of her voice in songs such as “Kiowao/Ua Nani o Nuuanu,” a lullaby she wrote for her daughter, that draws you in. “She reaches out to you,” says panelist and Hawaiian 105 KINE radio personality “Billy V” Van Osdol, “and you can’t help but want to smile back.”
 


photo: mark arbeit

Hear more from Israel Kamakawiwoole, Raiatea Helm, Brothers Cazimero and Kealii Reichel in our web exclusive video.

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,September

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