Island Roots Vol. 1 - Contemporary Music From Hawai'i
2000 / Quiet Storm Records
Review by Steve Yip
Let’s have some fun! This album has been dismissed as bland or pedestrian fare, however, it is a great introduction that Hawaiian music is not just the lovely, soothing ukulele ballads, the slack key guitar melodies, or the cocktail lounge repertoire of Don Ho (remember “Tiny Bubbles”?). It comes from the grassroots peoples native to Hawai’i of all ethnic backgrounds including those of indigenous Hawai’ian and Polynesian heritage.
First question: Are you familiar with Hawaiian reggae or the Pacific hip-hop music scene? When I first landed in Hawai’i, driving along the roads and turning on the radio, you not only enjoy its mild inviting climate but soon get fairly relaxed and mellow. (This doesn’t mean that Hawai’i isn’t the designation vacation spot as we know it, but people who live there struggle like many of us on the mainland. The time I was there on Kaui, there was a nurses’ strike. But it is certainly more mellow than even the West Coast.) This album draws from an array of recordings by Hawai’i-based artists.
“Da Kine” is a fun musical language lesson in Hawai’ian pidgin by then 14-year-old Darrell Labrado. Da kine is a placeholder expression that the people of Hawai’i use in the way mainlanders say “whatever” or “whatchamacallit” or to even describe something or someone positively or negatively. WDK - What Da Kine!
“I Wish You Were Mine” is a cool infectious reggae-infused piece by entertainer Tommy Tokioka featuring an exclusive performance by Steve Perry of Journey fame. As the album notes explain, “A fresh island vibe coupled with the voice that powered numerous national hits makes for an irresistible combination.”
“Polynesian Party” by Sudden Rush brings a reggae/hip-hop flava combining call and response chants that may remind peeps of a Fresh Prince sensibility.
“Pi’i Mi Ka Nalu” by Robi Kahakalau is sung in the Hawai’ian language with a hip-hop flavor celebrating the ancient Hawai’ian sport of surfing. Robi has also taught college Hawai’ian studies and language.
“Island Style” by John Cruz is a celebrated Hawai'ian anthem with folk vocals and acoustic guitar. It can also be found as a Playing for Change video/musical cover. Those who follow Playing for Change will find John Cruz performing in many of their musical covers.
There are other important artists in this collection, including that of the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Again, this music is a good exposure of the popular music scene that has emerged from among the people. One critic may have dismissed this compendium as “pop tunes,” I refuse to make no such judgment! We’re talking about fusion music that has drawn from Hawai’ian, Fijian, Tahitian, Portuguese, Mexican, Asian influences, rock, R&B, and of course, Jamaican ska and reggae. Part 1 of Island Roots: Contemporary Music from Hawai’i is from a four-CD series of music by Quiet Storm Records. My research shows that this company is no longer active, at least not on the internet. But apparently, there is an ample supply that is available via Amazon.com. So have some fun!
March 10, 2022