'Aumakua: "As gods and relatives in one, they give us strength when we are weak, warning when danger threatens, guidance in our bewilderment, inspiration in our arts."
- Mary Kawena Pukui
* * * * *
Amy Hanaiali'i's latest CD, " 'Aumakua," arrives at a perfect time when the world seems like it's spinning out of control. Every song on this extraordinarily beautiful recording connects us with something deeper, something of lasting value, a realm beyond that can provide needed protection, comfort and support.
Drawing on the Hawaiian concept of 'aumakua, ancestral spirits and elemental forces, Amy presents 14 songs sung in Hawaiian and English portraying guiding energy whether rain, a star, the moon, a family ancestor or the collective spirit of the islands.
"Every song was carefully picked to represent a specific 'aumakua," Amy explains. "The album is a tool to help open up people's imagination. You don't have to be Hawaiian to have an 'aumakua. Everyone has one."
Now residing on Molokai where she's farming and raising her daughter, Amy felt it was time to create an album that focused on the spiritual dimension.
"With how crazy the world is now and having a baby and moving to Molokai, I don't have to find inspiration living here," Amy continues. "The elements in Molokai are so in your face, and the spirituality is just there. My great great grandfather practiced la'au lapa'au Hawaiian medicine in my backyard. I've always been on that more spiritual side that I learned from my grandmother."
Expanding her palette to embrace all facets of her prodigious talent, with " 'Aumakua" Amy has created a masterwork, her most exceptional recording to date.
Magnificent interpretations of familiar songs and charming new compositions are colored with lush orchestration from the Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaii and an ace band including Jeff Peterson on guitar and Sean Na'auao on bass.
Teamed with Catingub and guided by veteran manager Allen Sviridoff, who worked with Rosemary Clooney for many years, Amy seems poised to impress the world.
Just take a listen to the opening track, a radical revision of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" With its exquisite orchestration and slowed ballad tempo, she interprets the classic hit as a sophisticated pop artist paying homage to her family 'aumakua.
"That was my manager, he came up with 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain?' " she reports. "He's so intrigued that rain is my family 'aumakua. Everywhere we go, it rains all the time, and it blows his mind. He was Rosemary Clooney's manager for 30 years and he's come out of retirement. He produced the whole Return to Romance festival and brought Smokey (Robinson) and all those people, but he's never really worked with a Hawaiian artist before. And I've always wanted to record with Matt because I think he's absolutely brilliant. It was a collaboration between the three of us. Matt and he had a big part in picking the songs for me."
The eclectic offering of English songs on the album ranges from "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" from the musical "Oklahoma!" and "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Disney's "Pinocchio," to Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home," the standard "Blue Moon" and Bette Milder's beautiful ballad "In This Life" that was later adopted by Iz.
Hawaiian songs include "Ka Ua 'Ula," composed by Amy and Keli'i Taua, that celebrates the mystical red rain of Lahaina and finds her in familiar ha'i falsetto territory; and another new Amy/Keli'i co-composition, "Manu O Ku," that references the voyaging canoe Hokule'a, captained by Hanaiali'i's brother Tim Kahinalua.
The exceptionally beautiful tribute to Amy's grandmother, "Napua," previously recorded on "Generation Hawaii," is revisited here with strings and added English lyrics; and the lovely new song "Uale'a Ka Mahina" celebrates the birth of her daughter, Madeline.
Some of the album's most effective songs see Amy supported simply by Jeff Peterson on slack key guitar or ukulele, such as the gorgeous lullaby "When You Wish Upon Star," where her careful phrasing highlights the song's underlying message emphasizing the power of intention and faith.
"We wanted to do something different with that song," she notes. "Hoku, the star is an 'aumakua. I wanted to find a song that would make the children of Hawaii dream. It's a perfect song for that, it really makes you listen to the lyrics. Allen (Sviridoff) is very careful with phrasings and lyrics, I can't tell you how many times I sang these songs over and over."
Again just backed by Peterson, Amy closes the album with Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning." It's an uplifting affirmation that acknowledges Amy's early theatrical training. "The world's crazy right now, and it's just about waking up in paradise every day and how lucky we are to live here," she says. "I wanted to tie all my worlds together because my background is musical theater and slowly ease fans into that."
" 'Aumakua" amply highlights the many facets of Amy's talent. Already topping the local charts, there's no reason it can't connect with audiences across the nation.
* * * * *
The free Molokai Film Festival returns to the friendly isle on Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. Films screening include "The Turtle and& the Shark," "Molokai Ka Hula Piko" and "Aloha Music Camp" featuring Aunty Nona Beamer.
Entertainment will include performances by Brother Noland, Henry Allen, Lono, Kamaka Kehau and KPOA's Uncle Boy Kanae.
Brother Noland recently received major national exposure with the prominent inclusion of his classic song "Coconut Girl" in the hit comedy "Pineapple Express."
"I don't know where this song came from, but it's worth the price of the CD," noted a soundtrack album review. "Imagine if Stranger-era Billy Joel went reggae and it was totally awesome."
"It definitely matches the movie, it's an updated 'Cheech and Chong' thing with a lot of reggae-orientated music," says Noland. "It's really cool, it keeps me current, and it opens the door to knowing that there's more than one type of Hawaiian music. Even Brother Iz's big hits (in movies) are all famous cover songs."
Noland previously had his song "Backfire" from his Hokuwinning "Mystical Fish" CD featured in the movie "Snakes On A Plane."
"But it was so in the back that you've got to listen good to hear it," he says laughing.
Currently working on a new "Mystical Fish"-style band project, Noland will release a new Hawaiian music album early next year. "I've been working on this project for about three years, trying to find the right songs," he explains. "No one covers the rascal songs, the humorous Hawaiian songs with hidden messages, so I thought that would be fun."
* * * * *
The free third annual Maui Ukulele Festival will be held on Sunday starting at 2 p.m. at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's A&B Amphitheater.
The afternoon lineup of ukulele artists includes Ohta-San (Herb Ohta Sr.), Richard Ho'opi'i, Uluwehi Guerrero, Paula Fuga and Manoa DNA, plus local kupuna and keiki players.
Attendees may bring lawn chairs, mats or blankets, but no coolers and outside food and drink.
In conjunction with the festival, a free workshop will be presented by Roy and Kathy Sakuma on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. in the McCoy Studio Theater. Children and adults are welcome to attend. Lessons will be provided for beginning and intermediate players - the only requirements are that students can holdC, F and G7 chords. Students should bring their own ukuleles,paper and pencils.A new Kala ukulele will be given away to a lucky winner at the workshop.
* Contact Jon Woodhouse at email@example.com.