Thursday, January 19, 2012

HAPA - gateway drug to Hawaiian Music

My first purchase of a "Hapa" CD falls into the category of albums purchased because of the cover art. Browsing through the world music section at Borders many years ago (When the Borders at North Ryde was new and different) I came across this album and was immediately struck by the contrast between the two figures. The figure on the left looks pretty unremarkable for an album of Hawaiian music but what is with the guy on the right? From the sunglasses to the kilt and the black boots everything was different from the expected. And the guitar, not just the violin style head and tuning keys but the strange angle it was being held at. A quick check of the track list on the back confirmed my suspicions. Besides tracks with Hawaiian titles there were some old surf classics (sleepwalk and europa) plus a cover of the U2 anthem Pride(in the name of love). So expecting some fusion/melding of Hawaiian Music with other influences I purchased the CD.

I'll admit that some albums I have purchased based on the covers have not been great successes musically. This is certainly not one of those. This album remains a favourite (and no surprise to regular readers) I have since purchased every available album by this duo.

It turns out that the groups name "HAPA" in Hawaiian means "of mixed blood, person of mixed blood" which fits perfectly with the album cover, the set list and the groups overall approach. Which is not to say everything is a mixture or dilution of Hawaiian culture and music. It is more a case of Hawaiian Music being approached with the reverence and respect that it deserves and some Hawaiian influences being applied to other music and vice-verse. 

This album is perhaps the least traditional of the Hapa albums and the unusual U2 is pretty much the only track on any of the CD's that does not have some Hawaiian connection. Each of their other albums has a unique character, they even did an album of Surf Music but the combined Guitar and Vocals on the Hawaiian tracks are the standouts.

I recommend this album in particular but all of the "Hapa" albums are well worth a listen. Just beware, after listening to these albums you may find yourself going in search of more Hawaiian Music and end up in a ukelele band wearing a grass skirt, (worse things could happen)

If you want to catch some of their other work the track olinda road is featured in episode 20 - series one of the new Hawaii-5-O

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