2013 Hawaiian Music CDs in Review

Aloha Dear Readers! As the year draws to a close, I am drawn to reflect on the Hawaiian music CDs that have come onto my radar. I do not pretend to offer a comprehensive review, because as you know, I am partial to recordings of Hawaiian-langauge songs. But based on a list of recordings that I compiled this morning, of 2013 CDs that have come onto my radar, some fascinating insights came into view.

My terribly unscientific list numbers some 45 or so CDs. And this is how they kind of fall into groups:

  1. 18 of the new CDs I have acquired this year are by male vocalists who are featured soloists. In alphabetical order, the gentlemen are: Ikaika Blackburn, Danny Carvalho, Robert Cazimero, Norman DeCosta, Steven Espaniola, Daryl Gonzales, Nate Kanae, Kuana Torres Kahele, Henry Kapono, Elias Kauhane Jr.,  Kekaimoku, Kamaka Kukona, Chino Montero, Sean Na’auao, Nicholas Jon Navales, Al Tringali, Neal Yamamura, Mark Yamanaka
  2. 7 of the new CDs are by 6 female vocalists who are featured soloists: Faith Ako, newcomer Kanani Enos, Robi Kahakalau, Natalie ʻAi Kamau’u, Mailani (who released her third CD, Manawa, early in the year, and a Christmas CD, My Island Christmas, late in the fall), and the now single-monikered Nāpua.
  3. Among groups who released CDs (a “group” being more than one person), the stats are as follows: 2 womenʻs groups–Nā Leo Pilimehana and The Hula Honeys; 5 menʻs groups– newcomers Ho’omana and Kaiholu, veteran (and award-winning) artists KumZ and Waipuna, and the duo release from Nathan Aweau and Jeff Peterson; and two mixed groups, The Lim Family, and Kūpaoa (who released their third CD, Bumbye, early in the year, and put out an EP, I Know You By Heart, shortly before Christmas).
  4. ‘Ukulele soloists:  3 CDs, from Troy Fernandez, a Christmas offering from Kalei Gamiao, and Herb Ohta Jr.
  5. Slack Key Guitar:  kind of challenging to count, as musicians continue to explore repertoire beyond the Hawaiian standards, and as guitarists step to the microphone. The six CDs that came across my desk and into my iTunes library this year are all by men, all of whom are veteran recording artists:  Danny Carvalho (who shines as a vocalist), John Keawe, Makana, Jeff Peterson, Jim “Kimo” West, and the duo release from Nathan Aweau and Jeff Peterson.

As a Hawaiian music fan living far from Hawai’i, I am particularly intrigued to note that, among  the 40+ CDs, 6 7 were produced by artists who, to my knowledge, reside outside Hawai’i. In southern California, kumu hula Kekaimoku Yoshikawa and ki ho’alu artist Jim “Kimo” West; in the San Francisco Bay/northern California region, Faith Ako, Steven Espaniola, and the group Ho’omana; and in Seattle, Elias Kauhane, Jr. and Al Tringali (mahalo Gregg). E ō e nā ipu kukui e pio mau i nā ala loa!

Do I have favorites? Of course! Am I going to share? Um, maybe paha. But in the meantime, I wish you all blessings for this holiday season, and happiness and prosperity in 2014. My warmest aloha, Dear Readers!!

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6 Responses to 2013 Hawaiian Music CDs in Review

  1. Gregg says:

    7 outside Hawai`i; Al Tringali is on Bainbridge Island (near Seattle) – I produced the album. A hui hou!

  2. Auntie Maria says:

    Missing from your list were 2013 releases by Hulu Lindsey, Komakino (group), John Keawe & Charles Recaido (EP), Pali Ka`aihue (uke solo), Stephen Inglis (ki ho`alu), Raiatea Helm (iTunes download-only EP), Pancho Graham (ki ho`alu), and Neal Yamamura.

    • amykstillman says:

      Hello Auntie Maria,
      as ever, your vigilance is most impressive. i would like to go on record, however, to underscore my first paragraph, in that this overview reflected CDs that came onto my radar this year, by the time of the writing of this post. I do not have any “in” into the recording industry; I do not receive press releases. It is getting more and more challenging to keep up with new product. For example, Komakakinoʻs release appeared on CDBaby and nowhere else to my knowledge. I am not friended on Facebook to folks who might have posted about Raiatea Helmʻs iTunes-only EP. Pancho Graham–I have never heard of him. Iʻm sure he is a fine musician and ki hoʻalu guitarist, but how am I supposed to learn about his release? I am friended to Danny Carvalho, and ordered his CD immediately when he posted info on his Facebook page. But do you realize it took over two months for that CD to reach mele.com?

      So do you have suggestions on how the information might be made more accessible publicly?

  3. Auntie Maria says:

    Sadly, Hawai`i has seen the demise of one more music distributor just this year (Aloha Music International aka Booklines Hawai`i officially closed their music division end of 2013). In Hawai`i, there are now only 3 active music distribution companies — down from the 8 or so that supplied me in 1995 when I opened mele.com

    This loss of distributors has resulted in musicians/labels having to do their own PR and get their CDs to retailers & buyers themselves — whether they know how to, or not. Most are relying on social media (primarily FB) and their own websites to keep fans alert to gigs and and new releases. Retailers are scrambling to keep abreast of new releases — often not hearing about them until weeks (or even months) afterward. While it is easy to stay in touch with established island musicians via their FB pages or websites, when a new musician (like Kaiholu or Komakakino) has their debut release, they need to get the word out to radio stations and retailers ASAP — but few know how to do that.

    I always announce new releases on my personal FB page as soon as I hear of them, and include on my radio broadcasts too (even the download-only ones). Folks who pick up that info, need to share. 🙂

  4. Auntie Maria says:

    One more source of new-release info is John Berger’s column in the Honolulu Advertiser. He usually reviews new releases in the Sunday edition.

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