Po'okela Chants is the solo debut from Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu, the semi-modern hula chanter from Oakland that's made a name for himself in the mainstream through work on the Lilo and Stitch soundtrack. Here, he works through a number of hula chants, traditional and contemporary, essentially all done in solo chant form with an ipu or pahu drum accompanying, and a small group of vocalists that help out for the choruses now and then. The instrumentation is entirely traditional as such, as is the basic song structure throughout. There is a small period of experimentation, where a bit of guitar and synthesizer appear in the background, but luckily for the listener, that ends relatively quickly. The chants are entirely energetic, using a driving beat and the occasional shout to punctuate a run. His abilities as a chanter are really the treat for the listener here, as he moves flawlessly from one chant to the next, changing rhythms mid-song and holding the listener's attention for the duration. The song topics range from the basic traditional dances, to Hawaiian mythology, to King David Kalakaua (the first king to visit America), who takes up roughly half the album in tribute songs. Translations of the songs appear in the liner notes to help the listener who doesn't speak traditional Hawaiian (most listeners, that is), but the lyrics are almost unnecessary, as the music holds a thick ambience of its own. With the lyrics it becomes an outstanding work of traditional Hawaiian music, hailing from before the age of slack keys and ukuleles.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg