Various Artists

Kanikapila O'Ahu Style

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The tourism department on O'ahu had a hand in the creation of this album, which nearly shamelessly promotes the island. That said, however, it shamelessly promotes it not by sheer advertising prowess, but by having some of the best music in contemporary Hawaiian put together into one masterful compilation. The vast majority of stars in the realm of contemporary Hawaiian are here. The album opens with a simple song from the Makaha Sons, leading into a basic ballad and a piece from adult contemporary superstars Na Leo Pilimehana. The greatest treat on the album comes next with a reworked cover of John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Road" from Hawaii's biggest star in recent years, the late, great Iz. Youngblood Raiatea Helm shows off her vocal chops, the Brothers Cazimero contribute an excellent ballad, and musical shapeshifter Willie K appears with a nice piece in combination with Amy Hanaiali'i. Dennis Pavao tosses in one, the Makaha Sons have another, and the album closes with contemporary guitarist Sean Na'auao. There is essentially zero slack key here, essentially zero ukulele. The focus is on what's being played on the AC stations and pop charts on the islands, with a secondary narrower of being from O'ahu. Each of the performers here has a few excellent albums under his belt, and is each worth looking up separately. This album however makes an extraordinary basic introduction to contemporary Hawaiian music for those curious, but not wishing to spend the time and money on a massive series of albums to get at the full detail of the genre. Use this as a general guidebook to the players on the scene (and pick up some Iz albums anyway).

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