Record Review

Brittni Paiva:

Some Tunes Old, Some Songs New, Some Hits Borrowed & Some Blues

 By W. Knox Richardson

Back in March I had the pleasure of being a presenter at the Hawaii Music Awards. One of the show’s highlights was a performance by a charming young lady from Hilo, Britnni Paiva. She delighted the audience with her dazzling virtuosity of the ukulele as well as her shy, quick wit that belied her young age of 16.

When a review copy of her second CD arrived I looked forward to playing it for the first time. I didn’t know then I would look forward to the second, third and fourth times with just as much anticipation.

The collection, called “Hear,” is a mixture of contemporary and traditional Hawaiian songs, modern standards, regional folk tunes and even an insightful arrangement of Paul Desmond’s “Take Five,” first made famous by sax man Dave Brubeck. (“Take Five” is one of only two hit songs ever written in the obscure time signature of 5/4 — the other being the theme to “Mission Impossible.”) With a smoothly performed, tightly constructed rendition of this jazz classic leading off the album, I knew I was in for a surprise. Her interpretation and phrasing of the jazz licks were as finely executed as Brubeck’s signature sound from the late 1950s. How does someone so young, and of this day, comprehend this music, much less demonstrate a mastery of it? What followed were just as many surprises as there were tracks.

When Wolfgang Mozart first performed his music for an early royal patron, the nobleman reportedly dismissed the young prodigy by waving his hand and saying, “Too many notes.” Perhaps this lesson wasn’t lost on Ms. Paiva as nowhere on the album is there is sense of overpowering her music by putting a run, pluck, chord or a strum where it needn’t be. She offers a delicate balance, a compromise really, between too many notes and understatement of phrasing and melody that fulfills the promise of her potential, even at this young age. All too often, youthful musicians gifted with fast fingers tend to attack their instruments, running their hands up and down fret boards as though in a race to finish before the rest of band. In “Hear,” Brittni’s maturity is evident, both in her choice of material and the pleasant, rewarding execution that comes from self-assured musicianship foretelling a long and fruitful career.

While mostly instrumental, this album includes a single track with Brittni singing — in both Hawaiian and Hebrew — a seemingly odd combination until you listen closely and discover the how wonderfully peaceful and harmonic the two languages work together, one after the other. Called “E Lohea Mai” or “Hear,” this title cut is a spiritually refreshing song with lyrics from the Bible and music by Beth Schafer. The song and Brittni’s vocalization is reminiscent of “Suo Gân,” a lullaby sung in Welsh from Spielberg’s 1987 “Empire of the Sun.” At once “E Lohea Mai” is moving and charismatic.

Rarely today do collections come along that can be played over and over and still retain their freshness. Here is one you can put on changer, start with any track, and then simply press “repeat.” It’s a keeper.

“Hear,” was self-produced by Brittni Paiva and engineered, mixed and mastered by Wendell Ching. Liner notes are by Keith and Carmen Haugen and by Eddie Kamae. “Hear” will be released statewide on Nov. 8.


From the vaults of Hula Records comes the long-awaited reissue of the 1962 album NA MELE OHANA — family songs — from the mele book of the late Vickie Ii Rodrigues, sung by Vickie — one of the foremost authorities on Hawaiian music and dance, her three daughters (Lani, Lahela and Nina) and two sons (Boyce and John).

Historically, Hawaiian song lyrics were handed down person to person and kept in family song-books. Some lyrics were shared with those outside the
family; others were not. This rare recording, remastered for optimum sound by today’s digital systems, represents the first time “Auntie” Vickie opened her song book for anyone other than family and close friends. The lyrics enclosed in the CD are transcribed from her own hand.

The songs are performed “old style” that is seldom heard today, including “Kalamaula,” “Hilo One” and “Ku‘u Pua Mikinolia.” Recommended.