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
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
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.
— FAMILY SONGS
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
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.