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World Music CD Reviews North American


Published May 5, 2006


Even casual fans can probably identify Hawaiian music when they hear it. There is certainly plenty on the market, ranging from virtuosic slack key guitarists to the more stereotypical tourist-friendly form prevalent for several decades. Recordings of other, less common forms of Hawaiian music are not as easy to find. This album, for example, was recorded live in July 2002 at the Festival Mondial des Culture in Drummondville, Québec and consists of traditional hula songs. The group is Halau hula ka no’eau (Hawaii Arts Ensemble), the state’s only professional dance company. The repertoire consist mainly of ensemble singing with accompaniment on basic traditional instruments, such as small coconut drums, gourds, bamboo and hardwood sticks, and a rattle. Hula songs and chants have roots in ancient Hawaiian myths and legends. Some songs deal with land features such as volcanoes, while a surfing chant appears, though very different from what mainlanders recognize as surf music. This one extols the skills of a surfing king.