Click on album cover for high resolution jpeg.
Maui-based master luthier, Steve Grimes, says this CD "sounds fantastic," and gives it "the highest marks for acoustic fidelity I've heard with the double hole guitars!"
|It has been six years since my first solo album, and Ive been feeling it was time to speak through my guitar again. Some melodies, like people or memories, grab hold of you and never let go. This album is filled with songs like that. From Kaula Ili, the first ki hoalu piece I ever learned, to Maikai Ka Makani O Kohala, a song taught to me by my mentor and dear friend, Ozzie Kotani, to music from one of the most revered of Hawaiian composers and Hawaiis last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, to Hana, a contemporary popular song from Okinawa these are melodies that have, at one time or another, entered my life, seized my soul, and begged to be shared. Mahalo nui loa for the opportunity to play them for you.
"Songs From the Taro Patch (Na Mele Mai Na Lo'i Kalo)" by Steve Sano; Daniel Ho Creations
Genre: Ki ho'alu.
Distinguishing notes: This is Steve Sano's second CD, arriving six years after his debut, and it resonates with sensitivity and emotion. The mix of Hawaiian titles suits the slack-key format, evoking images of the distant past, a silent moment, a dusty trail, a fragile blossom.
Sano composed the opening track, "He Huaka'i," for a wedding ceremony, and it's chicly romantic and intimate. Among the best tracks: "Maika'i Ka Makani O Kohala," about the winds of Kohala; you can feel the gentle breezes if you close your eyes, amid the rustic appeal of the countryside. Some classics are here, too, like "Pua Lililehua," "Kaulana Na Pua" and "Ka Oiwi Nani." And, for variety, a Japanese ditty, "Hikaru Kaigara," which translates effectively to the Hawaiian format. For strummers, Sano provides recording techniques and explanations.
Our take: Add Sano-san to the roster of must-hear ki ho'alu masters.
"Songs from the Taro Patch"
(Daniel Ho Creations)
Sooner or later the Grammy Award for best Hawaiian album will go to an individual artist or group rather than to the producer (or producers) of a slack-key compilation. And sooner or later, the winning artist will be someone who lives on the mainland, rather than Hawaii.
Steve Sano's second album for Daniel Ho's L.A.-based record label is a contender on both counts. Sano, a California resident, plays slack key with a light touch and bright nahenahe (sweet, melodious) style. The album is a fine introduction to the genre, and fits nicely amid recent releases of island residents.
Sano establishes his credentials with the first song, "He Huaka'i," a melody he composed for a relative's wedding, and steps outside the standard ki ho'alu repertoire with a melody by Okinawan nationalist Shoukichi Kina. He also does justice to an assortment of Hawaiian standards, including "Pua Lililehua," "Ka 'Oiwi Nani" and "Kaulana Na Pua."
Documentation is an essential part of all Hawaiian releases, and Sano completes this beautiful album with information about the significance of each song and his slack-key tunings.
|All songs performed in G major Taro Patch tuning (DGDGBD).
All arrangements by Steve Sano, unless otherwise noted.
1. He Huakai: composed by Steve Sano.
I composed this in October 2004 as the bridesmaids processional for the wedding of my wifes cousin, Ann Ashimine, to Owen Shimizu. I wanted to write something that was stately, sweet, and intimate. The title simply means A Processional.
2. Birdies Slack Shake Key: composed and arranged by Nelson Hiu.
This song depicts the birds in the yard at Nelsons grandparents house, and the shake, or dance, his aunty would do when he played guitar for her. Ozzie Kotanis CD Kani Ki hoalu offers the definitive performance of this piece, and his masterful playing inspired me to learn this happy, bouncy tune.
3. Pua Lililehua: composed by Mary Kawena Pukui and Kahauanu Lake.
Whenever I think of this song about the red sagebrush flower, I hear the late, great slack key artist Sonny Chillingworths enveloping baritone voice singing the tale of two fellows courting a beautiful young woman in Palolo Valley where my wife spent small kid time at her grandparents house. The descending scale passages at the end of the vamps between verses honor slack key master Keola Beamer, whose beautiful arrangement of this song also utilizes scales in the vamps, though in his arrangement the scales ascend.
4. Kauai Nani La: composed by Wade Cambern.
The haunting melody depicts the beauty of the island of Kauai, where my mother-in-law grew up in a plantation family with eleven kids. Their old Waimea plantation house still stands simple, wooden, small, and tired languishing in the shadows of old mango trees. I love the color of the sub-tonic harmony that sets up the end of the opening two phrases; poignant, dark, and just a little melancholy like that old plantation house. This song was popularized by the wonderful Island singer Robi Kahakalau.
5. Kuu Pua I Paoakalani: composed by Queen Liliuokalani.
This beautiful melody stands as a tribute to the Queens heart and spirit for all who know the story behind it. Queen Liliuokalani composed this song while imprisoned in her own residence, Iolani Palace, following the illegal 1893 overthrow of her government. While incarcerated for eight months in 1895, the Queen was forbidden from learning news of the outside world but was allowed flowers from her gardens. On March 20 in 1895, she received flowers not from Pauoa Valley as usual, but from Paoakalani, her residence just Ewa of what is now the Kapiolani Park end of Waikiki hence the title, which means My Flower at Paoakalani. Those flowers, carefully and deliberately wrapped in newspaper by her gardener, brought so much more than fragrance and color to the Queens chambers that day. This arrangement is based on a superb choral setting by Les Ceballos, a member of the vocal/choral faculty at the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama campus.
6. Hana: composed by Shoukichi Kina.
The complete title of this popular Okinawan song is actually Subete No Hito No Kokoro Ni Hanna O (Offer Flowers to the Hearts of All People), but it has come to be known simply as Hana (Flower). With notable parallels to the activist community in Hawaii, Kina is known for his outspoken support of Okinawan independence from Japan (Okinawa was once a sovereign kingdom, as was Hawaii), and for his opposition to the continuing U.S. military presence in his homeland. For this arrangement, I first recorded the accompaniment with a guitar strung in the Nashville high-string style, then overdubbed the solo melody played on the ukulele.
7. Ka Oiwi Nani: composed by Queen Liliuokalani.
In The Queens Songbook, editors Dorothy Kahananui Gillett and Barbara Barnard Smith note that its not a surprise that this love song from 1886, when Liliuokalani was still a princess, comes from a time when her diaries are strewn with references to a special friend, perhaps Henry Berger. Berger was the director of the Royal Hawaiian Band, and Gillett and Smith note the possibility that the song celebrates a romantic liaison with him. Even the title, which translates to The Beautiful Form, or as the Queen herself translated it, Beautiful One, has possible romantic associations. It is one of the most compelling melodies of the Queens songs, and I arranged it so the second verse is played in a relaxed 12/8 ballad style.
8. Maikai Ka Makani O Kohala: composed by William Sheldon and David Nape, arranged by Ozzie Kotani.
The title translates to Fair is the Wind of Kohala, and tells of the Inu-wai winds that blow incessantly across the Kohala district on the Big Island of Hawaii. As is common with much Hawaiian poetry and song, there is a kaona or veiled meaning; here, the incessant wind is a metaphor for undying love. Ozzie Kotani based this version on the famous arrangement recorded by the Sunday Manoa on their 1969 album Guava Jam.
9. Kaula Ili: composed by Eliza Haaheo.
This is the first song I ever learned to play in the ki hoalu style. I often still listen to Sonny Chillingworths famous 1964 release Waimea Cowboy that features Kaula Ili (The Lariat) sung with three-part close-harmony vocals, and instrumental verses with virtuosic right-hand finger trills in the melody. Although Sonny was fighting a loosing battle with cancer by the time he re-recorded this song for the Dancing Cat record label thirty years later, his voice remained strong, with unparalleled warmth and humanity. I created this arrangement based on Sonnys later recording, and added an interlude to provide musical contrast between the second and third verses.
10. Kaulana Na Pua: composed by Ellen Kehoohiwaokalani Wright Prendergast.
One of the most famous songs in the Hawaiian repertoire, Kaulana Na Pua (Famous are the Flowers) was composed in 1893 as a protest to the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani. The rhythmic drive of this arrangement is based on the first measure of the two-measure Latin clave rhythm.
11. Hikaru Kaigara: composed by Hajime Chitose.
Born and raised on Amami-Oshima, an island about halfway between Okinawa and Kyushu, Hajime Chitose is one of Japans most recognized pop singers. Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro taught me this song for a pair of concerts we played together at Stanford in April of 2005. For that event, I played a tenor-voiced six-string guitar and Jake took lead on ukulele. Here, Ive arranged the song for solo guitar.
12. E Kala Kuu Upu Ana: Composed by Queen Liliuokalani.
Written in 1873, this song appears under the title E Kala Kuu Upu Ana (which the Queen translates as Long Years I Have Yearned for Thee) in both the Queens He Buke Mele, and the manuscript copies of her compositions housed at the Bishop Museum archives in Honolulu. However, in a third publication, A Hui Kawaihau Songbook, the title appears as Mololani, the name of the crater on Oahus Mokapu peninsula where, according to Hawaiian belief, the gods Kane, Ku, and Lono created humans. Ive arranged this song with two verses; the first with traditional harmonies as would be typical practice in the himeni style of the latter half of the 19th century, and the second with more contemporary added-tone harmonies.
|Instruments used on this recording:
2001 Steve Grimes Beamer Classical (http://www.grimesguitars.com)
1982 Martin 00-21 Custom (http://www.martinguitar.com)
1997 Taylor 422-K high strung (http://www.taylorguitars.com)
2005 KoAloha Custom Tenor Ukulele (http://www.koaloha.com)
The guitars were recorded with an AKG the TUBE microphone running through a MOTU 828 audio interface to an Apple Powerbook running Digital Performer. Sessions were monitored with KRK 1000 speakers.
|Daniel Ho for encouraging me to record this album, and for his support and friendship (not to mention irreplaceable production and engineering skills!); Ozzie Kotani for his artistry and friendship which have been a constant source of inspiration; Steve Grimes for guitars that are a paradigm of design and craftsmanship; Alan and Paul Okami from KoAloha Ukuleles for instruments that truly sing; Susan Kanagawa and Raymond Yuen for their quick shutter, creative eye, and CG wizardry; Frank Ford, Richard Johnston, and all the folks at Gryphon Stringed Instruments for taking wonderful care of my guitars for over 30 years; the Stanford University Department of Music faculty, staff, and students for their stellar musicianship, intellect, and support, which makes my job the best in the world; the staff at Lively Arts at Stanford for providing innumerable opportunities for sharing ki hoalu and collaborating with many of the greatest Island musicians; the Stanford Alumni Association for all those supportive audiences from campus, to the high Sierra, and to Molokai; Carol Silva for her knowledge and understanding of Olelo Hawaii that provides appropriate and responsible language context; Lydia Miyashiro for hospitality and support; Margaret Hartwell for her artistic soul; and of course Linda and KimiAnn, and all those family and friends whose presence in my life make living rich, rewarding, and always an adventure.|
Record Label: Daniel Ho Creations
Recorded: September 2006
Release Date: March 2007