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Real Hawaiian culture

Troubled Paradise
Troubled Paradise
By various artists

Flying Fish Records: 1992

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This review first appeared in the November 2, 1992 edition of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

No Don Ho here. This is the real Hawaiian music, and is the soundtrack of the PBS documentary of the same name.

The majority of the songs are either traditional chants by one of the big island's many hula ensembles (and not the hula you see at the Waikiki hotels) or the folk-influenced solo guitar and vocals of George Kahumoku Jr.

In either case, it's not what is usually associated with Hawaiian music. It's far more beautiful, more exotic and more enchanting than any umbrella-in-your-cocktail floor show. The a capella chants are haunting, and reminiscent (at least to white, middle-class American ears) of the traditional chants of some native American cultures.

Kahumoku's music, with some lyrics in Hawaiian and some in English, features some of the best guitar picking you'll hear this side of Chet Atkins. It's more contemporary than the chants, and probably – for those interested in such things – more reflective of modern Hawaiian culture.

This is a neat album, representing as it does an opportunity to hear the music in its undiluted beauty.