"Hanapepe Dream" - 2001
TAJ MAHAL - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
PONCHO GRAHAM - Acoustic Bass
KESTER SMITH - Drums
PAT COCKETT - Liliu Ukulele, Vocals on "Moonlight Lady"
MICHAEL BARRETTO - Baritone Ukulele
WAYNE JACINTHO - Tenor Ukulele, Vocals on "Livin' on easy"
FRED LUNT - Hawaiian Steel Guitar
RUDY COSTA - Tenor Saxophone, Curved Soprano, Kalimba, Piccolo Flute, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet
CARLOS ANDRADE - Slack-Key Guitar, vocals on "Moonlight Lady"
Recorded August 14th - 16th 2000 at Moments, Bremen, Germany_and February 17th, 2000 at Messenger Studio, Kauai, Hawaii
"The songs here are showcasing what can happen when like-minded people from different backgrounds (here we have Afro-Caribbean, Afro-American, Pacific Islander, Portugese and other European ancestries) are creating a cultural blend full of joy, love and harmony. At its very core it is the exiting universal language of music. Some songs are new and written with the group in mind, others are songs youíve heard in Southern blues style."
This excerpt from the indestructible Taj Mahalís preface to the first album that provided documentation of his personal love affair with Hawaiian music (TAJ MAHAL AND THE HULA BLUES, 1997, T & M 009) applies to the follow-up HANAPEPE DREAM as well ó itís out now on TRADITION & MODERNE. "Never change a winning concept", one might add in variation of the popular sports saying about the value of a successful team spirit. Everyone agreed that the predecessorís concept had been very well-rounded and even instinct told Taj to approach things just as relaxed and in typically easygoing style and fashion. Besides, Taj Mahal is spending a lot of time on Hawaii again, a place he loves dearly. Beginning in the early 80s, he had been residing on the island of Kauai for more than ten years.
And so, following his most recent trip into various styles of blues and RíníB, heís back with the one-of-a-kind sound of his beloved Hula Blues Band. In 1999 and 2000 this band had toured through the fast and easy changing European summers in good natured style and had left many audiences raving. And thereís a reason for that, to be found in Tajís words on the nature of Hawaiian music:"Thereís two things that people will never get rid of as long as the earth functions in the way it is, and that is music and food. Thereís no way around it! In my traditional role, in my ancestor role, you have the family, you have the work and then you have the things that you do for play... music is not something separate over here. Music is a part of the life, the language, an extension if you will, of the living..." This social connection of Hawaiian music to everyday life apparently imparts a special kind of quality to it. A kind of deep soul. A thing of beauty that regrettably fell victim to the commercializing tendencies of the US entertainment industry many times in the past.
So what exactly is the proverbial "Hula syndrome" all about? Is is just about having a good time or is there something deeper lurking behind this expression? Thereís a significant and concise definition of the original meaning of the Hula to be found at the beginning of Robert Muggeís great documentary "Kuma Hula" about Hawaiian cultural history: "The Hula is the dance of the Hawaiian people and has been since early Polynesians arrived in the islands around 500 AD. The chants and dances which make up the Hula tradition have been passed on for generations by Kahuma (priests and sages) and by Kuma Hula (master teachers)". This aspect of Hawaiian cultural history was ignored most of the time, of course, when it came to selling the images and dreams of a Pacific paradise. Naive and racist fantasies about native beauties, palm trees and white sandy beaches had been the stock repertoire of nightclubs in the US, Asia and Europe for decades. But how the Hula came to be identified internationally with these Hawaiian clichťs is a twisted tale. Taj Mahal probably knows all about it and surely would not hesitate to voice a critical opinion.
And thatís precisely because the great manís mind is very tuned in to questions concerning ethnic and cultural interconnection. In a career thatís been going on for more than thirty years, this multi-talented musical legend has proven to the world again and again, how intensely the many styles of Afro-American, African and Caribeean musics are connected with each other. His personal motivation as an artist was clear from the beginning: Taj Mahal is a preserver, a mediator, a messenger and a catalyst. And "Hawaiian slack-key music" has been one of his favorite musical idioms for a long time. Taj and other enthusiasts like guitarist Bob Brozman and George Winston (as founder of the Dancing Cat record label) have managed to stir much interest for this vocal music that features lots of one-of-a-kind fingerstyle guitar-playing based on a great variety of open tunings. The leading champions from the thirtiesí golden age of slack-key music (Sol Hoopii, Roy Smeck, King Benny Nawahi) are now considered to be innovators of high calibre. Taj Mahal knows all about this stuff and today, his stature as an artist of unquestionable personal and artistic integrity is solid as a rock. Taj Mahal is all about the soul of black folks and their music.
HANAPEPE DREAM ó THE ALBUM
Continuing in the spirit of the Hula Blues Bandís first effort, Taj Mahal is again joined by his gang of friends and musicians from Hawaii who not only like to play music together. They also like to go fishing and Taj is prone to perform his quity legendary cooking skills for the well-being of the group. The sound of the band is still very organic and relaxed, with the ensemble of soprano, tenor, and baritone ukulele very much intact. Saxophone, clarinet, flute and Hawaiian steel guitar are present as well, contributing some quintessential Hawaiian atmospheres and sounds. The bandís new repertoire is again a mix of the popular with the new:
Right from GREAT BIG BOAT - the very first song on the record and a Taj Mahal original - the path into Hawaiian regions and moods is cleared by the bandís exciting ukulele orchestra and some beautiful soprano sax playing. The Caribeean-flavored reggae groove turns up in slightly varied form in Tajís new adaption of the traditional song BLACKJACK DAVEY as well. Also, Carlos Andrade and Pat Cockett from Hawaiiís first-rate Napali group are on board again and can be heard as lead vocalists on their original MOONLIGHT LADY. The happy sounds of Calypso are dominating Tajís new original music to another traditional lyric: KING EDWARDíS THRONE.
With AFRICAN HERBMAN Taj Mahal is paying homage to an old colleague and friend from the 60ís Eastcoast folk scene ó Richie Havens. Some more exciting covers on this album: a very intense version of Bob Dylanís ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER, a loving interpretation of Mississippi John Hurtís MY CREOLE BELLE and a fine take on an old classic from Tajís blues repertoire: STAGGER LEE. His very own BABY, YOUíRE MY DESTINY transports a tongue-in-cheek New Orleans jazz feel thatís transplanted to Hawaii and the many pleasures of Hawaiian "good life" are communicated quite impressively on the proverbial LIVING ON EASY and the albumís all-instrumental title track HANAPEPE DREAM ó music like a Hawaiian daydream. And so Taj Mahal & The Hula Blues Band have again succeeded in putting together a great selection of songs reflecting the many different aspects of Tajís quite complex artistic identity. Like guided by a magic hand these new variations of one manís artistic vision have come together in a spiritual music of a very original nature.
With this new music on HANAPEPE DREAM, Taj Mahal And The Hula Blues Band are again situated right where they like to be most ó in the emotional places where people live. Even if a fishing pole and a hammock may be quite distant paraphernalia for most Europeans, the wonderful music on HANAPEPE DREAM works every place where people know how to live and have a good time. HANAPEPE DREAM presents some new tunes coming from a great African-American artist, whose creative engergies apparently seem to renew themselves in a perpetual kind of manner. Taj Mahalís wonderful preface to the first HULA BLUES album ended as follows: "These are the words ó now listen and, if you will, please enjoy the music ó Peace and Good Vibes Still no need to put something on top.
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