Sun, 14 December 2014
I had to think hard about this, but there have not been many husband/wife duos in the history of the Hawai`i entertainment scene. There have been mother/daughter duos, father/son team-ups, and plenty of sister/brother collaborations. But I had to reach back over a century – all the way to Toots and July Paka – to think of another husband/wife pairing who made Hawaiian music together. (The dubious side of the Paka’s story, of course, is that despite choosing to perform Hawaiian music, Toots Paka was a Broadway actress who was not of Hawaiian descent and had never even been to Hawai’i. This in itself is not a crime, but Toots told her audiences and the media that she was Hawaiian. The lack of authenticity in her singing and hula belied her assertions.)
This makes Natalie and `Iolani Kamauu one of the few (if not the only) husband and wife duos in the history of Hawaiian entertainment to make and release music together. And the entire Hawaiian music-loving world rejoices that they did. Despite being from a family steeped in hula lineage (her parents are kumu hula Howard and Olana `Ai), Nat’s voice has a pop sensibility reminiscent of a Nohelani Cypriano, but chooses to perpetuate her culture by singing most of her repertoire in the Hawaiian language – offering new compositions as well as beloved traditional fare served up in a contemporary way courtesy of `Io’s arranging talents. Since splashing on to the local music scene in 2005, Nat – with most able instrumental accompaniment from husband `Io (previously of the group Kawaiola with Trevor Maunakea, Kanamu Akana, and Alden Levi) – has released a new CD on average every three years. The notable exception was the year 2009. Despite releasing her second full length CD only a year earlier, for the 2009 holiday season Nat and `Io gave the world their Christmas gift: Love & Peace and Unity. (Yes, the title is written correctly. The Kamauus have made a distinction between the ampersand and the word “and” – choosing to use both in the title.)
On Love & Peace and Unity, rather than translate, the couple finds the “Hawaiian” in these songs through husband Iolani’s arrangements. The repertoire runs the gamut and lives up to the expectation of “something for the entire family.” One moment Natalie is caressing the sacred “Away In A Manger” with tremendous sensitivity, then the couple gently huff and puff until they blow the roof off of the church with “Santa, Bring My Baby Back To Me,” their answer to such R&B holiday joints of the 60s as “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” And Nat and `Io are the only artists from Hawai`i ever to tackle “Count Your Blessings” (the Irving Berlin chestnut from the 1954 film classic White Christmas which Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sang to each other). `Io rearranged the usual 3/4 waltz-time as a 4/4 ballad – giving the song even greater poignancy and the couple more time to linger over each phrase. Finally, Natalie offers up one of the finest renditions ever of my favorite Christmas song, “I Wonder As I Wander,” with a soulfulness that proves that Nat can sing anything – her wide range relying not on a falsetto because she really can sing that high in her full voice with no loss of volume or quality.
As the newest release from Hawai`i to earn a spot on Ho`olohe Hou’s list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i, you will find Love & Peace and Unity on such major music streaming services as Spotify and Rhapsody as well as for download to your iPhone or iPod at iTunes and Amazon.com.
Next time: #11 on Ho`olohe Hou’s list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i…
Direct download: 12_Christmas_-_Natalie_and_Iolani_Kamauu_-_Love__Peace_and_Unity.mp3
Category:90s and 00s -- posted at: 6:14am EST