“I am the son/Of a righteous man/He was so proud/Of this land.” With that simple statement the Kalama Brothers — real-life brothers Ryan and Kai Kalama — introduce themselves and their music. The duo’s music is acoustic rock rather than contemporary Hawaiian, but the Hawaiian subject matter of many of their songs make them modern hapa-haole music. To put it another way, they’re using a popular haole (non-Hawaiian) musical genre and the lyrics are English rather than Hawaiian, but they’re writing and singing about Hawaii.
The duo carries forward the Hawaiian tradition of “place songs” with several selections. “Oahu” mentions some of the scenic places found here. “Pali Wind” describes the powerful breezes encountered there as a means of connecting with past generations (Two photos in the album art illustrate the strength of the wind; others show Windward Oahu as seen from the lookout).
The brothers explain in the liner notes that they had been living on the mainland and had planned to do some recording with their father but never got around to doing it. He died in 2010, and the discovery of his demo recording of “Oahu” inspired them to return to Hawaii and record here. They sum up the experience of being away from the islands with the autobiographical song, “Come Back To Hawaii.” It’s a catchy and commercial song, and the next time some state agency decides to fund a promo campaign encouraging expat islanders to come back and spend money here the agency will find the theme song for the ad campaign right here.
The brothers’ diverse musical influences are heard in the lilting rhythms of “Certain Point of View,” in the country-folk sentiments of “Mama,” and in the zesty Vaudevillian energy of “It’s So Easy.” Other songs offer introspective spiritual inspiration — “Come And Go” delivers a message of hope sung over a soothing acoustic guitar melody.
And for something completely different, the album’s producer, Willie K, adds his guitar to “Soul Into The Sea,” the uptempo acoustic rocker that is the final song in the 14 song collection.
There is one song of the 14 that should sound familiar. “Island Rose” is Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem for Princess Ka‘iulani set to an original tune. It’s a beautiful tribute to Ka‘iulani.