There is a lot at stake. You can hear it in the lyrics of songs they
sing and see it by the way over 200 students and professional musicians
join together to raise funds for it, in producing a double-disc
compilation of diverse Hawaiian offerings.
Halau Ku Mana (HKM) is a public charter school—one of 12 schools in
Hawai`i’s Na Lei Na`auao Charter School Alliance—dedicated to providing
a culture-based, hands-on education for disadvantaged students ages 11
Now five years running, the biggest obstacle the school currently
faces is financing. Receiving approximately half the funds from the
state as other public schools, with no money allocated for a permanent
residence, Halau Ku Mana must get creative with resources. And they’ve
accomplished this mainly by holding benefits and producing music.
Mana Maoli, Vol. II & III is HKM’s second release, which
features previously unreleased originals and freestyle recordings from
students, teachers and family, as well as the likes of Jack Johnson,
Oshen, Paula Fuga, John Cruz and others—a loose, informal collective
known as the Native Sound Underground.
Many students have contributed to the project, but this is no
amateur operation. Slick production, natural talent and what appears to
be the heart and soul of everyone involved makes for a double-CD—that’s
89 songs, clips, chants and riffs—filled with some surprising gems.
In “Life’s Butterfly” on Vol. II (InnoNative), HKM senior Kapua
Chock sings of inner strength and letting go of pain and suffering.
It’s a haunting melody that Chock composed and her voice is magnetic—at
once vulnerable and proud, passionate and insightful—as she is backed
by musicians from The Girlas, Inner Session and the Opihi Pickers.
The rich, distinctive voice of Kawai Hoe shines on the acoustic
reggae ballad “Who’s To Say,” when he liltingly instructs that, “The
truth stands more complicated than what lies in your head/Some
questions have no answers, some answers them tell lies.”
John Cruz supplies his infectiously melodious and positive spin on
“The Song Remains,” as he croons, “You came to me, honest, open and
strong/I came to you, ‘cause I knew you believed in my song.”
And in the short freestyle clip, “From Darkness We Shine,” Maria
Remos of Microscopic Syllables soulfully harmonizes with HKM’s Kawika
Mersberg, Paula Fuga and FunkyDeliah, who are joined by Kevin Chang,
Noe Goodyear-Ka`opua and Koalani Lagareta for a group poetry slam,
called “Eia Hawai`i.”
On Vol. III (Change is Coming), “Longshot on the Rise” features
Bison, of Oahu ska kings Go Jimmy Go, along with guest vocals provided
by his four-year-old son, Casius, which somehow smoothly segues into
Travis T’s powerful rap “Can It Be?”:
If we’d just awake from our sleep, and challenge this reality
We could make sense, not dollars, of what our lies really mean
And from those visions, make decisions
That would rewrite the text of the amerikan dream.
Keao Cockett provides a catchy, Jack Johnson-ish tune with “Chasing
Dreams,” singing, “Because we always seem to look to the stars to guide
us through/Could it be that we are destined to make our dreams come
Speaking of Jack Johnson, he joins Paula Fuga on the lovely duet,
“Country Road,” with his requisite acoustic guitar, vocals, whistles
What’s meant to be will always be, though I control my destiny
Be careful of the things you do, it eventually comes back to you
Universal law, Babylon shall fall
I pray for peace in time of war
I pray for light in times of darkness.
And that’s pretty much the message of Halau Ku Mana and Native Sound Underground.
All proceeds from Mana Maoli, Vol. II & III go to Na Lei
Na`auao. Purchase at any school or online at www.halekumana.org or call
808-988-8995. Cover art by Solomon Enos. MTW