Few band names are as enigmatic as that of Lahaina-based AnDen. This five-piece island/rock/Latin fusion collective is not named after the word’s Peruvian meaning, which is a series of terraces carved into Andes mountainsides to accommodate agriculture. Nor did the word’s Spanish translation, train platform, inspire the moniker. In Swedish anden translates as “spirit,” though its alternate meaning is “duck.” Neither of these moved AnDen to so name itself.
According to the band’s singer, songwriter and uke player Damien Awai, the name refers to the ever-present question of what comes next.
“Everybody says, ‘an den where you going?’ [or] ‘an den what’s happening?'” Awai says.
It’s something you hear every day, he adds; people are always looking for the next thing.
The band’s politically and socially conscious message reveals another meaning underlying its chosen title. AnDen, Awai says, also refers to looking forward, to examining possibilities and embracing hope.
“In the last 15-20 years I’ve seen a lot of changes” on Maui, Awai says. “A lot of pavement” replacing dirt roads; development. Lyrically, the band expresses concerns over the future of Maui as well as the planet.
Tracks off their debut record, HouseKatchaFaya, sport conscious titles like “Funk Da Bush” (a funk song concerning the policies of a certain chief executive), “Unite” (which confronts the difficulties Hawaiians have getting together to fend off a common enemy), and “Nation in a Nation” (which laments the displacement of Hawaiians in the wake of upscale developments that drive up property values as well as the cost of living).
“Right now it’s a really innovative time,” Awai says. “And it’s easy to feed off of.”
While the band often focuses on vital issues, HouseKatchaFaya also contains a few tracks that betray a sense of humor (the tune “Wett Dreams,” at least in its title, comes to mind).
Awai, who was born and raised here and has played since age 7, has an eclectic musical vision; his compositions run the gamut. The tracks posted on AnDen’s MySpace page are the tip of the iceberg, he says.
The four tracks that can be heard for free on the page have a decidedly island feel, which Awai says has the broadest audience appeal, but as a whole their sound is pretty diverse. The tunes on the site spout unmistakably reggae-esque upstrokes, but it’s clear that the band is driven by skilled musicianship rather than the desire to make a few bucks while presiding over a dance floor wielding only a few chord progressions. The above-mentioned “Wett Dream” demonstrates this: it opens with a Latin beat before exploding into a ska-inspired rhythm. HouseKatchaFaya’s title track demonstrates the band’s ability to lace a standard reggae beat with catchy melodies, tasty guitar and keyboard leads and solid harmonies. The tune also incorporates, almost out of left field, a rap-inspired breakdown.
Even upon first listen one can tell that AnDen’s influences are far-reaching. Among the band’s major inspirations, Awai says, are Bob Marley, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power and Sly & the Family Stone. One can also detect a little Zeppelin in their heavier tunes (including their cover of Bob Marley’s “Exodus”), and some bossa nova during the band’s forays into the realm of mellow.
Awai says that he worked with some of the best musicians Hawaii has to offer on HouseKatchFaya. In addition to band members Brian Haia (lead and rhythm guitar), Eddie Sebala (bass), Rick Bodinus (percussion) and Ivan Yadao (lead guitar), musicians like Wilson Kanaka‘ole, Dave Choy, Tom Mamuod, Jason Donez and Mitch Kapa are featured on HouseKatchaFaya. (Although he’s not listed among contributing musicians, Awai says that Kanoa of Gomega is a particularly innovative Maui musician.)
“I’m just so proud I could get them on this project,” Awai says of the long list of featured musicians.
AnDen has been headlining at various venues throughout Maui, and occasionally ventures off-island for gigs. In March they will travel to Arizona to play a festival.
This weekend they play at Eha’s, a shot-and-a-beer kine place that has recently been doing a lot for the local music scene. The venue has a true island vibe—you’d be hard-pressed to find a speck of Parrothead in the joint. Although small, it’s a fitting venue with a decent-sized dance floor.
Those who want to listen before venturing out can do so at the band’s MySpace page or visit andentheband.com for short samples of all of HouseKatchaFaya’s tracks. The CD is available at Borders, Maui Marketplace in Kahului and Local Motion at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center.
The only question remaining is, what next? MTW