Hapa, Live

Paleo Retiree writes:

Hapa at SoHo

My wife and I recently caught and loved a show by a legendary Hawaiian folk band. “Hapa” means mixed, as in a part-Hawaiian/part-white person. The group Hapa performs traditional Hawaiian music, featuring beautiful melodies, harmonies and values — beauty, serenity, devoutness, nostalgia, loss, longing — but jazzes them up with a lot of world-music-type influences as well as a lot of wild, whirling, and sometimes even jagged guitar work by Barry Flanagan, the group’s leader and main driver.

My wife and I both had a few moments when we wondered about Flanagan’s presence. His virtuosity, his rock-god posturing … How well do they really combine with the blissed-out ease and mellow dreaminess of the Hawaiian thing? But his flair and dynamism also give the music character and distinction … Flanagan’s unquestionably an amazing musician … And as a bandleader he’s a dynamo who has a nice way with the audience … Which, by the way, couldn’t have been happier. So fuck us.

For a few songs the musicians were joined onstage by four dancers from a local hula school. The effect was sweetly entrancing, and not touristy at all. Not for the first time, I found myself wishing that American parents were pushing their daughters into dance (maybe especially into hula dancing and bellydancing) rather than into volleyball and soccer. Enough already with cultivating mannish aggression in our girls. Let’s have more charm, grace and style from them instead.

After the show I had a good time updating my knowledge of Hawaiian music. (I was a big world-music fan back in the ’80s.) It turns out that Hapa emerged from the Second Hawaiian Renaissance, a revival-of-authenticity movement that lasted from the ’60s into the ’80s. It sounds like a lot of the other regional and folk movements of that hippie and post-hippie era. I was strongly reminded of the Breton secessionist/nationalist movement that was happening back when I was a student in Rennes. Are the localism-vs-globalism stresses we’re all experiencing today a new manifestation of those same forces and energies?


  • Hapa’s first CD, released back in 1995, made a huge impact and continues to be one of the most revered and popular CDs of Hawaiian music in Hawaii itself.
  • An informative, fairly-recent article about Hapa.
  • Hapa’s website.

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
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2 Responses to Hapa, Live

  1. Pingback: Our Favorite Things in 2016 | Uncouth Reflections

  2. Pingback: Curation: “Rhythm of the Rain” | Uncouth Reflections

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