Saturday, July 30, 2011

Musical Discovery: Remembering Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

I recently discovered Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, whose musical style is NOT my typical Tom Waits or punk rocker or blues preference.

But I find I like the dude. Seems he was a kick ass Hawaiian singer from the 1970's until his death at age 38 from complications of obesity in 1997.

Here's the big man singing (in an amazingly eerie yet beautiful style) "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," one of his top songs:

And here is a song I hated until the movie Whispers of the Heart made me fall in love with I was primed to love Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version:

As someone who was raised by a mother who listened to Don Ho, THIS guy strikes me as a really genuine performer and just a nice guy.

If I may add the Whisper of the Heart Version (in English but with new lyrics...sadly I can't find the Japanese version anymore):

I love the depiction of a shy teenager learning her confidence in this scene.

But even more than his cover of a Judy Garland song, I like his real Hawaiian songs

The sound flows so smoothly...and I don't normally go for that, preferring Tom Waits' gravelly sound or a hard punk sound. But Israel Kamakawiwo'ole catches me in a way that most smooth singers can't. Again, I think it is the genuine nature of his sound. It doesn't sound contrived or popularized, and it touches on the roots of a Native culture that Don Ho kind of trivialized, in my view.

And almost his last concert, he speaks directly to the Hawaiian culture in their language...telling them to Wake Up...and it is clear from his appearance that he was not long for the world, and yet his dedication to his fans and his culture are clear:

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