"Hapa," which means "half" in Hawaiian, refers to the fact that Keli'i Kaneali'i, one half of this duo, is Hawaiian, while Barry Flanagan, the composer of most of these songs and the lead guitarist, is a haole who lives in the islands and who has absorbed its culture into his bones. In addition, half the songs on this 1995 album are vocals and half are instrumentals, offering mellow music with gorgeous harmonies and creative slack key guitar arrangements.
Recording in multiple tracks, Hapa intensifies and adds depth to its vocal harmonies, on which Keli'i stars, using 12-string rhythm guitar and 6-string ki ho'alu guitar accompaniments, and, for color and emphasis, bass, harmonica, banjo, fiddle, guitar synthesizers, and even whistle. The intriguing instrumentals usually have composer Flanagan on lead guitar and Keli'i on nylon string rhythm guitar and 12-string rhythm guitar.
Vocal numbers celebrating the extinct volcano Haleakala, the plants of the sea, the fragrance of pikake, and the search for love (with two songs asking "where are you?") alternate with intriguing guitar instrumentals to create a soft, romantic, and moody CD without a harsh sound anywhere. "Ka uluwehi o ke kai," describing limu kohu on the rocks swaying in the ocean currents, has become a favorite hula song, while the other vocals have now entered the Hawaiian songbook as favorites.
Two of the most interesting songs are Flanagan's arrangement of John Lennon's "Oh, My Love," a plaintive arrangement on guitar which also includes stand-up bass, cello, violin, and viola, and "Ku'u lei awapuhi," a romantic ballad written by Emily Taylor and arranged by Flanagan, on which Big Island resident Kenny Loggins makes a surprise appearance, quietly providing the background vocals on all the choruses. Donating a portion of the proceeds of this album to a Hawaiian language immersion pre-school, Hapa hopes to help preserve the sounds of the Hawaiian language and its culture. Mellow, relaxing, moody music, Hapa's CD has some of Hawaii's best modern songs and slack key guitar instrumentals. Mary Whipple