HAPA, one of the finest music groups to ever come out of Hawaii, a duo featuring New Jersey native Barry Flanagan and Hawaiian guy Keali'i Kaneali'i. Their self titled first album is a masterwork, a smash hit that is even more remarkable because all the songs are either instrumentals or Hawaiian Language. The extremely catchy songs have become woven into Hawaii's soundscape like much older classic songs before them.
Their truly excellent slack key guitar work puts them almost in the Rock or Jazz context. But they are firmly rooted in the music of a modern Hawaii.
Their second album "In the Name of Love," also excellent, focused more on english language pop than the previous album and used the U2 anthem "Pride" as its center point creating an anthem for all people (in this case Hawaiians).
"HAPA Holidays" was an adventurous christmas album that focused on the theme of love rather than simply showcasing familiar holiday tunes. "Namahana" had its moments but was not as good as their first two albums. These two latter albums returned to the instrumental and Hawaiian Language concept of their debut.
Then they took a sharp left turn with "Surf Madness" a 60s style (like the song "Wipeout") completely electric instrumental surf rock album. Never before had a popular Hawaiian group gone so far outside of the style that made them popular, usually once a group has a hit they stick with that sound till the bitter end. The album has its moments but in the end is more of a fun experiment than an actual album. After "Surf Madness" the duo called it quits and issued a compilation album.
The original incarnation of "Collection" is a skimpy ten track sampler that gives no insight into HAPA's excellence. Sure the songs are good but there are no instrumentals when half of the group's catalog is instrumental. Also there are no songs from the "Holidays" or "Surf Madness" albums and big hits like "Olinda Road," "Kaopuiki Aloha" and "Nani Wale O Kaiulani" are absent. Don't get me started on missing album tracks.
This is a penchant for Hawaiian music artists to not release comprehensive compilations in order to force consumers to pick up the individual albums to find actual hits. So I have created my own HAPA collection a comprehensive work that picks tracks from all their albums, spreads over two CDs and comprises 24 tracks much better than the lame ten track original. Sometimes you got to fight the system.
After the two parted ways, Flanagan reformed HAPA with Nathan Aweau and made the masterpiece album "Maui." It seems that grouping has split as well and sadly Flanagan has found interest in the ukulele because there are not enough ukulele players in Hawaii. Kaneali'i finally released his first, largely unremarkable mainly labor of love, solo album in 2009.
None the less HAPA created some of the best music Hawaii has to offer and whether you want to buy the original albums, the original collection, or make your own compilation their music is not to be missed.