New music from Mailani Makainai
Mailani Makainai performs during the 2010 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.
It looks like Mailani Makainai is on a two-year plan with her recording career these days.
Once known for her role in the island contemporary duo Keahiwai, the local musician teamed with Jenn "JRoQ" Wright and Tiki Suan in 2007 to release an album as Mighty J before striking out on her own in 2009 with her self-titled solo debut. Next month, she'll stick to the new-material-every-two-years script when "Aina" goes on sale to the public.
"It's going to be more of the same (style), just stronger musically and and vocally," Makainai said in an interview last week. "There are traditional (Hawaiian) favorites that people will be familiar with, and I have English songs, too."
Like "Mailani" two years ago, "Aina" will be released by The Mountain Apple Company, who are definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to building an online presence for their artists. In addition to documentary-style video planned for the weeks ahead, the label will stream selected tracks off the new album — starting with "He'eia" (see below).
Makainai is especially proud of "Kanani o Ka'ena," a collaboration with Keola Donaghy that tells of the beauty she recently discovered on the leeward side of Oahu.
"That song is about the beauty of Ka'ena and the time I spent out there," she said. "The song captures a lot of different things. It actually talks about the beauty of that place and the fact that Oahu still has a lot of beauty left to it, even though we're the most populated island in the chain.
"It was actually my first time out there this past summer. I never knew that (Yokohama Bay) was out there and how beautiful it was. And this is in my backyard!"
ALONG WITH her manager, Tracey "Dr. Trey" Terada, on ukulele, Makainai worked on her new album with many of the same players who helped her record "Mailani." She made sure to mention Shawn Nishimoto, who will be leaving Hawaii soon to pursue his musical career in Los Angeles, along with the talented Stephen Jones on upright bass and Casey Olson on steel guitar.
"We wanted to keep it consistent," said Makainai of working with the same studio musicians. "I really wanted to work with John Cruz and Brother Noland, too, but their schedules didn't really work with my recording. I'm hoping on the third one I'll collaborate a lot more."
In addition to the traditional Hawaiian sound, Makainai expressed excitement over the three English songs she's recorded. Along with U2's "Still Haven't Found (What I'm Looking For)" and the Beatles' "Yesterday," she's recorded her own version of Jon Osorio's "Hawaiian Eyes."
"Trey suggested it," Makainai said of the "Yesterday" selection. "He's a huge Beatles fan and has always thought a Beatles song would give my music a little more body.
"And I actually wanted to do 'Hawaiian Eyes' for a very long time! Jon Osorio is one of my kumu and I had such a huge crush — on his intellect!
"With his passion as an artist and being a professor of Hawaiian history, I've always respected how much he knows and how much he's willing to share."
"I want to commend and congratulate everyone who was nominated, because I have yet to know what that feels like, and that in itself is a huge accomplishment," she said. "I'm not a member of NARAS, but I think local people do have to become members in order to voice their opinions.
"At the same time, I'm still glad a Hawaiian language album is getting a Grammy. I grew up not knowing what that was like."
Does she see herself playing that game on the national stage with "Aina" in 2012? It would definitely be nice, she admitted, but she's also dedicated to sharing her music with the people of Hawaii.
"As much as I want to appeal to listeners on the mainland, it's important to me to reach out to my listeners here," said Makainai. "It's important that I get approval from my home state. That's huge to me."
Mailani Makainai (The Mountain Apple Co.)
Available March 29 in stores and online