Review in Brief: Hawaiian Playground - Various Artists (Putumayo)

HawaiianPlayground.jpgAnother month, another breezy mix CD from Putumayo Kids. This time it's Hawaiian Playground, which will be released tomorrow, January 22nd.

As with other Putumayo Kids collections, the strength of this CD lies in its well-considered blend of modern and traditional sounds, silly and serious songs. I'm not sure too many other collections of Hawaiian music would have the nerve to kick things off with a song from a New York City band, but the Moonlighters play expert Hawaiian steel guitar music, and their jazzy cover of Sam Koki's "Right On" is lots of fun. Joe McDermott's well-produced Hawaiian pastiche "Come to Hawaii" is the most accessible song for kids here, all about using one's imagination about visiting the far-off state. The other artists here are from the islands, and the songs show how diverse the state's musical culture has become. With a number of traditional-sounding albums in my own collection, I preferred the more traditional sounds of Raiatea's "Po La'ila'i" or Keali'i Reichel's "Toad Song." But Hawaiian music today also includes styles such as "Jawaiian" (a mixture of traditional Hawaiian music and Jamaican reggae, as heard on Robi Kahakalau's "Pi'i Mai Ka Nalu").

The collection is typically all-ages, but I think kids ages 3 through 7 might enjoy talking about Hawaii via these songs (and liner notes) the most. You can hear samples of the half-hour disk at most internet shops. Hawaiian Playground isn't an introduction to the history of Hawaiian music; it is, for the most part, a sampling of what Hawaiian kids and families might listen to today. For those families looking for a brief audio vacation to the islands, this album will be the ticket. Recommended.