Hip and Hawaiian

Thanks to their consolidation under the respectable classification of world beat, types of music once considered weird or indefinably alien have found new friends. One genre that can be found beneath this far-flung heading is Hawaiian folk music, which is finding a growing number of converts among those who never dreamed something so strange could be so delightful. After decades of bastardization at the hands of Hollywood, slack-key guitar and other traditional island forms have resurfaced stronger than ever, attracting an international audience. Since no musician worthy of the tag can resist experimentation, new influences have inevitably popped up in the traditional sounds of the islands, making them into something fresh and modern.

What is certainly the strongest lineup of Hawaiian performers to assemble in Houston in recent memory comes to the University of Houston-Clear Lake Sunday to offer in-person proof of their music's evolution. The Makaha Sons -- triple-harmony magicians who accompany themselves on six- and 12-string guitars and upright bass -- have dominated the Hawaiian folk-festival circuit for two decades while winning numerous awards for their nine releases. Sistah Robi Kahakalau, a native of Germany whose Hawaiian-born father was a renowned jazz bassist, blends jazz and pop influences with the traditions she learned strumming and singing her way through the University of Hawaii. After two CDs with the Style Band, Kahakalau recently released a solo effort that features everything from highly traditional originals sung in Hawaiian to a slack-key cover of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." A performer in a much more traditional vein, Cyril Pahinui is a second-generation master of the intricate slack-key style whose true-Hawaiian credentials include a Na Hoku Honohana award for best male vocalist.

The resurgence of Hawaiian folk music has been mirrored by a revitalized interest in the native language of the islands, and perhaps no contemporary Hawaiian performer is as well known for his original lyrics -- both in his language and the language of the missionaries -- as singer/songwriter Jerry Santos. Santos, along with partner Robert Beaumont, were leading forces in the Hawaiian folk renaissance of the mid-1970s, when they performed and recorded as Olomana. And since few genres link dance and music as closely as Hawaiian folk, the Clear Lake festival will also include an appearance by the Chinky Mahoe and the Halau Hula 'O Kawaili'ula dance troupe.

If your interests include the far horizons of voice and acoustic guitar, be put on notice that Hawaiian folk music rests on that horizon like a brilliant island sunset. Catch a glimpse of it at UH-Clear Lake, and remember -- this is not a sunset you can see next week if you miss it this time around.

-- Jim Sherman
Portrait of Hawaii's Music is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, November 10, at Bayou Theater, University of Houston-Clear Lake, 2700 Bay Area Boulevard. Tickets are $25. For info, call 629-3700.

The Jinkies/Fastball -- What's wrong with two of the finest noise-pop bands in Texas sharing a bill at the Satellite Lounge? Nothing, except that it should happen more often. Neither of these acts has a reputation for drawing huge Houston crowds, but maybe combining their talents will solve that problem and give fans of either band a crack at the other. The Jinkies are promising the release of their long-awaited debut CD within a month, and as for Austin's Fastball, they already have an excellent first outing, Make Your Mama Proud, in stores. Forget the Brit-pop Invasion; it's time we concentrated on the good stuff in our own back yard, especially when the asking price is only a few bucks at the door. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, at 9 p.m. Thursday, November 7. Tickets are $4. 869-COOL. (H.R.)

Joan Jett -- A few years back, a commentator noted in regard to Chrissie Hynde that "she looks like someone who'd probably give you a disease -- but you wouldn't care." Personally, we always thought that description was more applicable to Joan Jett, rock's original hard-as-nails chick. (Okay, Suzi Quatro was first, but Jett's better.) Sure, she may have started at age 15 as part of promoter Kim Fowley's jailbait tease act the Runaways, but it didn't take her long to prove that (1) even jailbait could kick out the jams and (2) she was way too tough to stay under Fowley's thumb. In the decade and a half that she's been fronting her own band, the Blackhearts, she's further proven that (1) testosterone has no bearing on the ability to play hard, loud and fast and (2) as a live act, she's hard to beat. It's basic, it's raw, you can dance to it. And you get to watch Jett wear tight pants. What could be better? At Party on the Plaza, Jones Plaza, 600 Louisiana, starting around sunset Thursday, November 7. Free. (Mitchell J. Shields)

Tool -- Hard rock doesn't get any pushier than Tool. This philosophically driven, extra-heavy Los Angeles outfit has never found much use for restraint, which makes their industrious, Metallica-cum-Joy Division meld particularly low on subtlety and especially high on intensity. Tool singer/songwriter Maynard James Keenan has matured considerably on the group's latest CD, Aenima, but he has yet to outgrow his adolescent rage, lashing out unmercifully against anything that irks him. Ultra-physical and psychologically draining, Tool concerts aren't for the meek, but they're also not a dreary exercise in negativity. Despite their harsh verbal affronts, Keenan et al. aren't looking to sink anyone; rather, they're out to save us with a fistful of forced compassion. At the International Ballroom, 14035 South Main, at8 p.m. Friday, November 8. Tickets are $18. 629-3700. (Hobart Rowland


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Hobart Rowland
Jim Sherman
Mitchell J. Shields