With the New Year quickly here, I decided to try and find an album that was far from my usual favorites. I needed something new and inspirational. Well, I am pleased to announce that I have discovered a real gem, Alone in IZ World by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.
Kamakawiwo’ole was considered to be one of the most popular musicians in Hawaii. His career started in the mid-70s when he formed the group the Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau with his older brother Skippy, Louis “Moon” Kauakahi, Sam Gray, and Jerome Koko. The band focused on traditional Hawaiian music and released numerous records, but suffered a blow when Israel’s brother Skippy died of a heart-attack in 1982. But nonetheless, the group trudged on.
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole decided to record his first solo album Ka ‘Ano’i in 1990 and quickly released two records with the Makha Sons in 1991 and 1992: Makaha Bash 3 and Ho ‘oluana. Israel’s struggling weight problem unfortunately ended his career too suddenly much like his brother’s and was, therefore, able to create only three more solo albums (Facing Future, E Ala E, and N Dis Life) before he died at the age of 38.
Alone in IZ World is a posthumous compilation of some of Kamakawiwo’ole’s unplugged performances and previously unreleased songs. With his angelic voice and virtuoso ukulele techniques, Israel performs a variety of traditional Hawaiian songs and standard covers on this album. His rendition of Mona Lisa is enchanting while Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is so original it is almost unrecognizable. My favorite on the album, however, is his simple arrangement of Somewhere Over the Rainbow which utilizes only his ukulele and his voice. Many of the traditional Hawaiian pieces on this album, such as Panini Puakea, La Elima, and Opae E, are quite soothing and fun to listen to. The stunning purity of his voice not only shines through on these songs, but envelopes the entire collection and creates a surreal peacefulness that I will welcomingly greet after a long day’s work. I highly recommend this album, so check it out today.
Reviewed by Kelli