10 March 2010

Te Vaka: Haoloto (Free)

CD REVIEW
Te Vaka: Haoloto (Spirit of Play)

Te Vaka does not get around enough for my taste. Musically their pan-Polynesian sound is wonderful, ranging from boisterous log-drum dances and Maori haka chants to sweet harmonized ballads. The New Zealand-based group is also fantastic live, as I saw years ago at the now-defunct WOMAD USA. Since then, though, I've had to content myself with their recorded music. This year might be different -- not only have they released the new album Haoloto (which means "free"), they also will be touring North America during 2010. Specific dates have yet to be announced, but keep an eye on http://tevaka.com/tour_dates.html

Meanwhile, the new album has their usual wonderful blend of sounds, beginning with the subdued "Ata Fou / New Dawn" and "Mau Piailug" a tribute to the Micronesian man who is known as one of the best-known living master navigators, able to sail the seas without the aid of instruments.

Te Vaka are at their best on songs such as "Tautaimi (Your Timing)," where they blend log drums, guitar, and their rich harmonized vocals delivering a heartfelt message -- in this case about singing from the heart. I also love the title track  and the hip-hop flavored "Kaluve Pepe." The one English-language song "Well...You Lied" has a great self-empowering message and strong delivery by Olivia Foa'i, but sticks out as a pop-flavored oddity among the otherwise Polynesian songs. That small quibble aside, Haoloto's 15 diverse, engaging tracks simmer with succulent island sounds, and will keep me satisfied until I can see Te Vaka live once again.

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