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Exotic Hawaiian Romp

by Kathy O’Connell

Despite being born and raised in the cold Northeast, my heart belongs to the Aloha State. So, it was with great happiness that I anticipated Putumayo’s Hawaiian Playground. I’m delighted that my wait was worth it.

This outstanding collection of genuine and pseudo-Hawaiian music truly captures the fun, the language, and the exotic-yet-American feeling that makes our 50th state my favorite place on earth.

The New York-based Moonlighters’ “Right On” opens the disc with an upbeat salute to life on Oahu. Willie K’s “Holoholo Ka’a” introduces the rhythmic Hawaiian language to a young audience with fun and vocal sound effects. There’s a nod to the rich reggae heritage of Island music in Ehukai’s “Moloka’i Slide” and its wistful longing to “take me back to the ‘Kai’.”

Mainlander Joe McDermott’s contribution of “Come to Hawaii” echoes the attraction of this volcanic heaven on earth. Raiatea’s “Po La’ila’i” (“Moonlit Night”) celebrates classic Hawaiian falsetto singing. There’s a nice mix of English and Hawaiian lyrics, most evident in Teresa Bright’s interpretation of “The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai,” which brings this 1930s song into a jazzy 21st century arrangement.
Online you can find Hawaiian Playground at

Outstanding Talent
A tip of the hat to Disney for going back to its television roots as a nurturing ground for new talent. I am as hooked on the High School Musical franchise as any tween girl, thanks to the outstanding performances of the young talent Disney taps for this never-ending tale of the musical students of East High.

The soundtrack of High School Musical 2 follows a musical theatre form as old as the genre itself. A big opening number (“What Time Is It?”) leads to a comic showcase for a supporting character (“Fabulous”), which is followed by the standard “Gotta Go My Own Way” separation song before everything ends happily in a celebration of being “All for One.”

The House of Mouse recognizes talent, and in HSM2, it’s Ashley Tisdale’s deliciously shallow “Sharpay” that sparkles brightest in a cast of tomorrow’s stars. Her materialistically girly “Fabulous” is a high point of this slick soundtrack, as is her performance on the bonus track “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a.”Ashley Tisdale’s “Sharpay” stands out in both the DVD and CD of High School Musical 2. Since it’s one of the most popular albums in the world, I think you’ll easily find it.

Quirky Tunes
Renee & Jeremy’s It’s a Big World might be harder to locate than High School Musical 2, but worth the search if you’re in the mood for quirky songwriting presented in an oddly downbeat manner.

That may not sound like a description of something that works for kids, but this collection of (mostly) original tunes works quite well for babies and their parents. The title song lists the “bigs” of childhood (zoo, bear, world) while reminding baby “you’re little for just a little while.”

The opening track, “Miracle,” captures the exhausted yet serene flavor of first-time parenthood. This is an outstanding lullaby album that doesn’t identify itself as such. Find Renee & Jeremy at

Kathy O’Connell is a contributing writer to MetroKids and host of the Peabody-award-winning Kids Corner, weekdays 7-8pm on WXPN 88.5 FM.