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on February 22, 2001
Last year, I saw an etoys commercial that began with a boy chasing fireflies and ended with his wise and loving father ordering a firefly 'kit' from etoys. It was a good ad, but what made it great was the music --- someone playing a 4-string ukulele and humming.
It was the oddest thing. Every morning this commercial ran on the 'Today' show, I'd get....misty. Without a word, the music generated pictures of home and love and security --- images of a world in which everything works.
I mentioned this commercial to others. They also had noticed the music and had been moved by it. But no one knew who the singer was.
Then a colleague quietly played a CD in her office: the soundtrack of the Sean Connery film, 'Finding Forrester. And along came this song. Its title: 'Over The Rainbow/Wonderful World.' The singer: a Hawaiian named Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who, as a quick Web search revealed, had died in 1997 at the age of 38.
I read up on IZ, and learned IZ called his producer and said there was a song he had to record. He showed up at the studio at midnight with his ukulele -- and, in 5 minutes, created "Over The Rainbow/Wonderful World."
In 1996, National Public Radio did a piece on IZ and played 'Over the Rainbow.' Listeners called in; sales shot up. And music insiders like Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon and Bette Midler were no longer alone in their admiration for IZ.
The following year, when IZ died, it was clear that he was the Bob Marley of Hawaii. His casket lay in state at the Capitol, and 10,000 fans came to say goodbye. The next day, friends paddled a double-hulled voyaging canoe into Makua Bay, where IZ and his friends had camped out and played music over the years. It was in this bay, in l982, that IZ had scattered the ashes of his brother Skippy, who had died of a heart attack; now the brothers would be united.
There was thunderous cheering as IZ's ashes were poured into the water. It continued for an hour. To be with IZ one last time, family members and friends ran into the ocean. And the music continued into the night.
It still does.
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on March 24, 2001
I work in a large chain record store near a movie theatre. Everynight we would have 2-3 people coming in looking for the "Finding Forrester" soundtrack. I finally asked someone what was so special about it. I was told they wanted it for the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" that plays during the closing credits. I didn't know anything about IZ before then. The next day I saw an article about him and heard the song for the first time... I was blown away. I bought "Facing Future" and "IZ in concert" the next day! Since then I have bought every CD that's available. I can't stop listening to him. I'm listening to "N Dis Life" as I type. I'm constantly telling people about "Brotha IZ". His music is so pure and simple, yet so complex and amazing. I still can't believe that such gentle music can come from such a large man. In a time where corporate music is shoved down our throats by radio and TV, IZ is not just a breathe of fresh air, he's the only thing worth breathing. IZ the man may be gone, but his music has made him immortal. May he live on and bring some culture and peace to mainstream music.
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on July 9, 2002
"Cry for the Gods, cry for the people, cry for the land that was taken away...and then yet you'll find, Hawai'i."
A few years ago when I was a serviceman stationed in Hawaii, I first heard this beautiful, haunting song, and was first exposed to the incredible voice of Israel "IZ" Kamawiwo'ole. Already sobered by the song's theme...the regret of native Hawaiians over losing their sovereignty...I was further saddened to learn that "IZ" had died in 1997. Like his father, and his brother, Skippy (also a recording artist), IZ had died of medical problems associated with obesity (he weighed as much as 760 pounds at one time). But thankfully, IZ left a legacy of recorded music, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Hawiiana band "Makaha Sons of Niihau". And thanks to the airplay received by "Over The Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" on the TV show ER, the movie soundtracks "Finding Forrester" and "Meet Joe Black", and commercials for E-Toys, thousands of mainstream listeners on the mainland have now discovered IZ for the first time.
In many years of listening and collecting, I've never found an album like "Facing Future" that has such a universal appeal. Kids love it, teens love it, grandparents love it. A certified hard rocker myself (check my reviews of bands like Tool and Type O Negative), I consider "Facing Future" one of the top five CDs in my extensive collection, and rarely do I go more than a couple of weeks without giving it a spin.
Every track on the CD is wonderful, and if you skip over any, it will be just to get to the album's best two tracks, which are near the end: "Rainbow/Wonderful World" and "Hawai'i '78". In between, you'll find beautiful island music, sung both in the native Hawaiian language (check websites for translations) and English. A fun highlight is a cover of John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" with O'ahu geography (West Makaha, Mount Ka'ala) replacing West Virginia and mountain mama. "Maui Hawaiian Suppa Man" is a favorite of my 9-year-old son (as is Hawai'i '78, which he has dubbed "Cry For The Gods"). And having lived in Hawaii for 3 glorious years, hearing IZ sing "White Sandy Beach" almost always brings mist to my eyes and a lump to my throat.
You will never buy a more beloved CD than this one, your family and friends will rave about it. Get it, you'll be glad you did!
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on March 17, 2001
While visiting Hawaii recently I wanted to take home some music to listen to. I bought a CD "E Ala E" and I can truly say I was fortunate in choosing it. I had no idea what I had chosen until I got home. I have listened to it many times. I told my husband that if ever I could attend a concert by Iz, I would do anything to attend. I looked up his name on the computer and was shocked to find that he died in 1997. What a tragic loss! I am now going to purchase all his music and have a complete collection for my listening pleasure. He moved me emotionally and I feel blessed to have found his recording. His voice remains with me as I go about my day and I find much comfort and peace. Israel was truly gifted and I am grateful to have the chance to hear his voice and experience his artful display of what was in his heart. Yes, his music will be an important part of my life. Thank you, Israel, for your gift to all of us.
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on July 12, 2001
I'd never heard of Izrael Kamakawiwo'ole and discovered his music when I heard his "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World" rendition on the "Finding Forrester" soundtrack. IZ's medley of these two well known tunes was the most unique and original I've ever heard. With his variable and smooth voice supported with the simple strums on his ukulele, IZ delivers an enchanting and heartfelt sound. His music truly resonates in your soul.
His "Facing Future" CD also includes several other lovely and inspiring musical pieces. Three that I particularly enjoyed were: "Take Me Home Country Road" where he adds his unique native Hawaiian flare; "White Sandy Beach of Hawaii" which provides you with images and feelings even if you have never set foot on a Hawaiian beach; and "Kaulana Kawaihae" which demonstrates IZ's immense vocal depth and range.
Several songs on his "Facing Future" CD are in his native Hawaiian tongue. They will communicate and resonate with you even if you don't speak the language. His music, like a gifted painter, creates vivid images of a place with unique beauty, balmy climate and a gentle and proud people...a serene Hawaii.
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on July 16, 2000
I first heard this CD is 1995 on the night I arrived in Hawaii to live. The first time I heard the haunting sounds of the cut, Hawaii 78, I was up all night with it's hauntng music and incredible message racing thru my mind. The sound and melody a mixture of incitement that would never leave me--ever. I have been to this man's concerts and attended his State Capitol viewing mentioned in the review. He was a legend and an example that will stay with all who listen to his music-forever. SO will the tunes on this CD. They are modern Hawaiian music, a mixture of the NOW and the Past all in one. Iz's ukulele playing, combined with the flowing sounds of his voice give movement to any soul listening to what he has produced. I have all of his music and this is his finest. Yet they all are worth owning. Buy it, listen to it, open your mind to a different sound and learn why this man was given the gift he had. Aloha and ENJOY!
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VINE VOICEon January 2, 2003
Most people have probably heard the wonderful medley "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" that was used on the soundtracks for Meet Joe Black, Finding Forrester, ER and even for EToys.
The voice is supple, ethereal, with only a ukulele accompaniment, and can melt the hardest heart. Then I found out more about Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and was saddened to learn that he died in 1997, due to complications associated with obesity. The man was huge, but what a gentle, beautful voice.
The "Somewhere/Wonderful" medley is only the tip of the iceberg on this excellent disk. This is modern Hawaiian music with passion and taste, not the cheesy stuff for the tourists. Ten years after its release in 1993, this disk is still heavily promoted at record stores and souvenir shops in Hawaii. It's that good.
"Take Me Home Country Road" substitutes Hawaiian geography for West Virginia, but it's still a nice sentiment of family and home.
"Hawai'i '79 Introduction" and "Hawai'i '78" are beautiful, reflective pieces that showcase this talented singer's voice.
Iz also sings about a Hawai'i of earlier times, before being overrun by mainland developers and Japanese tourists. While listening to songs such as "White Sandy Beach of Hawai'i" one can envision the swaying greenery of a cane field and rainbows over the green mountains of Kaua'i. Dig deeper for gems like "Henehene Kou'Aka," sung in the Hawaiian language, with tasty strums of ukulele and natural percussion.
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on March 27, 2005
My family and I just returned from a spring break trip to Hawaii. This was my fourth trip, and I really wanted to avoid the madness that is Waikiki, so we rented a house on the beach in the little town of Hauula. Though I'm not a runner, in an effort to counteract the effects of frequent "plate lunch" meals, I went jogging along the beach/highway most mornings while we were there. One particular morning, I had sand in my shoes, so I stopped at a little beach sandwiched between two houses, and noticed a large, hand-painted sign that I'd seen but been unable to read as we drove by. I may have heard of "Iz" before--and I'd certainly heard his rendition of "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World," but I had no idea what the painter of this sign was talking about--only that someone named "Bruddah Iz" had (apparently) died and that he'd blessed this person's life.

Later that day, we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, and being too early to get in, we spent considerable time in the gift shop, where I was very surprised to see the name "Bruddah Iz" again. Upon learning that he was the artist who sang "Over the Rainbow" and that he'd died and yet was still (on some level) being mourned, I knew I had to have this CD--right then!

Like many other reviewers, it's hard to describe what hearing this man's music, particularly while being in a more "local" Hawaii, means. I cried from the opening bars of the first song--partly because I knew he was dead before I knew he was alive, partly because so much was communicated in a few simple lines and melodies. It is hard to believe that such a sweet, pure voice could emerge from someone with respiratory problems, but perhaps that's appropriate. Perhaps Hawaii has been ravaged, but its beauty nonetheless cannot be contained. I'm not sure what it is--only that I too was and am blessed by Bruddah Iz.
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on November 30, 2004
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a household name in his native country of Hawaii.

Beginning his singing career at 11 Israel teamed up with his brother and had huge success with their traditional interpretations of Hawaiian music and culture.

After several albums he went solo and produced several more successful releases up until 1997 when at the age of 37 he died of respiratory complications.

Israel was a larger than life man at over 300 Kilos he had an incredible voice that was and still is very commanding and hauntingly beautiful.

His most popular album was Facing Future (Originally released in 1993), containing mostly his interpretations of traditional Hawaiian music and a few covers such as Country Road and Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

By far the most striking and best example of Israel's talent is the track Hawaii'78, which covers his incredible vocal range and traditional values Israel puts into the production of his music.

Facing Future has been a huge seller in The USA and elsewhere and several tracks were recently played on commercial TV here in Australia as well.

This is a relaxing CD that can be enjoyed by anyone who has a passion for good music and a spiritual awakening.
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on August 16, 1999
I love Hawaii and much of its music. When I first heard Israel sing, I knew I had to collect all of his music. His voice is so sweet, his lyrics so meaningful, his ukelele so perfect. We heard his music when we were in Hawaii and listening to KPOA on Maui. Even though Israel is gone, his spirit still lives on through his wonderful music. Many times I listen to it and it calms and soothes me and makes me very happy. It's almost as if I am in Hawaii, for his music captures a spirit of aloha from the Islands. The world is a sad place without Israel, however we will always have his music to remember him by. Imagine my surprise when I heard "Over the Rainbow" at the end of the movie Meet Joe Black! How perfect! If you are contemplating buying this CD, do it! If you love Hawaii, you will be happy you did!
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