For the love of Hawaiian music

After nearly a decade as vocalist of HAPA, Nathan Aweau split from the group to explore music independently.

"I'm not going to lie — I really love it," says the acclaimed Hawaiian singer and songwriter.

With HAPA, Aweau garnered critical acclaim, propelling the group's album "Maui" to the Top 10 on Billboard's World Music chart and winning three Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (Hawaii's annual music awards) for "Male Vocalist of the Year." He also received Hoku awards for "Jazz Album of the Year" for his bass project, "Bass Etude," as well as "Song of the Year" and "Contemporary Hawaiian Album of the Year" for his 2001 release, "E Apo Mai."

The New York Times praises Aweau for his "in-depth understanding of harmony and orchestration" and his effortless singing style.

Separate from HAPA, Aweau says there is more pressure to entertain an audience on his own, but despite this challenge, he enjoys the freedom that comes with going solo.

"I'm free to do whatever I want, to try different types of music and play with other artists," he says.

Since leaving HAPA a year ago, he has toured through Canada and made three trips to Japan. He kicks off his 2011 West Coast tour with an intimate solo show at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, at CultureWorks, 310 Oak St., Ashland.

Aweau, who was classically trained, has run the gamut of styles, playing in jazz, funk, country and even metal bands.

"So long as it was good music, I was always there," he says.

However, his reputation largely has been cemented by work in the jazz and Hawaiian music realms.

Although he plays six-string guitar 90 percent of the time, seven-string electric bass is his favorite instrument. The extra three strings on the bass give the instrument a higher range, similar to a guitar.

His Hawaiian music is "Hawaiian" only in the sense that the lyrics are in the native language. It is not traditional. He says the younger generation tends to "get" his music while the older audience members often tilt their head in wonder.

Traditional Hawaiian music features "leo ki'eki'e" (male falsetto singing), "where the men kinda go up and sound like women." However, Aweau patterns his singing after his vocal heroes, Kenny Loggins and Luther Vandross.

Eighty percent of his repertoire is original, and the other 20 percent are remastered renditions, including songs such as "Now and Forever" by Richard Marx and a few traditional Hawaiian songs that Aweau jazzed up.

Hula dancers from Ashland's Ka Pi'o O Ke Anuenue will accompany Aweau for the Ashland concert.

The concert was organized by Jackson Productions, and all proceeds benefit the musicians and dancers. Tickets are $20 and available at Paddington Station in Ashland and at the door. See or call CultureWorks at 541-488-4888.

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