THE DESCENDENTS - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2011)

Nope, Hawaii isn’t just about surfing boards and hula dances. As Alexander Payne’s latest film has shows, life can get quite messed up in what seems like paradise too. Likewise for the film’s soundtrack, not everything is bright and sunny as you’d expect (this album is nothing like the soundtrack for Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, which came to mind immediately when “Hawaii music” is mentioned). Instead, get ready for a 65 minute journey of healing and relaxation, with doses of melancholy sprinkled in between.

The collection of 18 tracks features renowned and acknowledged artists whom we may not heard of in this part of the world. Because the filmmakers felt that the music is a crucial component of the movie, the music department has gathered a representative spectrum of Hawaii music to enchant its viewers. Now, fans of the film can actually relive the soulful and emotional moments by playing this album.

The slack key guitar is prominently featured on the soundtrack. This type of guitar has some of its strings loosened so that the open strings can form a chord. The result is a gentle and mellow feel which will soothe your senses.

The first track “Ka Makani Ka’ili Aloha” performed by slack key guitarist Gabby Pahinui sets the mood with its laidback yet affecting tune. Things then get a little despondent with “Kalena Kai”, a thought provoking piece performed by Keola Beamer and George Winston. This cue fuses Hawaii elements with contemporary music nicely, and will appeal to fans of modern music. Pahinui returns on “Hi’ilawe” and sings along to a comforting melody.    

Elsewhere, the mood becomes chirpier with Dennis Pavao’s “Ka Loke” and Pahinui’s “Leahi”, and these are also tracks which you can picture hula dancers dancing with their breezy hand movements. We love Char;es Michael Brotman’s “Hapuna Sunset” because the calming tune sets us in the mood to reflect upon our busy lives against the backdrop of the setting orange ball of fire.

Listen out for the soundtrack’s oldest selection: Ka Mele Oku’u Pu’uwai, a 1930 arrangement of a traditional tune performed by Hawaiian slide stell guitar pioneer Sol Hoopii’s Novelty Trio. It will bring a smile and hopefully, a resolution to make life count.


Recommended Track: (15) Hapuna Sunset – Charles Michael Brotman

Review by John Li


Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha - Gabby Pahinui
Kalena Kai - Keola Beamer; George Winston
Hi'ilawe - Gabby Pahinui
'Ülili E (Vocal Duet With David Kamakahi) - Dennis Kamakahi
Ka Loke - Makaha Sons; Dennis Pavao
Auwe - Ray Kane
Leahi - Gabby Pahinui
Hawaiian Skies - Jeff Peterson
He'eia - Gabby Pahinui; Sons Of Hawaii
'Imi Au Iá 'Oe - Keola Beamer
Kaua'i Beauty - Gabby Pahinui
12 Hi'ilawe - Sonny Chillingworth
13 Wai O Ke Aniani - Gabby Pahinui
14 Paka Ua - Ozzie Kotani; Daniel Ho
15 Hapuna Sunset - Charles Michael Brotman
16 Deep In An Ancient Hawaiian Forest - Makana
17 Mom - Lena MacHado
18 Ka Mele Oku'u Puuwai (78rpm Version) - Sol Hoopii's Novelty Trio



Composer: Various
Label: Sony Masterworks
Release Date: November 21, 2011