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HAPA plays the Historic Ashland Armory

Like the Hawaiian islands, HAPA's contemporary island music is an amalgam of ancient Polynesian rhythms and chants, ballads of Portuguese fishermen and Mexican cowboys, and melodies and harmonies of church choirs of early missionaries — with an added dose of acoustic American folk and rock from Barry Flanagan, HAPA's guiding force.

"The No. 1 comment I hear from everyone who's followed HAPA's music for 30 years now is that it's the soundtrack music of Hawaii," Flanagan says.

HAPA performs its trademark Hawaiian sounds at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 1, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St. Hawaiian-style food from the Grass Shack will be available. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at Music Coop, 268 E. Main St., or online at hapainashland.com or liveatthearmory.com. Proceeds will benefit Ashland Schools Foundation.

Singer, songwriter and slack-key guitarist Flanagan will be joined by singer, chanter, multi-instrumentalist and hula dancer Kapono Na'ili'ili, Tarvin Lono Makia on bass and hula dancer Radasha Ho'ohuli. Ho'ohuli is the 2008 Miss Hawaii USA.

With new songs in the works, Flanagan and Ha'ili'ili are campaigning on the online crowdfunder Kickstarter to support a new album set to be released in September.

"We want to get into Studio Zeo in Kahala on Oahu," Flanagan says. "That would be our first choice. We'll lock the studio doors for three months and go full tilt on it. Recording in a professional studio gives me the same feeling of reverence that I get when I walk into a temple. Something otherworldly happens, as though a portal opens and a higher being creates the music."

Flanagan says he has the beginnings of half a dozen new songs, and he's looking forward to studio time to work on different sounds, letting it all kind of simmer and grow.

"The whole paradigm of recording a professional album has changed," he says. "We've been doing well-produced, living-room CDs, but I want to get back into a real room with a real engineer and producer. We'll have a great team of people working with us this summer. With that and the Kickstarter campaign, I think we'll deliver something special ... along the lines of our first CD or the 2005 'Maui' CD."

The new album will pay tribute to the legacy of Flanagan's close friend and Hawaiian chanter Charles Kaupu, who passed away in 2011.

"The project will, of course, honor Charles," Flanagan says. "There will be a Charles Kaupu chant on every album we make until I take my big dirt nap and join him."

Flanagan taped many of Kaupu's chants during their friendship. Several of them appear on HAPA's "Tuahine," released December 2013.

Based in Oahu for the past 36 years, Flanagan first heard Hawaiian slack key while living in Colorado and listening to recordings by Ry Cooder and Gabby Pahinui. In 1980, he went to Hawaii and immersed himself in the culture, seeking out native speakers, teachers and poets, along with slack-key players. He found a "wellspring of inspiration from around the globe," he says.

Hapa is a word used affectionately to describe people of mixed races in Hawaii, especially when one of the parents is a Pacific islander. 

"It's heavy on the Asian and Caucasian mix," Flanagan says. "Pacific Islanders come in all colors."

Playing his music live is another world for Flanagan, he says.

"Live is more like delivering the goods," he says. "It's part of the pipeline of creating this music, but it's a different vibe than working in the studio. Playing Ashland is much like working in a studio. It's on that same frequency and spiritual level. There's creativity pouring from the water faucets in Ashland. Everyone's drinking a different type of water that frees their creative juices."

Kapono Na'ili'ili, left) and Barry Flanagan stand outside the Highline Ballroom on West 16th Street in Chelsea district of Manhattan in New York City. Photo courtesy of Barry Flanagan