Dagan Bernstein is one of Waimea’s most authentic folk musicians. He infuses Hawaiian stylings into his own original compositions to create a refreshing sub-genre he calls “paniolo country.” His music hints at honest beginnings in an off-the-grid family and years spent playing alongside the legendary Hawaiian artist Braddah Smitty. By blending the two genres, Bernstein has created a style that pays tribute to the ranching history of Hawai’i while embracing mainstream folk sounds
In anticipation of his new album, Song for Waimea, Bernstein has just released a new single titled “Ha’aheo Nā Kanaka Paniolo.” He describes it as, “a jaunt through upcountry Waimea celebrating the life of a lonesome paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboy) as he rides through pastures as an ocean.”
Bernstein explains the backstory behind the new single: “I first got inspired to compose this song when I came across the phrase “wa’a holo honua” somewhere as a reference to horses as the canoe that rides on land. I was taken by the imagery of the cowboy navigating across the hills of Waimea much like the navigators of old sailing across the ocean. I have always been wanting to write a song celebrating the life of the Hawaiian cowboy and this line was highly inspiring. The song started with the first lines: ‘Riding along the ancient pathways he makes his way to wherever he needs, the horse is the paniolo wa’a the ground is the paniolo sea,’ and I started building the song from there.”
“The cadence and melody of the song naturally fell into a galloping minor key groove somewhat inspired by ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky.’ But I also used a key transposition into the chorus that put it into a major key, something that was inspired by the Sons of Hawai’i song ‘Moku Kia Kahi’ which is a song about sailing. Each section of the song, the minor key verse, and major key chorus is inspired by a cowboy song and a sailing song, which mirrors the two themes of the song. As I build out the chorus I added ‘Ha’aheo nā kanaka paniolo’ which simply means “Have pride for the paniolo.”
“The song was recorded last summer at Mana Music Studios in Hilo owned by Michael Suprenant, it was engineered by Markus Fahrenberger. It features steel guitar by Christian Wadlington who plays with the Hawaiian group Komakakino and bass by session musician Brian Crist, a well-known bassist who has played with a variety of groups around Hawai’i Island. I play acoustic guitar and sing.”
To promote his new recordings, Bernstein will be doing a series of album release shows around the Big Island.
May 31 – Kava Kafe, 55-3412 Akoni Pule Hwy, Hawi. (808) 889-5015
June 7 – Big Island Brewhaus, 64-1066 Mamalahoa Hwy, Waimea. (808) 887-1717.
June 14 – Pāpa’aloa Country Store, 35-2032 Old Mamalahoa Hwy, Pāpa‘Aloa. (808) 339-7614
June 22 – Poi Dog Deli, 75-1022 Henry St, Kailua. (808) 329-2917.
The album, Song for Waimea,will be released on June 7th, and you can pre-order it here: www.daganmusic.bandcamp.com.
For more info on Dagan Bernstein, and his music, please visit his official website: https://www.daganmusic.com/home-1