Bailey Matsuda is a teacher in the Performing Arts department of the Kamehameha Schools on the island of O‘ahu, as well as a musician, composer, arranger, and producer—indeed, he produced O’Sullivan’s Born and Raised album, from which this piece comes.
“Bailey wrote this in in the mid-’90s as a tribute to a sugar plantation community in Ka‘u, on Hawaii Island [the Big Island], that was going through the closing of their sugar mill and experiencing a drastic change in a way of life that had sustained for four generations,” O’Sullivan says. “That community was comprised mostly of Japanese immigrants, but culturally very Hawaiian. This is a very common story in Hawaii.
“The main melody is heard with a pedal bass line beneath slowly changing harmonies, evoking a feeling of timelessness and nostalgia—what the Brazilians call saudade. The second theme combines a Japanese koto scale, percussion that emulates a Hawaiian gourd implement called an ipu, and presents harmonies that allude to some of Bailey’s jazz influences.”