By Anita Stewart, Managing Editor
Album Review: “Little Kahuna”
Release Date: September 15, 2021
Vana Liya is making her mark with socially conscious music along the same wavelength as Michael Franti, Xavier Rudd and Trevor Hall and this album is top notch feel good music that will get you swaying! She is the daughter of immigrants from Guyana and her music is specializes in defying specific genres. Her covers of popular reggae songs went viral and she gained support from those reggae musicians she emulated. Eventually she became LAW Records‘s first female solo artist.
The 10 track album was produced by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Stick Figure member Johnny Cosmic. Vana’s third single to drop this year, “Gold” forges ahead with a lot of momentum while we can see how this artist is developing into a force all her own. “Gold” is a song that relates a central theme of Little Kahuna. This song is about Vana’s work as a songwriter and coming to the understanding that she is a little fish in a big pond, but swimming just fine. “‘Gold’ is a song I wrote to myself,” reflects Vana. “I used to be in a dark mental space and music really pried me out of that situation. So if there’s anyone out there feeling like they aren’t good enough, ‘Gold’ is a reminder that they are. Music gets me through the motions and I think it does that for a lot of people. I try to give 100% of myself in my music in the hopes of creating a genuine product and being able to connect with people.”
The album’s eighth track and second single “Round n Round” features iconic American reggae rock legends Pepper, one of Vana’s inspirations. Vana sings about loneliness, wanderlust and feeling the need to travel to follow the muse. For her, to have Pepper feature on the track was a no-brainer, especially considering the song’s subject matter and the fact that Pepper’s music was instrumental in helping her overcome anxiety as a teenager. “I remember one time when I was driving,” reflects Vana, “I heard Pepper’s ‘Sitting on the Curb’ and was like, ‘This is a really happy song so next time I have an anxiety attack, I’m gonna listen to this song.’ And that’s literally how I got over the anxiety. I just put the headphones on and play it over and over and over again. This feature is such a big deal to me because Pepper is such a big part of me …and the fact that that song was about touring and feeling okay when you’re not okay kind of made for the perfect storm. As soon as I wrote it, I just heard Kaleo’s voice on the song. He did his little soft thing and then he did his hard Pepper thing where he raps, so I feel like I got the best of both worlds with his feature!”
She has two more great collaborations with this album. “Come Away” featuring Half Pint and “Round n Round” featuring Pepper released as singles and reaching 508k cumulative Spotify streams in a few months. I loved “Feelin’ Good” with Kbong–and the song does exactly that–makes ya feel good! “My Island Heart” was another personal favorite with the beautiful marimba sound.
While much of her work falls into the reggae category, Vana asserts she is not a straight-up reggae artist. “Come Away” has a little bit of trance, dancehall, reggae and pop; this song was unique and blended these genres beautifully. Rock at Night covered a review of this and you can check out the story HERE. While collaborating, Half Pint sent a section of the vocals back with the lyrical tagline ‘come away from the land of the sinking sands.’ Vana was so blown away by those words, almost predicting the racial and political strife that was to come in 2020, she decided to write the song over and go with the more relevant political and social justice lyrics.
Rock at Night says: “Just a beautiful album from beginning to end. These lyrics and the music touched my soul and I think Vana is a future force to be reckoned with in the music world. Thoughts of calm, beauty and edifying emotions is what you will get by listening to this music. Bravo!“
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