by BY JON WOODHOUSE of On Maui Magazine
Fueled with more energy than someone half his age, multi-Grammy and Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning musician George Kahumoku Jr. pursues so many varied interests it’s hard to keep up with him. Besides hosting his weekly Masters of Hawaiian Music shows at the Napili Kai Beach Resort, this visionary artist operates a large organic farm in Kahakuloa, marketing Hawaiian herbal teas; he’s in the midst of completing four books; and he’s gearing up for a Mainland tour with Ledward Kaapana and Uncle Richard Ho’opi’i.
Having just finished running a slack key guitar and ukulele music camp, he’s also about to release a new album with Da Ukulele Boyz, followed by a collection of Hawaiian paniolo songs, and he’s helping produce two documentaries on the lives of Hawaiian legends Dennis Kamakahi and Richard Ho‘opi‘i.
All these projects are linked by his passionate desire to perpetuate traditional Hawaiian values and culture.
Lately, George is most excited about the expansion of his Hawaiian Masters series. For more than a decade he has helped promote traditional music first at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, and then at the Napili Kai Beach Resort, hosting many of our greatest musicians. Beginning in 2006, live recordings of the shows over the years have won four Grammy Awards for Best Hawaiian Album.
“We’ve been doing so well on Wednesdays, we’ve started another show on Thursday nights,” George enthuses. “We’ve been going for 10 years, but I thought by now we’d be having shows five days a week, because there are three or four magic shows going seven days a week. Shouldn’t we have that for Hawaiian music?”
Hailed as a modern Hawaiian renaissance man, besides his illustrious career as a slack key guitar master, George is an avid educator, most recently helping establish the Institute of Hawaiian Music at the University of Hawaii Maui College.
As for his writing he’s working on a sequel to his delightful A Hawaiian Life compendium, along with a guide to edible plants, a song book, and a cookbook which he has been compiling for 10 years. “Everything from how to dress goats to cooking wild chickens.” he notes.
Ever since he almost died of cancer at the age of 27, George has been on a mission to fulfill his dreams. “Divine intervention has saved my life so many times,” he says. “I live each day to the fullest, and I hope I can keep passing on aloha and passing on the knowledge. My thing is to teach the spirit of aloha. You’ve got to live aloha, not only talk about it.”
A graduate of the California College of Arts and Crafts, George’s talents also include a gift for ceramics and sculpting. “I’m growing milo and teak,” he says. “I planted the trees about 10 years ago, so they are almost ready to start carving. I’m drawing all the time for the books, and I plan on doing some ceramics and bronze stuff.”
With so many projects in the works, George stays focused by starting his days mindfully. “I have a red lauhala tree that came from my great grandmother,” he says. “It’s a sacred tree, a tree of forgiveness. Every day at three in the morning I meditate under that tree.”