When I was young in Kealia, South Kona, where I grew up the first thing I heard at 4 am in the morning was my Great Grampa Willie Kahumoku playing solo slackkey guitar. It was also the last thing I heard at night after a hard days of work, of building stone walls, working in our Mala [garden] or picking our Kona Coffee. Solo Slackkey guitar played by Grampa Willie was always a part of everyday life growing up in Kealia. Growing up with 26 cousins, it was a rarity to do anything solo, but once in a while we got a quiet moment to reflect and practice a few licks and do something solo.
Growing up, I played music with various cousins and my Dad and mom and Tutu and we sang Hawaiian hymns at Tutu Emily Hoopale Dulay’s Kamakuamauloa Church in Kalihi. Later I formed a band with Eddie Akana and the “Climax Five” where once in a while Marcella Kalua would sing solo with us. Earlier, in 7th grade I had a band at Nu’unanu YMCA called, “The 3 G’s” with myself, Greg Kaniakala on Rhythmn and vocals, and another G- Greg Enomoto on drums. I also had a band in intermediate school, 8th grade at Kamehameha Schools, with Brian Ahue on Bass, Patrick Nakoa on Rythmn, George Ferrira on drums and me on lead guitar. For about 20 years my brother Moses and I performed as the “Kahumoku Brothers”.
When I moved back to Kealia where there was no TV or radio reception, like my great grandfather Willie Kahumoku before me, I learned to wakeup early and play slackkey early in the am and again, last thing at night. In fact I got up in the Aumoe 2-4 am in the early morning to create songs again… and play solo.
Later I was blessed to record for Dancing Cat Records with George Winston who invited each of us Hawaiian guitar Masters to play and record… solo. When my brother Moses and I played at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Kawaihae (Big Island), we often played the same song over and over for 3-6 hours taking turns honing our solo skills to pass the time especially when no one was listening. Again playing solo.
Then we got to tour the great performance centers of the World from The Great American Hall in San Francisco to Carnegie Hall in New York, again playing solo.
For 10 years our Slackkey show in Napili, Maui has featured me as the Master of Ceremonies/Musical Host playing a solo set with a different guest artist each week. The featured guest also played a solo set before the intermission and a combined kanikapila “finale”. For at least 10 years I’ve watched Chino Montero back up several artists. I want to thank my nephew, Herb Ohta Jr for finally recording Chino Montero in a solo project capturing his essence for us to enjoy for all time.
The last time I played with my two great friends Dennis Kamakahi and Chino Montero was at our SlackKey show in Napili. But instead of playing solo each artist backed up each other up, so it was more of a duet concert really, not solo. This coming May 21-14. I was finally going to play with Chino Montero as featured solo guest artist and finally hear him play solo. Unfortunately, instead, in less than a week, I’ve lost both great Hawaiian friends, great musicians and artists. I’m convinced that they are taking turns in heaven playing solo riffs along with Gabby Pahinui, with Joe Marshall on bass, and Sonny Chillingsworth, Leonard Kwan, and Ray Kane jamming and singing along, with my two friends Dennis and Chino each taking solo riffs.
Tonight I’m at Haiku Sacred Sanctuary listening to solo guitarist Elijah Ray. I also had a spontaneous lomilomi [massage] by my new friend Blue Mountain. I feel like all my needs are being met and I can finally let go and finally mourn both my friends’ Dennis and Chino passing through music, dance and sharing the vibrations and mele on this earth and on Maui. Mahalo Ke Akua for the gifts you’ve given us. Help us to use our gifts to thy service. Mahalo for all the blessings I’ve received these 63 years of my life.
My 2 cents for this May 3-14! Saturday “kukahi” [outstanding] night and a rough, rough past week!