‘Slack Key Show’ Category

  • NY Times “Virtuosic Keepers of a Cultural Flame”

    ‘Masters of Hawaiian Music’ Play at SubCulture


    During a handful of small, transcendent moments in “Masters of Hawaiian Music,” at SubCulture on Wednesday night, the line between craftsmanship and showmanship blurred to the point of irrelevance. The concert’s distinguished artists — George Kahumoku Jr. and Ledward Kaapana on guitars, and Uncle Richard Ho‘opi‘i on ukulele — played and sang in a traditional Hawaiian mode, bringing folklore and cultural memory into a performance that unfolded as breezy entertainment.

    Which was in keeping with the nature of their art form, and the elite but approachable stature that each of these musicians enjoys at home in the islands. “Masters of Hawaiian Music” is a touring version of Mr. Kahumoku’s “Slack Key Show,” which runs every Wednesday and Thursday night at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on Maui. A homegrown revue regularly stocked with special guests, it has been a magnet for fans of ki ho‘alu, or slack-key guitar — and the source of Grammy-winning compilations in the contentious, since-discontinued category of best Hawaiian music album.

    Mr. Kahumoku assumed a natural role as the evening’s host, peppering the show with charming, picaresque stories (“I grew up with 26 cousins in the same household,” went the setup to one of these), and speaking with ease about the origins of the songs. Before singing “I’ll Remember You,” a beloved Hawaiian standard, he recalled his debt to its songwriter, Kui Lee, who gave him his first break at age 11. At every turn he got a richly chiming tone from his acoustic guitar and favored a light, easeful flow of rhythm.

    Read the Article on the NY Times Click Here

    A flintier virtuosity fortified Mr. Kaapana’s playing, on well-honed showpieces like “Mauna Loa Slack Key,” with its trotting gait and trick fretwork, and “Opihi Moe Moe,” with a springiness of touch that momentarily called Django Reinhardt to mind. His solo portion of the concert included a quiet tour de force in “Radio Hula,” its two-step bass line overlaid with fluttery triplets, deft harmonics and shapely arpeggios. There, and again on “Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua,” he also flirted with chromatic tension, sometimes stretching the dissonance over the bar line before resolving to the root chord.

    Both Mr. Kahumoku and Mr. Kaapana also sang, with warmth and feeling, but the program’s vocal heavyweight was unquestionably Mr. Ho‘opi‘i, one of the leading stewards of leo ki‘eki‘e, or Hawaiian falsetto. The sweet keen of his upper range was the concert’s most magical timbre, followed by the gentle clarity of his tenor. On “Hawaiian Cowboy,” he played with the break between registers, in a western yodel.

    The camaraderie among the musicians, formed many years ago, brought an extra layer of coherence to a program that touched on mele, or ancient chants, along with repurposed Protestant hymns, Tin Pan Alley tunes and modern fare. By the time the audience was asked to stand and join hands for “Hawai‘i Aloha,” an anthem of native Hawaiian culture, its message of solidarity felt inseparable from a spirit of openness.

  • George Kahumoku Jr. “RENAISSANCE MAN”

    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.

    George Kahumoku Jr., Led Kaapana, 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.”