Danny Carvalho: student to artist

I first met Danny Carvalho through Ozzie Kotani. Danny was Ozzie’s student for 6 years. At the time Danny was about 10 years old and very enthusiastic. He was always first to be seated in the front of the class and he was a great slack key guitar student. Even at that young age Danny was a great observer who clearly had talent.  He could exactly mimic Ledward Kaapana’s Radio Hula, note for note, by just watching Led and Bob Brozmans DVD over and over.

Despite being young and an exceptional player, Danny was aggressive, to the point of being intimidating. He was always up front, in close proximity, most times in your face, looking for attention. During jam sessions he played the loudest and even when others were taking a turn singing or performing a lead riff, there would be Danny Carvalho, trying to outdo everyone and needing the limelight all the time.

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10yr old Danny w/Ozzie Kotani -Maui Slack Key Festival 2000

Young Danny was a handful, seemingly irreverent and a perfectionist. Once he and I jammed a song together for about 15 minutes, taking turns. He was really great and I thought the jam was great! However, when we finished playing, Danny informed me that my second string was out of tune, that it was flat the whole time! Thing is, I’m partially deaf from feeding 1200 squealing pigs for over 20 years so he was probably correct but I wasn’t sure how I felt that he had let me play flat for 15 minutes, waiting until the end to let me know that my guitar was out of tune.

His intense behavior evoked my telling of this story…

“It was the early 80’s and my brother Moses and I worked summer mornings in construction, before our nightly music gigs. Every day a flock of 11 Nene, the Hawaiian goose, flew overhead, going makai (towards the ocean) at about 7 am and like clockwork at about 2 pm, they flew overhead returning mauka (towards the mountain). After a while we could recognize each Nene goose individually by the different banding and coloring on their legs and their age and feathers. We observed things about the “V formation” they flew in. The leader at the apex appeared to be flapping the hardest, and each successive pair in the “V” flapped less hard, until the last two that weren’t even flapping at all, gliding on the draft stream created by the other 9 birds. It’s a great phenomenon to watch. At first we assumed that there’s only one leader and that the pecking order of the V shape would be always the same. Instead, we learned that they took turns at each position, all sharing the load of the “family” by taking turns at the various positions.”

Fast forward to May this year, 2014.
We had heard about grown up Danny’s great playing and saw a video of him produced by Jon Yamasato’s HI Sessions. We wanted him as a guest artist for our Slack Key Show but were already booked almost a year out.  As fate would have it, Chino Montero suddenly and sadly passed way opening a performing slot in our show schedule. Danny was available for the May dates!

It is great to see how Danny has progressed and matured at age 23. He has moved beyond mimicking others and his current performances is uniquely Danny, coming into his own with his own persona and stories. The performances both nights included jam sessions with Da Ukulele boys that turned out to be historical as well as hysterical! Danny has matured into a great next generation Hawaiian artist, worthy to carry the torch of enlightenment of Hawaiian music and culture.


Beyond the show performances, we got to share personal time, space and food on the farm. Danny reminded me that he still remembers the Nene story I told him 13 years ago; that he has out grown his wiseass-ness that sparked the tuning incident with me and that he is a much more giving artist.

Thanks Danny for coming back to Maui to share your music and help us perpetuate our Hawaiian culture! I’m so proud of you! Thanks for helping out on the farm too!

And thanks for bringing Mom!

–Uncle George