Here’s my take on Gabby Pahinui’s classic instrumental simply and appropriately titled “Ki Ho’alu,” which is course is the Hawaiian term for “slack key.” I probably first heard this song on the stellar “Pure Gabby” album – a must own – although it has appeared on other compilations and been covered by numerous slack key artists, including Ozzie Kotani’s excellent version. My version is inspired by Gabby, Ozzie, and also Dennis Kamakahi who was prolific in the Mauna Loa tuning.
Hilo Rag is a super fun tune to play from Dennis Kamakahi’s oeuvre. Better known for lyrical songs like Koke’e, Hilo Rag makes me wish I heard more of Dennis’s instrumental work. I was fortunate enough to meet Dennis and son David years ago and see them play, both on stage and in smaller back porch style jam sessions. I remember Dennis dressing sharp in his kind of urban paniolo style, complete with boots and cowboy hat. Like I say, this is such a fun song to play I can never just play it once when I’m running through songs (and will be posting an alternate take on my other channel soon). Hope you enjoy.
Here is an improvisation I did based on Leonard Kwan’s famous slack key arrangement of “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” This classic tune is a popular piece in the slack key repertoire and often one of the first things people learn when exploring Drop C tuning. Most listeners of modern day Hawaii radio will recognize Silver Threads as the slack key passage quoted in the intro to Country Comfort’s Waimanalo Blues, a beloved song in the islands in its own right. Hope you enjoy.
Here is a live version of “Punahoa Special” from 2007 (apologies for the camera work :-). This is a song I was fortunate enough to learn directly from Led Ka’apana, one that Led had in turn learned directly from his uncle Fred Punahoa. Though Fred never made a full album, he did make a notable appearance on the Waimea Music Festival album and fostered amazing talents of the next generation such as Led and Sonny Lim. This is an often covered song in the slack key world, and might also be the most popular song in Mauna Loa slack key tuning. Hope you enjoy.
Recorded live at the 25th Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival “Kona Style,” at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort in Keauhou, Hawai’i 9/2/07.
I named this seemingly easygoing yet still restive song after a charmingly beautiful and relatively isolated beach on the Kona Coast. Makalawena is part of that long stretch of white sandy beaches you see right before landing at Kona International Airport at nearby Keahole Point. The beach is generally accessible via a short hike from the neighboring Mahaiʻula Bay section of Kekaha Kai State Park. I remember camping out at Makalawena as a kid, exploring the rare anchialine ponds with their delicate red shrimp, and swimming in the waters of the bay. Today still, the neighboring marsh is a protected nesting ground, home to rare birds such as the Hawaiian coot. The song’s bridge seems to capture the strange sense of converging energies that I feel in special places such as these. Hope you enjoy.
Banyan (a/k/a “Banyans,” or “Banyan Tree Slack Key”) is a slack key style song I wrote about 10 or 12 years ago on nylon string guitar. I used to play my gut string ‘beach’ guitar around beaches and surf spots in Kona like Magic Sands, Banyans, and Old Airport. For one, the nylon strings aren’t as affected by the salt air, and for two, it was less expensive than my other guitar at the time, a Taylor 310ce that I didn’t want to take to the beach. So I guess this song is partially named after the surf spot, but also after some banyan trees near Magic Sands – some of which have since been cut down – or even those mystical banyan trees in general. Shortly after writing this song, I sold that nylon – an Ibanez, sort of crossover model – though I continued to rotate this and a few other related songs in and out of my set. Until recently though, it had really been a while since I played this song. Once more, owning a nylon string guitar again inspired me to go back and revisit some older material. Hope you enjoy.