Friday, June 20, 2003

Martin Pahinui, center, will be joined by Aaron Mahi, left, and George Kuo tomorrow night at the Honolulu Academy of Arts theater. Guest musician Bobby Ingano will also perform.

Can’t forget
his ‘bass-ic’ roots

Slack-key hui

Featuring the Martin Pahinui Band
: The Doris Duke Theater at the Academy, Honolulu Academy of Arts
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Tickets: $18
Call: 532-8700.
Also: Pahinui plays with Martin Pahinui, George Kuo and Aaron Mahi 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort. Call 922-6611 for information.

Life sometimes brings you back to where you've been, Martin Pahinui explained as we talked about his new slack-key album last weekend. For instance, he grew up listening to Hawaiian music but then played rock for a while before returning to the Hawaiian scene. And although he's known to most Hawaiian music fans as a bass player, that's because he switched to bass from guitar when he was invited to join the Peter Moon Band.

"Peter told me to go on bass, (because my brother) Cyril was playing (guitar) at that time and they needed a bass player because Randy Lorenzo had left," he explained between early Sunday evening sets poolside at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort.

(Pahinui plays with George Kuo and Aaron Mahi every Sunday at the hotel's poolside lounge. With the addition of Bobby Ingano on steel guitar, they will be known as The Martin Pahinui Band, who will perform tomorrow night at the Honolulu Academy of Arts' theater.)

When Cyril left the Peter Moon Band, it seemed easier to bring in another guitar player than to have Martin learn the guitar arrangements while a new bassist was learning his part. Martin remained on bass until he left Moon's band. He played bass when he, Cyril and their older brother, Bla recorded an album as the Pahinui Brothers in 1992, and was still on bass when he teamed up with George Kuo and Dennis and David Kamakahi as Hui Aloha to record for George Winston's Dancing Cat label in 1999.

Hui Aloha was Pahinui's first project for Winston, and it was something different for Winston as well, since it featured a quartet, rather than showcasing solo or duet work, as was usually the case. Since Cyril and Bla had already recorded solo albums for Winston's Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters series, it would seem natural for Winston to ask Martin if he'd like to record a solo album as well.

Martin was flattered by the offer, but he didn't want to do a conventional solo album. He had already switched back from bass to guitar after ill health forced guitarist Steven Hall to step down as the third member of an informal no-name trio. It took a while for Pahinui and Kuo to find a new bass player, but Aaron Mahi proved a perfect fit.

So Pahinui wanted his recording to be a group project and Winston agreed.

"George knew that I've always been with groups, and I'm more comfortable with a band, so he allowed me to record a band with Dancing Cat." Pahinui chose to play with Kuo, Mahi Ingano on steel guitar. "I was fortunate to have musicians with talent like that," he said. (See review of the album "Ho'olohe" on page 2.)

Among the benefits of having Mahi on bass, Pahinui confided disarmingly, is that the Royal Hawaiian Band leader speaks Hawaiian and has been explaining the deeper meanings of some of the lyrics.

"Now I have an idea of what I'm singing about now," he said, laughing. "Everything is turning out so well. I'm happy with it. As far as what I want to do after (this album), besides golf, is to make another album -- probably another Hawaiian album, but if not, I want to do a pop record, rock 'n' roll, things like that."

And as far as things coming full circle is concerned, Pahinui says he's not concerned about the popularity of Jawaiian music in the clubs or on the radio.

"As far as what's happening to Hawaiian music, it's OK. It changes as the times change, (but) the Hawaiian music is still here and will always be. Of course, the young ones play reggae music, rock 'n' roll, rhythm and blues, (but) it's great as long as we don't forget where we come from, and they will eventually play Hawaiian music, which they do. They throw in one or two (songs), and it doesn't sound like the old way, but that's OK. It's today's sound."

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