COURTESY CHELLE PAHINUI / DANCING CAT
Cyril Pahinui returns with a solo album and tour.
Master guitarist Cyril Pahinui is back on track
The new century got off to bad start for Cyril Pahinui. First off, three of his heirloom guitars were stolen, returned through an intermediary only after a "reward" was paid.
With Ledward Kaapana:
In concert: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Place: Honolulu Academy of Arts
Tickets: $25; $20 academy members, seniors and military
Then Pahinui's beloved wife, Charmagne, became terminally ill. He put his career on hold to care for her.
"I had to keep strong, but (it's hard to describe) what I was going through," Pahinui said, the painful memories evident during a quick telephone call from the Big Island last weekend.
"She was my priority. When she was very ill I couldn't go anywhere."
It took time, of course, but with his in-laws' encouragement and blessing, Pahinui has moved forward with his life and career.
On the personal side, he's remarried -- Chelle Pahinui teaches at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and publishes Humu Mo'olelo, a hula arts magazine. On the professional side, he's resumed touring, and comes to Oahu this weekend for a concert with Ledward Kaapana.
Pahinui is also back as a recording artist. "He'eia," his third solo album in George Winston's critically acclaimed "Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters" series, was released last month. He is also represented -- twice -- on Daniel Ho's recent compilation, "Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar." He performs on "Nani Ka'ala" and is also represented as composer of "Cyril's Slack Key," an instrumental played by four other musicians.
"It's what I do today -- just myself onstage playing my guitar," Pahinui says, describing both his archival recordings for Winston made over a 15-year period, and also what he's doing these days in concerts.
What others marvel at his artistry on slack key and vocals, Pahinui says "anybody can do that same thing." Where it was once customary for slack-key guitarists to jealously guard their tunings and techniques, he says it's important to share the legacy of his father, Gabby Pahinui, as he is now perpetuating it.
"This is my style with Daddy -- the Pahinui style of playing. Today there are a lot of groups out there, young ones, and I'm so happy that there's a new generation coming up."
Pahinui is sharing his knowledge as a teacher.
"I feel like I paid my dues already, but if any of the boys, the brothers, or if anybody wants to learn, I'll be glad to just sit down (and teach them)."
His workshops can include more than technique. A recent workshop in Waipio Valley on the Big Island included information on the origin and history of songs native to the area, plus featured guest performances by Ledward Kaapana, Dennis Kamakahi and Sonny Lim.
"I feel like I'm getting into the music scene again, but as far as my style of playing -- (it will) never change. I love my tradition songs (and) slack key."
Pahinui's longtime affiliation with George Winston's Dancing Cat label doesn't preclude him from working on other projects. He's planning an album of "hula music" on his own, and also an album of contemporary hapa-haole songs -- "Sweet Leilani" and "Beyond the Reef," to name two.
And, after participating in the long-running "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar" concerts on Maui, he wonders if there might a place for a similar concert series that might also include steel guitarists, ukulele players and Hawaiian falsetto singers -- on the Big Island.
In the meantime, friends and fans on Oahu can anticipate a memorable show tomorrow.
"I asked Ledward to open the show for me, then when he's done I'll go on, and then when I almost complete my set, then I'll call Ledward (back) and we'll do things together. Yeah!"
After that? "It's a new beginning for me. It's great to polish my guitar and be getting back on the road."