Makana tightens slack


POSTED: Friday, August 14, 2009

'Venus, and the Sky Turns to Clay'

(Makana Music)

; It doesn't feel like it, but it's been almost 20 years since the slack-key virtuoso now known as Makana appeared on the local music scene. He played slack-key instrumentals in keiki talent contests that were geared more for karaoke singers and budding pop stars, then went professional playing a steady gig in Waikiki as the Ki Ho'alu Kid.

Makana turned down early record deals that would have capitalized on his status as a child prodigy and waited until he felt he had something more substantial to offer and also the freedom to record on his own terms.

Five albums later, Makana continues to explore the possibilities involved in applying slack-key techniques to other styles of music.

And once again, the results are worthy of careful listening and many repeat plays.

Makana plays solo throughout, but on the aptly titled “;A Touch of Deviance,”; he adds electronic effects.

It's an effective way of dividing this collection of beautifully crafted music into two asymmetrical parts.


;» ”;Will I Ever See You Again?”;
;» ”;Dance of the Red Poppies”;
;» ”;Flood”;

'Kani Wai'

George Kahumoku Jr. and Bob Brozman
(Daniel Ho Creations)

; Two pairs of talented artists share credit for this beautifully crafted album. Singer-slack key master George Kahumoku Jr., is a two-time Grammy Award-winning record producer and a two-time Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning recording artist. Brozman, a guitarist and ethnomusicologist with international credentials, is also a Hoku winner.

Brozman and Kahumoku mesh perfectly here—Kahumoku on vocals and 12-string slack-key guitar, Brozman on an acoustic steel guitar.

Although rarely heard in Hawaii these days, the acoustic steel guitar is closer to the original version of the instrument; most of the songs here were written before the steel guitar “;went electric,”; so these arrangements are probably closer to the sound that the composers envisioned.

The duo's instrumental work on “;Ka Wailele 'o 'Akaka ('Akaka Falls)”; is a beautiful showcase for the two guitarists before and between the verses. Liner notes provide the lyrics, English translations, song-by-song listings of the guitar tunings used by Kahumoku and Brozman, and background information on each song. The liner notes also reveal the contribution made by a second pair of artists in making these performances available.

George Winston produced these sessions for his Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters series in 2001, but with that series now on hiatus, the album was released on Daniel Ho's label—a commendable behind-the-scenes collaboration between two important supporters of slack key.


;» ”;Kaua‘i Beauty”;
;» ”;Meleana E”;
;» ”;He Punahele No ‘Oe”;

'Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2—Live from Maui'

Various Artists
(Daniel Ho Creations)

; Title notwithstanding, this is the fifth compilation of live recordings culled from the long-running “;Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Concert Series”; on Maui. Three of its four predecessors—“;Masters of Hawaii Slack Key Guitar, Volume 1,”; “;Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar”; and “;Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar”;—were Grammy Award winners in the Best Hawaiian Music Album category; the fourth was a finalist in the category.

This one follows the proven template—it's a mixed bag of artists who are truly “;masters”; of slack key, some others who will likely achieve that status, two men who don't play slack key but are masters of other Hawaiian genres, and some others who appear to be “;masters”; of being in the right place at the right time.

Dennis Kamakahi and George Kahumoku Jr., are two of the unquestioned “;masters”; heard here. Kamakahi has the lead-off number (”;No ke Ano Ahiahi”;); Kahumoku follows with an original, “;Ho'okupu,”; that describes an encounter between Kamapua'a and Pele.

Ironically, in view of the criticism in years past that these albums were “;only”; about slack key, a majority of these selections are vocal performances—by Kamakahi, Kahumoku, his son Keoki, Kawika Kahiapo, Owana Salazar, co-producer Daniel Ho and falsetto master Richard Ho'opi'i. Steel guitarist Bobby Ingano's rendition of “;Sleepwalk”; is also significant because the Santo and Johnny classic is the song that first piqued his interest in the instrument.


;» ”;No Ke Ano Ahiahi”;
;» ”;Ho‘okupu”;
;» ”;Sleepwalk”;