Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, July 26, 2001

The soothing sounds of Keola Beamer's slack key
belies the musician's hectic schedule.

Keola Beamer
seeks life’s and
music’s sweet spots

Life's too short, he says, to
put off doing what you want to do

By John Berger

Keola Beamer's schedule this year looks like the antithesis of the tranquil music he plays.

He flew over from Maui on Sunday to prepare for a series of media events and rehearsals leading up to his "Ke Kani O Ke Kai 2001" concert at the Waikiki Aquarium. The concert will feature music from "Island Born," the first album he's released on his newly formed personal record label.

He recently completed work on a music video version of the title song, wrote an article on slack key that will appear early next month in the September issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, and will fly to Idaho for an August concert there before he jets back to the Big Island to host a weeklong Aloha Hawaiian Music Camp.

Shortly after that, he'll return to the mainland for a concert with taiko master Kenny Endo at the Western Arts Alliance Conference at Santa Clara University, play two additional shows with Endo and cross the Pacific for concerts in Japan.

And there's more.

"Soliloquy: Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar Solos," his fifth album for George Winston's Dancing Cat label, is already in post-production and scheduled for January release. An extensive mainland tour will follow.

In the meantime, Beamer is working on his next album for Dancing Cat, scheduled for a 2003 release.

Keola Beamer, left, and his brother Kapono briefly
reunited to perform at Kimo McVay's funeral
earlier this month.

Oh yes, he's also writing a book of short stories.

But set all thoughts of schedules aside.

Take a deep breath.


Tonight's concert promises to be soothing and relaxing as Beamer plays under the swaying palms in Waikiki. It'll be a Beamer family affair as Kapono shares the stage with his mother, Nona Beamer, and his wife, Moanalani. John Kolivas, maybe not a blood relative but certainly a longtime friend and colleague, will play bass.

"I think that our family communicates with the art of what we do, and that's been around for as long as I can remember," Beamer says.

"It's kind of the thread that links us together. When we're together, everybody gives a little music gift, and we all play together."

Ask about the creative process, and Beamer explains: "There's an artistic 'sweet spot,' and if you want to make connections, you have to learn to step aside from this big ego that is you, the writer. You have to step to the side and see what happens. We need ego in our lives, but it can get in the way of making that connection with something bigger than yourself.

"I didn't discover that from going to church. I discovered it from my work. I think that's a pretty powerful thing. You sit there feeling empty for a couple of minutes, and then somehow, magically, you're in the flow of this thing."

The creative process is not about money.

"People thought my brother (Kapono) and I were nuts to go our own separate ways, but in actuality, life is your journey -- not what people tell you, or what everybody else wants -- and we don't have a lot of time. Life is short.

"People liked the stuff we did together, so they sort of want us to keep doing it, which is sweet. I appreciate that, but there are other things to do and other places to go."

Among those things is his new record label. Doing an album outside his work with Dancing Cat gives him the opportunity to explore other facets of his music. He appreciates the freedom.

"The nice thing about a friendship of 27 years -- George and myself -- is it's OK for me to sort of wander off and do other things. We're still friends, and it's nice when you can find those kinds of relationships with people you work with, instead of chafing at something you don't want to be for the rest of your life."

In concert

Who: Keola Beamer
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Waikiki Aquarium
Tickets: $18 ($13 for Aquarium members)
Call: 923-9741

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