Ki Ho‘alu slack key guitar festival
It was Willie K’s dad, Manu Kahaiali’i, who gave Barry Flanagan his first slack key guitar lesson, which eventually led him to forming the acclaimed, multi-Na-Hoku Award winning contemporary Hawaiian music duo Hapa with Keli’i Kaneali’i.
“In early 1980, I wanted to go to Hawaii, I wanted to write a Hawaiian song and learn how to play slack key,” Barry recalls. “In Lahaina, there were these great slack key players, and Jimmy Kaopuiki told me to approach Manu. I called a couple of times, woke him, and he hung the phone up on me. The next day there was a knock on the door, and he came in and taught me ‘Hi’ilawe.’ That was the beginning of it all.”
While working in a record store in Boulder, Colo., Barry had been introduced to the beguiling sound of Hawaiian slack key guitar by a friend. “He said, if you love Ry Cooder, you should hear this Hawaiian record with this guy named Gabby Pahinui. That was the hook. I love acoustic guitar and I started really being drawn to open tuning stuff. Gabby was pivotal in defining a couple of years of my guitar listening.”
After his initial lesson, Barry began to study the essential guide to slack key – Keola Beamer’s “First Method for the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” – the first ever instruction book, published in 1973.
“The tunings weren’t hard for me because songs I knew like ‘Penny For Your Thoughts’ by Peter Frampton and ‘Water Song’ by Hot Tuna, are in taro patch standard slack key tunings,” he continues.
“When they heard me playing guitar, Uncle Phil Secretarial and Uncle Moon Keahi and Jimmy Kaopuiki all told me, don’t learn the traditional too much, take your guitar style and put it inside the tunings. I’m not really a traditional player, I’m a modernist.”
Proclaimed “a masterful guitarist” by Crosby, Stills and Nash legend Stephen Stills, Barry has dazzled us over the years with his distinctive dexterity and gift for expanding the slack key guitar style into uncharted waters.
“Maui was like a college of music for me, because there were so many opportunities to play in duos,” he notes. “When I decided to stay, I was working 200 to 300 gigs a year, and then with Hapa in 1983, it was 500 dates a year for 10 years.”
The award-winning team of Barry and Keli’i Kaneali’i hit it big in 1994 with their ground-breaking debut recording. With successive albums, they’ve grown artistically from song writing and vocal interplay, to musicianship and production.
Among their popular recordings, in 2005, they released “It’s a Slack Key World,” collaborating with Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers, Ernie Cruz, Jr., Shawn Ishimoto, Imua Garza of the Opihi Pickers, and Kalapana’s Gaylord Holomalia.
Most recently, Hapa’s latest album, “Tuahine,” dedicated to the memory of chanter Charles Kaupu, included a new version of the classic, “Hi’ilawe.”
As for the future, Barry is working on a contemporary album, which he hopes to release by the end of the year, and a possible sequel to his lovely solo recording, “Instrumental Peace.”
“I decided I needed to do a singer/songwriter album and then an instrumental album,” he reports. “I have three new instrumentals and I’ve got to decide if they should go on a Hapa album or ‘Instrumental Peace 2’.”
Looking forward to playing the slack key guitar festival on Sunday, Barry is full of praise for promoter Milton Lau, who has worked tirelessly for three decades helping perpetuate one of our greatest art forms around the world.
“So much of Hawaiian music is being supported in Japan and on the Mainland now, and Milton is doing it here to perpetuate this important Native art form,” Barry concludes. “Milton likes us to be one of the last groups so we can do ‘Kaopuiki Aloha,” and play what Ledward Kaapana calls, New Jersey slack key.”
The Four Seasons Resorts Lanai’s Lodge at Koele hosts the free 2014 Lanai Ukulele Festival Friday through Sunday. Performers include Paula Fuga, Benny Uyetake and Sheldon Brown. Live music will also be presented in Lanai City.
Selling out the last time he appeared on Maui, innovative Italian musician Gaudi performs at Charley’s on Friday along with U.K. beatbox champion Danny Lanwa.
A classically trained pianist infused with a passion for reggae, dub, electronica and world beat, Gaudi concocts inspired sonic potions, employing all manner of keyboards, percussion, tape echoes and even an ephemeral sounding theremin, invented by a Russian physicist in 1920.
“I’m not a DJ because I play live music and I don’t use a computer,” Gaudi explains. “I use electronic devices, sequencers and drum machines and a moog synthesizer.”
Occupying a unique niche in the world of dance club culture, this “Dub Alchemist” is a spectacular live performer. Acclaimed around the globe, he’s performed before an international audience of around 350,000 in Rome’s ancient Colosseum, and at a festival in Brazil that kept the dance floor jammed for nine hours.
And as an ace remixer, he’s had the honor of reinterpreting the music of two masters of their genres -Jamaica’s Bob Marley and Pakistani Qawwali legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
“That was a peak of my career,” he notes about an invitation to remix Marley’s classic, “Soul Shake Down Party.” “I knew everything I could do would not be better than the original. I was humble and respectful and did it as a tribute to Robert Nesta Marley. Everything he did was perfect.”
Last year, Gaudi was invited to contribute to the triple album, “Hemp! A Reggae Ttribute to the Beatles, Vol. II,” featuring an international collection of reggae artists like Ali Campbell, Big Mountain, Pato Banton, and Andrew Tosh. He performed George Harrison’s classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Proceeds from the recording benefitted a clean water project for school children in an impoverished area of Peru. “I was so happy to be part of this charity project, doing good things,” he says.
In 1999, Gaudi released “Earthbound,” featuring a mix of influences ranging from Indian ragas to African chanting and Italian traditional melodies, unified by a reggae/dub foundation. A few years later, his album, “Bass, Sweat & Tears,” was hailed as “a strong contender for best global/electronica fusion album of 2004.” It included a track featuring the Fire Organ, a massive, one-of-a-kind instrument that transforms the heat of flames into sound energy.
Gaudi’s remixing talents have been utilized by artists, such as the Scottish rockers Simple Minds; Indian virtuoso percussionist Trilok Gurtu; U.K. trip hop duo Lamb; and American hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. Recently he worked on music by the chart-topping project Metallic Spheres, which teamed Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour with The Orb. And he remixed tunes by Maui’s Marty Dread.
His most recent album, “In Between Times,” was hailed by The Pop as, “big, massive, vast, amazing, a dubbed out journey into the great beyond that pushes the genre and everything along with it forward.” It features collaborations with Black Uhuru’s Michael Rose, legendary Jamaican producer Lee Scratch Perry and Hawaii tour partner Danny Ladwa.
“I first worked with Lee Perry five years ago,” he reports. “He was redoing four tracks he wrote for Bob Marley, like ‘Sun is Shining,’ ‘Kaya’ and ‘Punky Reggae Party.’ I programmed the drums and bass. It was amazing to work with him again.”
Returning to Maui after performing in Europe, Gaudi says he loves the energy of live shows. “I love the immediate response. I send positivity and try to receive positivity. You can’t fake it when you’re live. That’s the magic of music.”
* Gaudi performs at 9 p.m. Friday at Charley’s in Paia. Guests include UK beatbox champion Danny Lanwa and Sandwich Island Bass. Tickets are $30 and $40. Advance purchase suggested.