Ki Ho‘alu Guitar Festival
Popular event is a free afternoon of slack key masters
The 26th Annual Ki Ho’alu Guitar Festival on Sunday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s A&B Amphitheater in Kahului offers a welcome opportunity for music lovers to enjoy a free afternoon of some of the best of Hawaiian music.
Among the stellar artists entertaining at this year’s event are George Kuo, Brother Noland, George Kahumoku, Jr. & Friends, Makana, Kevin and Ikaika Brown, Blayne Asing, Aja Gample, Ho’okena, Paul Togioka, Ian O’Sullivan, Kamuela Kahoano, Danny Carvalho, Donald Kaulia, Dwight Kanae, Wayne Johnson and Stephen Inglis.
A Grammy-nominated musician who recorded a Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning album with Hawaiian music icon Dennis Kamakahi, Inglis has toured the world as a traditional slack key guitarist and as an innovator of the art form.
Born and raised in Honolulu, he grew up with some legendary Hawaiian musicians as family friends.
“Uncle Moe Keale was a close family friend,” he explains. “As a kid we’d go see him and the Sons of Hawaii. I grew up with Hawaiian music.”
After some time living in Northern California, he returned to Oahu and began pursuing slack key guitar.
“I moved away for a few years and homesickness got me back,” he recalls. “I really wanted to study the music. My friend Makana got me playing at festivals here. I had been his electric guitarist. I had met Dennis (Kamakahi) at a weekend workshop in the Bay Area, where he was one of the teachers. I began casually jamming with Dennis and I asked if he would be a guest on my solo album.”
After hearing Inglis’ composition “Na Pua O Kalaupapa,” (“The Flowers of Kalaupapa”), Kamakahi suggested they record a duet album about the Hansen’s Disease settlement on Molokai.
As a young child, Inglis had spent weekends at the Hale Mohalu hospital in Pearl City with his parents helping to care for Hansen’s patients. By the 1970s, Hale Mohalu had become a gathering place for activists concerned about dignity for Hansen’s patients and Hawaiian rights.
“It coincided with the Hawaiian Renaissance and peace activism,” he says. “My parents were heavily involved in that.”
The project also had deep meaning for Kamakahi, who had played at Kalaupapa with the Sons of Hawaii. Both musicians were close with the late composer/activist Bernard K. Punikai’a, and they recorded two of his songs.
In 2012, their album “Waimaka Helelei,” (Falling Teardrop) won the Hoku Award for Slack Key Album of the Year. The CD is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Inglis’ previous albums include “Slacking on Dylan,” where he opened up new territory for slack key interpreting Bob Dylan songs, which won him a Hawaii Music Award. In 2009, he was nominated for a Grammy for his song “Redwood Slack Key,” that was featured on the collection “Hawaiian Slack Key Kings: Master Series, Vol. 2.”
He just wrapped up recording a new album, “Cut the Dead Some Slack,” a novel approach to the music of the Grateful Dead played slack key style.
“I just finished it,” he says. “I’m singing and playing slack key. It’s pretty wide ranging.”
The forthcoming album, which should be available in late summer, will include a unique take on the classic “Dark Star.”
“It’s a real open-ended, improvisational vehicle, an 18-minute odyssey,” he explains. Other Dead tracks include “Ship of Fools,” “Brokedown Palace,” and “Scarlet Begonias.”
“It has always spoken to my soul,” he says about slack key. “Dennis and other people have beautifully described it as being inseparable from the land itself here. It’s like you’re hearing the waves on the beach, you’re hearing the mountain streams, and you’re hearing the trees rustling and the birds in the forest.”
Since discovering the world of mantra music about eight years ago and recognizing its importance as a means of healing, director Georgia Wyss began working on a film that would expose this ancient practice to a wider audience.
Wyss’ fascinating documentary “Mantra — Sounds into Silence,” screens at the Maui Film Festival on Saturday. It has only been publicly shown once before at its world premiere June 2, at the ILLUMINATE Film Festival in Sedona, Ariz., where it won the Director’s Choice Award.
“I’ve worked on many music documentaries and when I discovered the music of mantra and chanting I was inspired to make a documentary,” says Wyss, who is based in Barcelona, Spain. “I got to know this music when a friend of mine died, and I realized how much it had helped me in the process of losing my friend. It helped me cope with the process of death and dying.”
The Sanskrit word, “mantra,” derives from the root words for mind and instrument of thought.
“It’s a sound vibration that allows us to transcend the chatter of the mind,” explains musician Guara Vani in the documentary. The earliest mantras were composed by Hindus in India around 3,000 years ago.
“The mantra is amazing medicine for the mind,” says musician MC Yogi, who combines sacred Hindu chanting with urban hip-hop.
Musicians performing in the film (many who have played on Maui) include Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Deva Premal & Miten, Snatam Kaur, MC Yogi, C.C. White, Mirabai Ceiba, Dave Stringer, and Lama Gyurme with Jean-Phillipe Rykiel.
Based on ancient chants, kirtan singing has the ability to quiet the mind. With many seeking solace from the stresses of life, the growing popularity of participatory chanting has even been recognized at the Grammys, when Das performed at the 2013 awards ceremony.
The seeds of the film were sown in 2012, when Premal and Miten performed in Barcelona, and Wyss broached the concept of her project with the duo.
“I was going to concerts and realizing the connection it makes with other people, how it’s really powerful, and that it would make a really good music documentary,” she explains. “I discovered all these different artists from different traditions, and it was quite a phenomena.”
Filming took place at various kirtan chanting-related events in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Moscow, India, Nepal and America.
“I made the film in a way that is accessible for everybody,” says Wyss. “The practice of chanting is still a bit strange for people and I wanted to demystify it. People have been doing this for many years, joining together, and it’s something that society has lost these days. The music has touched me in a profound way. Finding inner peace and connecting with others in music and meditation is important.”
Interviewed in San Quentin State Prison after a performance by Uttal in the film, inmate Gino Savacos expresses how singing mantras powerfully impacted the prisoners.
“A natural connection happens and it’s very moving,” he says. “Even if you don’t know what it is, it increases the heart.”
* “Mantra — Sounds into Silence” will screen at 7 p.m. Saturday during the MFF at the MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $15 and are available at the MACC box office and at Whole Foods in Kahului. For more information, visit www.mauifilmfestival.com.
The MFF will screen the insightful documentary “Poisoning Paradise,” which explores the impact of pesticide use in Kauai by the agro-chemical industry on Friday at the Celestial Cinema in Wailea.
Directed by Keely Shaye Brosnan and Teresa Tico, and executive produced by Pierce Brosnan, the film covers the ecological dangers of intensive pesticide applications on an island which has more unique species than anywhere else in the world.
Winner of the Best Documentary award at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in February, it includes interviews with Maui County Councilmember Alika Atay and Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang.
The soundtrack features music by Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Maui keyboardist Peter Kater, and slack key guitarists Ken Emerson and James Kimo West.
* “Poisoning Paradise” will screen at 10 p.m. Friday during the MFF at the Celestial Cinema in Wailea. Tickets are $25, includes the earlier screening of “Kuleana,” and are available at Whole Foods Market in Kahului, at the MFF ticket kiosk at The Shops at Wailea, and the Wailea Gold & Emerald Pro Shop. For more information, visit www.mauifilmfestival.com.
Finally, 2017 Hoku winner for Best Reggae Album, Kanekoa, head to Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia at 10 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $10 at the door. Must be 21 and over to attend. For more information, call 579-8085.