Kapono 2 Beamer

Hawaiian icons share music and stories

Henry Kapono (photo) and Keola Beamer perform at the new “Artist 2 Artist” series at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $35, $45 and $65 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or more information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go online to www.mauiarts.org. Photo courtesy the artist

Henry Kapono debuts his new “Artist 2 Artist” series at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater with an intimate concert featuring Keola Beamer. The two Hawaiian icons will share music and stories from their extensive careers and answer audience questions.

“I love working with him,” says Beamer, who recently played some Mainland show dates with Kapono. “We get on great and have a similar shared musical history. We both came from successful duet formats. On an artistic level, the harmonies that we are able to elicit are the sweetest and tightest since the days of the Beamer brothers. Working with someone who is so skilled is a joy.”

Best known as the composer of the hit song, “Honolulu City Lights,” Keola and Kapono Beamer released their first album in 1972, the same year that Keola released his seminal debut solo album, “Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar in the Real Old Style.”

A year later, Cecilio & Kapono were formed, and by 1974 the popular duo had released their self-titled debut album. The duo’s many memorable songs included “Highway in the Sun,” “Friends” and “Lifetime Party.”

“It’s been so great to run our hands through that material which was so popular for so many people,” Beamer continues. “It brings back great feelings and memories for people.”

Keola Beamer; Mark Modeen photo

While their paths have crossed over the decades, the two legendary musicians only performed together for the first time in 2014 when Kapono invited Beamer and his wife, kumu hula Moana Beamer, to be part of the “Back in the Day” celebration on Oahu.

“It was a big show at the Waikiki Shell and I did ‘Honolulu City Lights’ and we did one of his songs and it felt really nice,” Beamer recalls. “We’re really enjoying the journey.”

Recognized worldwide as a master of the Hawaiian slack key guitar, Beamer is steeped in tradition. His great-grandmother was the legendary composer and kumu hula Helen Desha Beamer; his grandmother Louise Beamer was an acclaimed teacher; and his mother, the late kumu hula and composer Winona Beamer, coined the term Hawaiiana.

Instrumental in perpetuating the treasured slack key art form, Beamer published the first slack key method book using a 16th-century lute tablature system. And he was one of Hawaii’s first recording artists to integrate Hawaiian chants and instruments — like the tiny gourd whistle and nose flute — into contemporary forms of music.

“When I started, it was so difficult to learn (slack key),” he explains. “There was no printed material and that’s why I wrote the first method book in 1972.”

John Cruz joins the talented line-up at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s Celebration of the Arts on Friday. Kai MarKell photo

As part of his cultural mission, he operates a popular instructional guitar website and he has held annual guitar camps, which draw students from around the world. His recent camp on Kauai, which sold out a year in advance, included classes with Moana, Jeff Peterson, Uluwehi Guerrero and Kevin Browne.

“Our camps usually sell out in two days,” he says. “It’s very popular. It’s not just guitar — it’s hula, language, ole chant and ukulele. It’s a full-spectrum immersion thing. All our artists are excellent teachers.”

A multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winner and Grammy-nominee, his most recent album, “Malama Ko Aloha,” featured collaborations with Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai and jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer, along with a beautiful Hawaiian language version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He is currently working on a new recording.

Just screened on PBS Hawai’i, Maui filmmaker Tom Vendetti’s latest documentary, “Tibetan Illusion Destroyer,” features a soundtrack recorded by Beamer. The film will be shown at the Taos Environmental Film Festival in April, along with the “Malama Ko Aloha” documentary.

“We’re accepting an award for Tom’s film,” Beamer says. “I’m going with him.”

Looking forward to Friday’s concert with Kapono, Beamer notes how “we were both part of the Hawaiian music renaissance. All of a sudden instead of feeling lousy about being Hawaiian, people began to have pride and cultural awareness. The music began a journey back to dignity and cultural strength.”

*****

Opening on Friday at The Ritz Carlton, Kapalua, the 26th Annual Celebration of the Arts includes acclaimed Hoku-winner John Cruz performing at 8:30 p.m. at a free Celebration After Hours show, followed at 9 p.m. by Grammy-winner Kalani Pe’a.

Saturday’s entertainment includes Kalapana Kollars from ” ‘Ulalena” at noon, followed by students from Ke Kula ‘o Kamakau at 2:30 p.m. The Celebration After Hours show features Ikaika Blackburn and Na Hoa with a CD release party at 9 p.m., followed by Nuff Sedd. More information is available at www.kapaluacelebrationofthearts.com.

*****

With his multi-Hoku Award-winning band Na Palapalai, Kuana Torres Kahele helped to revitalize traditional Hawaiian music. A former student of famed Hilo kumu hula Johnny Lum Ho, Kahele has been acclaimed for his original compositions for hula. Highlighting his gorgeous falsetto singing, his 2011 debut solo album “Kaunaloa” won him five Hoku Awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year.

Kahele then began an extraordinary, unprecedented songwriting project — to complete an album of new, original music for each of the Hawaiian islands. His first volume in the series, released in 2014, “Music for the Hawaiian Islands — Hawai’i Keawe,” honored his island birthplace. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he often plays guitar, ukulele and bass on his recordings.

Honoring the beautiful places and unique traditions of each island, he followed up in the same year with an homage to Niihau — “Vol. 2 Kahelelani.” Tributes to Maui, “Vol. 3 Pi’ilani,” and Kauai, “Vol. 4 Manookalanipo,” were next released in 2015.

The islands of Lanai and Molokai were going to be combined in one album, but after residents called for individual projects, Vol. 5 and 6 were released last year — ” ‘Aina Momona,” for Molokai, and “Lana’ikaula” for Lanai. The final installment, Vol. 7 for Oahu will be released this year.

Upon completion, Kahele will have written and recorded more than 100 new songs for the islands — a historic achievement in Hawaiian music.

* Kahele performs at 7:30 tonight in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $40 (plus applicable fees). For information or tickets, go to the box office, call 242-7469 or visit www.mauiarts.org.

*****

In India, the popular Holi Festival announces the arrival of spring and the passing of winter. Celebrated across the Indian subcontinent, participants splash each other with a rainbow of colored powder.

A modern American version of this traditional event, the Color Festival Hawaii will debut at 1 p.m. Sunday on the MACC’s Events Lawn with live music for dancing from DJ Boomshot, the Eric Gilliom Band, Shea Butter & The Cream and the Yum Yum Beasts.

Tickets are $20 (includes one- color pack); $25 (includes three-color packs); and $15 for keiki age 6 to 16 (includes one-color pack). Free for kids 5 years and younger (plus applicable fees). For more information, visit www.imuafamilyservices.org.

COMMENTS