For close to 100 years, Kamaka and Sons have crafted superior ukuleles from their tiny shop in Honolulu. Of all the early Hawaiian manufacturers of the instruments at the start of the 20th century, only Kamaka and Sons remains in business today.
The new documentary "Heart Strings" chronicles the history of the company and its world-renowned instruments.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka began creating koa ukuleles from the basement of his Kaimuki home. In 1916, he formed his one-man shop, Kamaka Ukulele and Guitar Works, and soon established a reputation for producing quality instruments.
The incomparable Jake Shimabukuro is one of the many happy players of Kamaka ukuleles.
Maui Arts & Cultural Center photo
Kenny Loggins (left) and Jim Messina close their Hawaiian tour with a just announced Nov. 14 concert at the MACC.
Sony Pictures Classics photo
James Brown brings the house down in “Soul Power,” screening Friday in Castle Theater at the MACC.
In the mid-20s, Sam Kamaka laid out a pattern for a new oval-shaped ukulele body. Thus began the original Pineapple Ukulele, which became an instant success worldwide, and continues to be Kamaka's signature instrument.
"We're the last of the original ukulele makers here in Hawaii," says Fred Kamaka Jr. "So we are the last of the old breed of ukulele makers, and we do feel the pressure to keep it going."
George Harrison was a big Kamaka fan. He played a range of ukuleles including the concert, the tenor 6-string, and tenor 8-string. On the Beatles "Anthology" DVD George strums a Kamaka ukulele while he, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr share memories of the band.
* The Hawaiian Heritage Film Festival screens "Heart Strings" from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Producer Dawn Kaniaupio will attend for a Q & A. Tickets are $10.
(Applicable fees are added to ticket prices for shows at the MACC. Tickets are available from the box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.)
When he was visiting his Maui home, George would sometimes stop by Bounty Music looking for ukuleles as gifts. "It was the highlight of my business career to have George Harrison come in and try our ukuleles," says owner Paul Weinstein. "One day he sat in my office and played all these different ukes. He would bring them back to friends in Europe."
Jake Shimabukuro also favors Kamakas. "I have played a lot of different ukuleles and the Kamaka has the sound I like," he says. In 2007, the company released the limited edition Jake Shimabukuro Signature Model tenor.
Earlier in the year Jake released a new CD in Japan, "Across The Universe," featuring cool covers of Beatle songs including "All You Need is Love," "Something," "Norwegian Wood," and the title track with Cyndi Lauper on vocals.
The CD wrapper features a quote from George's widow Olivia Harrison, praising Jake's version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
A re-teamed Loggins and Messina return to the MACC on Nov. 14, closing their new tour in Hawaii, just like their first reunion, after almost 30 years apart, in the summer of 2005.
One of the most successful duos of the 1970s, Loggins and Messina sold 16 million albums and created a string of memorable songs including "Your Mama Don't Dance," "Angry Eyes," "House at Pooh Corner" and "Danny's Song."
Fans and critics were united in praise for the reteamed duo in 2005. "Not only was there camaraderie, chemistry and joy between the players, but the musicianship was first-rate," noted a Minneapolis Star Tribune review. "Crosby, Stills & Nash, L&M's contemporaries, would be thrilled these days to sound half this good."
* Tickets are $45, $55, $65, and $125.
Maui's Derick Sebastian is about to release a new ukulele instrumental CD, "From His Heart."
"I went back solely to playing the ukulele," he says about the forthcoming album, "to not only share how blessed I am with this beautiful instrument, but how it truly changed my life and opened my heart."
Currently touring California he plays the Wine Country Ukulele Festival this weekend (along with Brittni Paiva). In late October, he plans to open the Ukulele School on Maui at the Maui Music Conservatory in the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
Proclaimed "Band of the Year" by High Times magazine, Southern California's Kottonmouth Kings are self-described "psychedelic hip-hop punk rockers."
Pro-pot advocates, they pack albums like their 2007 release "Cloud Nine" with infectious tunes such as the funky rap of "Time to Get High," the reggae-flavored "Pass It Around" and the easy-going groove of "Proud to be a Stoner."
"This is not your laid back, mellow out 'Dark Side of the Moon' type of weed music," noted a ConcertLivewire review. "This is an assault on the mellow, a kick to the head of those who would lie around. The full capacity crowd was up and jumping from the go. This is not your Dad's Bob Marley."
* Kottonmouth Kings perform at 8 tonight at Oceans Beach Bar & Grill in Kihei.
In tandem with the legendary "Rumble in the Jungle" heavyweight world championship boxing bout between Muhammad Ali and George Forman held in the African nation of Zaire (now Congo) back in 1974, a spectacular concert was also presented.
"Soul Power," screening Friday in the Castle Theater, captures this historic Zaire '74 three-day music festival which teamed some of America's greatest African-American artists with leading homegrown talent.
The stellar lineup included James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, Sister Sledge, The Spinners, The Crusaders, Cuban salsa legend Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars, along with such African greats as trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, and saxophonist Manu DiBango.
"It's the music that makes this film a cause for celebration - especially the chance to see 'Soul Brother No. 1' James Brown and his blistering band perform at their absolute prime," raved a Philadelphia Daily News review.
"The images and performances are so vivid, so exciting, so beautifully framed, and the sound track so clear and powerful," praised The Toronto Star. "Brown, allowed the most time on screen, delivers muscular and tight performances of signature pieces 'Cold Sweat,' 'The Payback,' 'I Got You (I Feel Good),' 'I'm Black And I'm Proud,' and the movie's title song - perhaps the best ever captured."
The film was amassed by director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, an editor on Leon Gast's 1996 Oscar-winning account of the Ali-Foreman fight, "When We Were Kings," from hundreds of hours of film footage that were lost in legal limbo for 35 years. The company that owned both the fight and the concert film went broke, and it took more than a couple of decades to acquire the footage and performance rights.
"Soul Power" presents this festival from its precarious beginnings to the finale of a shirtless, sweating James Brown singing "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" to an enthralled African audience of 80,000.
* The Maui Film Festival screens "Soul Power" at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $10, and half-price for kids.