A multiple Grammy and Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner, Dennis Kamakahi was honored last year with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts. One of our most accomplished slack key guitarists and prolific composers he recently released "The Greatest Hits Volume 1," a new recording that captures his profound contribution to Hawaiian music.
"It has new arrangements plus a couple of new songs," Dennis explains. "With all the awards I got this year and being inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, and celebrating 42 years of playing, I decided I may as well get one greatest hits out. The songs that were made popular were made during my time with the Sons (of Hawaii) and I wanted to do them a little different with just my voice and very little instrumentation, almost like what I do when I go on the road."
On Sunday, Kamakahi will join a host of Hawaii's leading slack key guitar artists at the annual "Ki Ho'alu Slack Key Guitar Festival" at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
AUBREY HORD photo
"I like to see the new and upcoming artists," he says about the festivals. "Every year I see new talent, the younger generation coming up, and it's interesting to see how they interpret the music. I believe each generation has its own voice, and if it didn't, the music would just be boring. We need new interpretations of slack key, and I thick it's great if it gets more exposure. Traditionalists are not too keen about it, but life goes on and it only goes on when new ideas are injected. They are trying to tell the world there's other directions too, and most of these artists still come back to tradition."
In January this acclaimed artist won his third Hawaiian Grammy, contributing to "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Volume 2 - Live From Maui." He also played on the Grammy-winning CDs, "Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar" and "Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar - Live From Maui."
"I've been on the road for almost 20 years and a lot of people think, how come slack key usually wins the Grammys? Well, it's because we've been on the road the most," he continues. "The votes come from our peers and we meet them all over the place. My main beef since I joined the academy was they've got to have more categories. One award is supposed to sum up Hawaiian music, it doesn't make sense. Their biggest fear is if they expand the Hawaiian category, we won't have enough people to fill the category. They've got to be kidding. Slack key should be on its own.
Dennis Kamakahi performs on Sunday at the 19th annual Ki Ho'alu Slack Key Guitar Festival at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The extensive lineup includes George Kahumoku, Brother Noland, Makana, Jeff Peterson, Stephen Inglis, Kevin & Ikaika Brown, Bobby Moderow, Paul Togioka, David Kahiapo, LT Smooth, Donald Kaulia, Dwight Kanae, Patrick Landeza and Keale & Chris Lau. Admission is free and the show runs from 2 to 7 p.m.
Steve Grimes will debut his new CD at Stella Blues at 9 p.m. Friday. Maui musicians joining him who played on the project include Sal Godinez, Bob Harrison, David Choy, Paul Marchetti, Mike Buono, Bob Jones, Gilbert Emata, Mike Kennedy, Tom Conway, Ken Kennell, Kerry Sofaly and Tim Hackbarth. Latitude 21N will open the evening. The $15 cover charge includes a copy of the new CD.
"Going to the Grammys is a lot of fun, I've talked with Cyndi Lauper and Sir Paul McCartney and groups like Pearl Jam, and I've known Stevie Wonder for many years."
Born in 1953, Dennis began playing ukulele at the age of 3 and guitar at 10, taught by his grandfather. He credits his father, who played trombone with the Royal Hawaiian Band, with setting him on a musical path.
In late 1950s, he recalls being mesmerized by the music of the Sons of Hawaii. A dream came true in 1974 when the young guitarist was invited to join the group he so revered, replacing Hawaiian music legend Gabby Pahinui.
"Any 19-year-old would have been blown away," he notes. "I was packed and ready to go live in Alaska. One concert led to another and I stayed in Hawaii. I had to fill a legend's shoes and I found my niche as their composer."
Known for crafting music so sweet and tranquil it draws the listeners back to the days of old Hawaii - songs like "Pua Hone," "Wahine 'Ilikea," "E Hihiwai," "Koke'e" and "Kou Aloha Mau A Mau" - this esteemed musician discovered his talent might have a unique source.
Hawaiian cultural icon Mary Kawena Pukui, under care at Queen's Hospital, revealed the source to his mom who was a nurse there. "Right before she passed on, out of the blue she told my mom, 'Your son lived in another time and he's come back to finish his work because it was interrupted.' I had chicken skin when she told me. There are some places I go I feel like I've been there before, everything is so familiar."
Kamakahi says he's not really sure how compositions come to him. "Each musician has their creative time. Mine is midnight to 4 o'clock in the morning. We live in a condo - thank God my neighbors are good. After a while they'd call up and say, 'Can I request a song?' My creativity comes from being with people. We'll be at dinner with friends, we'll be talking and all of a sudden I go blank, like into this trance. And then I start writing."
Kind of amazing that one of the hippest bands on the planet will land at the MACC's Castle Theater on July 3. Fat Freddys Drop out of New Zealand will likely deliver one of the most exciting shows of the year.
On their latest studio album, "Dr Boondigga and the Big BW," one minute they're cooking up the deepest Babylon dub and some of the slinkiest soul since Marvin, the next they're traversing Euro rave territory and heading down into JB funk land with a detour to New Orleans, while tossing in a pinch of Pink Floydish psychedelia for good measure.
Known for extended 15-20-minute jams in concert, they've played Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight Festival, and are about to release "Live at Roundhouse," recorded at the famous London venue, host of legendary shows by Hendrix, The Doors and The Who.
For a taste check out this clip: www.youtube.com/watchv=EDVogNbo3Cg&feature=related
*Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of show, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org. And there's a dance floor.
As a master luthier, Steve Grimes has worked with many famous musicians often creating unique designs for them. So it's no surprise on his new CD, "Labor Of Love," distinguished friends contributing include guitarists Larry Coryell, Rick Vito of the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and Pat Simmons from the Doobies, keyboardist Jon Cleary and bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson from Bonnie Raitt's band, and the late great Norton Buffalo on harmonica.
"I was really lucky to have such a deep well of incredible talent to draw from," Steve says. "It was a nice compliment that they liked the songs enough, too."
Norton, who performed for many years with Steve Miller, joins Pat (playing a "Beamer" model) on the sweet track "Perfect Stranger," and contributes to "Over The Waves," a moving homage to Mana'o Radio founder Barry Shannon and one of the album's highlights.
"I've been a good friend of Norton's wife for about 35 years," Steve continues. "They showed up at one of my gigs with Barry Flanagan at Borders, and we played at my studio and he said he would love to record with me sometime. He came back to the studio when he was here with Steve Miller. I've dedicated the CD to him."
Musically, Steve journeys far and wide on the CD. "I have a collection of styles," he notes, "bouncing between bossa nova and funk, and folk and blues, and Latin and rock."
Acclaimed jazz guitarist Larry Coryell plays his Grimes "LC" model guitar on the elegant Brazilian instrumental "Olinda Na Chuva."
"I thought with a sultry bossa nova he would want to play an archtop with a pickup, that has a warm jazz sound," he says. "I was surprised he played the LC model, with an acoustic solo. But then he did an electric solo, so when I do a second pressing I might switch it. He's such a great player. I'm working on a new model for him.
Taking a swipe at our celebrity obsession, "That's News To Me" finds Steve in funky talking blues territory, enhanced by Vito's great slide playing. "I'm really cynical about what's fed to us," he explains. "One of the lines in the song is, news is just show time. We don't hear about Darfur and what's really going on in Afghanistan."
And the hilarious blues "Movin' to Maui" satirizes the Californication of our island, engulfed by massive mansions. Bob Jones, who years ago performed with guitar legend Mike Bloomfield, plays drums and guitar on the track and provides a perfect vocal style for the sardonic subject matter.
The 2010 Maui Invitational Music Festival presents a "Jazz and Blues Fest" on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the Historic Iao Theater. The concert features performances by the Highseas Dixieland Jazz Band, the Mana'o Radio Orchestra featuring Vince Esquire, Omar & The Soultones, Jamallad, and the AECG student ensemble. Kathy Collins will emcee. There is a suggested $10 donation at the door.