Borrowing the concept, I’ve cast my net out on the vast sea of the Internet as well as my network of contacts in the Island community to pull in events that will raise our spirits as the Southern California temperature falls.
November 20 – Jim Kimo West: A local boy (Canadian-born, actually) with a Hawaiian heart will display his brilliance on the slack key guitar at Manhattan Beach Library on Saturday, November 20 at 1:00pm. West embraced this uniquely Hawaiian genre of guitar playing over many years of visiting the Islands, especially Hana, Maui.He absorbed the open tunings and styles of ornamentation that make slack key so expressive. (At the same time he was working his ongoing gig as lead guitarist for “Weird Al” Yankovic.) Kimo is the middle name affectionately given by Hawaiian musician friends who have jammed with West over the years. A winner in the Hawaiian Music Awards and two-time winner of the L.A. Treasures Award, Jim Kimo West will play many of the slack key instrumentals he has composed and arranged. Since holiday season is approaching, this free concert is sure to include a few of the beautifully crafted arrangements of carols he features on his Hawaiian Slack Key Christmas CD.
Manhattan Beach Library is located at 1320 Highland Avenue,Manhattan Beach, CA 90266. Weather permitting, this event will take place outdoors in the Civic Center Plaza behind the library.
December 4 – Aaron Sala: Vocalist and pianist Aaron Sala will grace the stage of the Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College for its Aloha Series concert Saturday December 4 at 3:00pm and again at 8:00pm. A featured vocalist on the Hawaiian album Disney released last year, E Komo Mai, Sala won the coveted NaHoku Hanohano Award for Most Promising Artist of 2006. In music circles, he is known as much for his arranging and conducting talents as his performing. Given his deep interest in Hawaiian history and culture and his scholarly bent – he is currently completing a master’s degree in ethnomusicology at the University of Hawaii -we can expect a varied and stimulating show.
The Shannon Center for the Performing arts is located at13406 E. Philadelphia St.
Whittier, CA 90608. For ticket information, go to www.shannoncenter.org or call the box office at (562) 907-4203.
January 15, 2011 – The Makaha Sons: The Shannon Center welcomes back a trio beloved in their Hawaiian home and celebrated throughout the world. The Makaha Sons, whose harmonies play on our heartstrings year after year at the Aloha Series, willperform 3:00pm and 8:00pm shows on Saturday January 15. Consummate instrumentalists as well as vocalists, Louis “Moon” Kauakahi on 6-string guitar, John Koko on upright acoustic bass and Jerome Koko on 12-string guitar are into their third decade as an ensemble. Uncle Moon is responsible for the stunning vocal arrangements of their Hawaiian and hapa haole repertoire. Uncle Jerome enlivens the shows with his spontaneous humor, often using his brother John, whom he affectionately calls “Mr. Personality,” as his straight man.
The uninitiated should know that The Makaha Sons started out as a five-member ensemble and that honey-voiced Brother Iz – a world music superstar after his untimely death – began his singing career with them.
Among their island delights, the Makaha Sons always include one or more supremely gifted hula dancers performing to some of their songs.
See the December 4 notation above for Shannon Center address and box office information.
January 23, 2011 -Slack Key Festival: The 2011 Slack Key Guitar Festival is back at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Sunday, January 23 at 2:00pm. Honoring a guitar tradition that dates from the mid-19th century, when Hawaiian cowboys learned to play the instrument brought to the Islands by Spanish/Mexican vaqueros, this event is a Hawaiian cultural immersion experience. Festival producer Mitch Chang has made each of the last three festivals unique in its own way, varying soloists with ensembles, veterans of the tradition with newly-emerging stars, and bringing in local talent to round out the royalty of Hawaiian slack key. This year has as many luminaries as ever with Cyril Pahinui, Keola Beamer, Makana and George Kahumoku heading the list. No one is going solo, however, and the pairings are spectacular.
Cyril Pahinui carries on the legacy of sparkle, fluidity, and soulfulness he received from his father, slack key innovator Gabby “Pops” Pahinui and Gabby’s contemporary, Atta Isaacs. Sharing his set is a slack key innovator roughly half Cyril’s age, Maui-born Jeff Peterson. With dazzling technique and flexibility, Peterson is often seen in bands backing vocal artists such as Amy Hanaialii Gilliom. Both award winners in their own right, with Pahinui tending toward the traditional and Peterson experimenting with jazz elements, the two should make a stimulating combination. For added excitement, kumu hula and hula dancer extraordinaire Annette Ka’io will perform to one of their musical selections.
Slack Key luminary George Kahumoku joins forces with slide guitarist and world music explorer Bob Brozman at this year’s Slack Key Festival.
George Kahumokuhas helped build the audience for slack key with his weekly show on Maui, which led to a series of Grammy-winning CD compilations of outstanding players heco-produced with Daniel Ho. Pairing his lush and vibrant sound with the virtuoso slide guitar of Bob Brozman is bound to set off sparks. A world traveler who has absorbed numerous musical traditions as a guitarist and ethnomusicologist, Brozman maintains an abiding love for Hawaiian music. It should enhance the chemistry that both George and Bob are comic wits and storytellers.
Keola Beamer,illustrious slack key player, vocalist, composer, and lyricist, has gently pushed the limits on slack key arranging with original tunings, deft picking patterns, and haunting melodies. He is continuing the Beamer cultural legacy of his mother Nona Beamer and grandmother Helen Deshe Beamer, both multi-faceted artists, while standing somewhat apart from the traditional path. His collaboration with 25 year old vocalist Raiatea Helm created musical magic in the pair’s recently released CD, Keola Beamer and Raiatea (see myreview). Helm disarms the listener naturally, whether singing a Hawaiian mele in the traditional falsetto style or interpreting a pop tune or jazz standard. Here is a chance to see two artists who bring out the best in one another.
Makana represents a new take on the tradition of Hawaiian slack key guitar. He started out emulating the sweet and deceptively effortless playing style of the late Sonny Chillingworth, a consummate performer and teacher from Gabby Pahinui’s generation. He also studied with Bobby Moderow, founder of Maunalua, the award-winning trio which appeared in last year’s Slack Key Festival. But at 32,Hawaiian-born (but not of Hawaiian blood) Makana is known as much as a “world fusion artist” as a slack key guitar player. If he did not coin the term “slack rock,” he certainly embodies it with a high-octane, hip-thrusting style that challenges while it beckons. Backing him up will be bass guitarist Lono and percussionist Lopaka Colon, who often perform with him.
The Slack Key Guitar Festival has more dimensions than its name implies. A Hawaiian Marketplace of art, craft, and food booths will tantalize the senses in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center before the show and during intermission. For those who want a more intimate experience of the featured artists, a VIP reception will take place the evening before the Festival at Trader Vic’s downtown at L.A. Live. That’s on Saturday, January 22. Think sumptuous buffet, storytelling, and the jamming of champions.
The 1,457-seat theatre of the Redondo Beach Center for the Performing Arts will be filled close to capacity if present ticket sales are any indication. It is located at 1935 Manhattan Beach Boulevard on the northeast corner of the intersection with Aviation Blvd. For ticket and other information on the Festival and VIP reception, go to www.kalakoa.com .
Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum – “Many islands…Many stories…One museum” read the cover page of the program booklet for the recent opening ceremonies of this new museum located in Long Beach. From the moment you set eyes upon the building with its mural of a traditional Pacific Islander community meeting house, the museum draws you into an island world whose scope and cultural riches are there to explore in unique ways.
As someone favoring Hawaiian culture, it was startling for me to take in the giant map of the Pacific Islands where Polynesia exists in avast Oceana world that includes Micronesia and Melanesia with cultures as distinct as the Marshallese, Chamorro, Fijian, Carolinian, Tongan, Micronesian,Ni-Vanuatu, Niuean, Tuvauluan, Maori, Papuan, Austronesian, Nauruan, Melanesian, Palauan, and the I-Kiribati, to name a few. One common feature of these groups is the importance of the community or meeting house. Accordingly, in the center of the museum’s main exhibit room stands a community house like the one depicted int he wall mural, an A-shaped, open-ended structure about 10 feet high and 15feet long, made of palm-like Pandanus leaves, coconut sennit rope and bamboo poles brought from various Pacific Islands and constructed by members of Pacific Island communities of Southern California. Inside it are woven mats,drinking vessels and other historic artifacts plus a multi-media screen that shows early footage of ocean sailing vessels I guarantee you have never seen before.
The Community Driven Exhibit, Walk-In introduces visitors to different community leaders both here and in the islands. There is an audio tour, Sharing Story, to bring to life their tales as well as to highlight the oral tradition of the islands.
PIEAM is not only a place to understand history but a showcase of contemporary artists who have carried the traditional cultures forward. Not far from a pre-contact Maori kilt made of piupia (flax), you gaze upon watercolors by Micronesian artist Charlie Gibbons such as “Preparations for a Palauan Feast. Exhibits along the walls provide audio commentary by traditional healers and tellers of creation myths. Some of these exhibits are rotating so that the museum will always be changing. Outside the building a burbling fountain beckons you to explore the sculptures placed on lush green grass of the museum’s garden. Contemporary and traditional art co-exist beautifully in this peaceful setting.
The only museum in the United States to focus on Pacific Island culture, PIEAM is an outgrowth of the Ethnic Art Institute of Micronesia based on the island of Yap, which founded the museum through benefactor Dr.Robert Gumbiner. Museum director Brenna Barrett has been working for seven years to bring this museum to the Island diaspora in the United States. The heavy concentration of Pacific Islanders in Southern California makes Long Beach an ideal location. Barrett has planned rotating exhibits, education programs, public events, and collaborations with other organizations such as the Aquarium of the Pacific to bring Islanders together and non-Islanders into contact with the many faces of the Pacific Islands.
The Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum is located at 695 Alamitos Avenue, (7th Street and Alamitos), Long Beach CA 90802 in the city’s East Village Arts District. It is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00am to 5:00pm. Across the street stands the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA).You can make a stimulating afternoon for yourself and holiday guests by takingin the two museums and sampling ethnic food at the MOLAA Café.
Advance notice: On December 4 PIEAM along with MOLAA, will host a spoken word event, entitled Pasifika Voice 2010: The New Way Finders from 5pm – 10pm. There will be live art created, a contemporary art display and a reception. This event is brought together with collaboration from the Pacific Islander Association at Cal State University Long Beach, Pac Biz and PIEAM.More details will soon follow on their website at www.pieam.org
Now you understand why I titled this column A Netful of Island Delights, not Hawaiian Delights. We cover the entire Pacific Ocean! But if somehow you have never heard the “Hukilau” song and seek to be culturally informed, you can listen to it while you watch Luisa and Company dance it for a group of children on YouTube. Search for it under Hookie Lau by Memonga.
Mele Kalikimaka, Happy Hanukkah, and Ha Ole Maka Hiki Ho(Happy New Year)!
Audrey Coleman is a journalist, educator, and passionate explorer of traditional and world music.