Legends Of Slack Key Visit Kaua‘i

Ledward Ka‘apana learned by watching

Some of Hawai’i’s most revered musicians perform in concert on the Garden Isle this Saturday

Kaua’i will soon be graced with the presence of a trio of arguably the most prolific Hawaiian songwriters and ki ho ‘alu players of their generation with the arrival of Rev. Dennis Kamakahi, Ledward Ka’apana and Nathan Aweau.

The threesome will play Jan. 15 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at KCC’s Performing Arts Center, a night that promises a chance to see ad-lib-bing at its best – to say the least.

Alluding to some of the greatest musicians and composers of all time, Kamakahi offers a glimpse into his musical education, experience and natural talent, noting that music is an important aspect of education that needs to be respected.

“The first thing to be cut when there are budgetary problems is music,” he says. “There is a rhythm to everything we do. Music rounds off the whole curriculum.”

Noting he believes music gives children and adults “more concentration,” Kamakahi adds that music is an abstract way of doing mathematics – and that it offers a psychological lift to the human spirit that other elements can’t beat. “Without music in our lives, we’d be nervous wrecks,” he says. “Music calms the beast.”

For Ka’apana, music is something that has offered entertainment and fun since his childhood.

“Growing up, we lived in the old style: no electricity,” he says. “Music was No. 1 because we had no TV, no nothing. Everybody played music. By watching, and remembering the tunings, the fingerings, I began to pick it up.”

Dennis Kamakahi has been playing music since age 3

The first time he remembers actually sitting down and playing is when he was about 8 years old.

“I played in the backyard.

I would listen to slack-key music and my mom would sing all the Hawaiian songs.”

It was with that influence, coupled with listening to country-western songs such as Hank Williams’ Your Cheatin’Heart that he was inspired to keep playing.

“In the old days, we just played for free,” Ka’apana says. “After a while we got paid playing music. Then I got to travel here and there. I was having so much fun.”

It’s that kind of fun Ka’apana, Kamakani and Aweau bring to Kaua’i during their upcoming performance, which Kamakani says will be an impromptu jam of sorts.

“I don’t believe in rehearsing, because then you’re stuck in parameters you can’t get out of,” he says, noting he learned that style playing with the legendary Sons of Hawai’i. “Eddie Kamae and me, we never rehearsed,” he adds. “We went onstage and played music. That’s the way the old baroque music masters during the period of Bach did it, and that was the beginning of jazz music: a basic melody structure, and then playing ‘ad libidum.'”

Kaua’i slack key and ‘ukulele enthusiasts will be in for a treat when the three team up, especially since Kamakahi and Ka’apana have recently been nominated for Grammys.

Kamakahi, known perhaps best for his songs Koke’e, Wahine ‘Ilikea and E Hihiwai (and for winning the Na Hoku Hanohano award several times), was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame last year. Having started on ‘ukulele at age 3, music is something he literally has been doing all of his life.

“That’s all I can remember from the beginning – just music,” he says. “My father and grandfather were the two people who started me off on it.”

It wasn’t until he was a 9-year-old that Kamakahi picked up slack-key guitar.

“That’s when my fingers were big enough to go on the guitar,” he says.

“What a perfect way to start off this tour, on Kaua’i,” Kamakahi says. “We have a lot of following on Kaua’i and it’s always brought me the best of luck.”

Order tickets online for $30 apiece at www.hawaiianlegends.org or buy them at Hawaiian Music Kiosks Princeville, Kauai Music and Sound, Island Soap and Candleworks, Scotty’s Music, Banana Patch Gallery, Borders Books & Music, or Hanalei Strings and Things.

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