Classical Music Hawaiian Style

New York (NY), USA – Guitarist Keola Beamer’s sixth Dancing Cat album, Ka Hikina O Ka Hau (The Coming of the Snow), is not a traditional Hawaiian slack key recording. “It poses a simple question,” he says. “Can the palette, coloration and tonality of Ki ho’alu add an indefinable something to the interpretation of songs written by truly great composers?

The album features eighteen arrangements of classical compositions by Satie, Ravel, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dowland, Piazzolla and others, as well as two more Hawaiian inspired pieces. For the first time Hawaiian Slack Key guitar tunings have been used to interpret the works of classical composers, resulting in a romantic, winter oriented album that uniquely blends both the Hawaiian Slack Key and classical music traditions.

Arranged for two or three guitars, specifically for Keola by musicologist, guitarist, and linguist Daniel O’Donoghue, Ka Hikina O Ka Hau (The Coming of the Snow) highlights Keola on acoustic nylon string, acoustic steel-string, and electric guitars, overdubbing multiple tracks to create a truly unique sound.

A recognized master of Hawaiian artistic expression, Keola’s music is a blending of the modern and ancient, the urban and rural and the traditional and contemporary. He established himself in the vanguard of contemporary Hawaiian music when he wrote one of Hawai’i’s best selling songs, “Honolulu City Lights”, in 1978. Honolulu Magazine recently voted the album by the same name the number 1 recording of the top 50 recordings in the history of Hawaiian Music.

Over the past 33 years since his first recording, Keola has produced many CD’s which have garnered him numerous awards. He won a Na Hoku Award for best instrumental release in 1997 with Mauna Kea: White Mountain Journal. In 2003 his DVD release of Ki Ho’alu – Loosen the Key which featured his performances earned him multiple awards which included “Best Documentary” by the New York International Film Festival, “Best Cinematography” by the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and the “Gold Remi Award” at the Houston International Film Festival. In addition, film critics praised the feature length movie as “the best slack key documentary ever made.”

Keola’s release titled, Mohala Hou – Music Of The Hawaiian Renaissance, won the 2004 Na Hoku Hanohano award for “Best Contemporary Hawaiian Album”.

Keola performs for standing room audiences in the US, Asia and Europe. His wife, Moanalani, who shares her knowledge and talent in teaching hula, assumes a vital role in his performances by dancing, chanting, playing several ancient Hawaiian percussive instruments and singing background vocals.

Keola has also played an important role in the creation of Hawaiian stage productions, elaborating on the rich mythology of the Hawaiian people. These productions have included “Here is Hawaiÿi” at the Maui Surf Hotel (now the Westin, Maui) and “Ulalena”, at the Maui Theatre in Keola’s home town of Lahaina, Maui.

In response to increased interest locally, nationally and globally, Keola recently expanded his teaching methodology for the slack key guitar. He launched a website to allow greater access to himself and on-line slack key guitar lessons as well as his musical releases by offering books, CDs, DVDs and instructional videos. Further instruction in hula, oli, language and culture is provided in person by him and others of the Beamer ‘ohana at their Aloha Music Camp held several times a year at Kaupoa Beach, Moloka’i. These events expanded to include online, streaming video content for long distance learning.

Keola continues to author books and DVD’s in the art of Hawaiian slack key guitar. His talents extended to writing a book of Island stories, The Shimmering – Ka ‘Olili, voted one of the top ten books of 2002 by the Honolulu Advertiser. His short story in the book, “It Swims When You Sleep” was optioned by Industry Standard Entertainment and produced as a movie, entitled “ The Shimmering”, produced by Darius Shahmir. Keola also composed the original score for the film, mixed at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. “The Shimmering” opens the 2006 Hawai’i International Film Festival on the islands of Maui and ‘Oahu.

In our family we’re taught to respect our kupuna and their legacy, but that it’s also important to look to the future. I never look at this as burdensome. It’s a natural state of affairs. Having these two perspectives increases my appreciation of life. They’re constant sources of inspiration.” Keola’s artistic and educational contributions, his support and creation of economic opportunities in the field of music and entertainment help to further Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s legacy to educate her people (na pua) to succeed and survive in a westernized world.

Buy Ka Hikina O Ka Hau.

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central