Sad losses for Hawaiian Music


It was a sad week for Hawaiian music. Auntie Genoa Leilani Adolpho Keawe-Aiko died on February 25th. Her voice epitomized the high flexible Hawaiian soprano falsetto-- lyrical, easily, light. Then a few days later, Uncle Raymond Kaleoalohapoinaoleohelemanu Kane, the master slack key guitarist, died at 82 on February 27th. I loved his gravelly voice, and his boisterous but controlled slack key. His signature song is "Wai O Ke Ani Ani." He was a mentor to many young slack key artists. It is so sad to see the passing of the older generation of Hawaiian musicians. Luckily they are honored and remembered, and younger musicians like Keoki Kahumoku are carrying on their traditions. In honor of these kupunas, we went to the 7th annual Ukulele festival in Waikoloa-- a mixed crowd of local people and tourists, kids with ukuleles and grandma's in low chairs on the lawn. Parents cheered for the jangly middle-school ukulele band playing "The Entertainer." Gabby Pahinui's nephew performed a soaring version of "Hiilawe" -- recognizably traditional, with cascading arpeggios, but still unique-- his own. Keoki Kahumoku came and crooned in his grandmother's stained floppy hat. The last time I heard him play, he had just nearly cut off three of his fingers on his right hand, while killing one of his pig. But severed digits notwithstanding, he played with all his playful dexterity, hopping through hapa-haole songs and tripping easily through fast Hawaiian song like the lightning-speed "Laupahoehoe Hula." He learned from all the uncles, and brings his own spirit to the art as well. And, as Ray Kane said, "that's Slack-Key!"

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