Times change. Magic moments become treasured memories. Cyril Pahinui is looking forward to bringing some of the magic back — if only for a day — with the Third Annual Gabby Pahinui Waimanalo Kanikapila tomorrow at Waimanalo Beach Park. The music will go on throughout the day, with more than 100 musicians playing in honor of Gabby, Cyril’s father.
Charles Philip "Gabby" Pahinui is remembered as one of the greatest slack-key guitarists of the 20th century, but he was also an excellent steel-guitar player. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, Gabby and his family and friends would kanikapila (play music) for days at a time at his Waimanalo home — Gabby and slack-key guitarist Leland "Atta" Isaacs, Manuel "Joe Gang" Kupahu on acoustic bass and a shifting galaxy of talent that included Gabby’s sons Bla, Philip, Martin and Cyril.
"I miss those days, playing with my dad and with the Peter Moon Band and with Palani Vaughan," Cyril said as he talked Wednesday before his weekly gig at the Kani Ka Pila Grille.
Cyril and his brothers all share their father’s musical legacy as performers and recording artists, but Cyril has taken the lead in raising funds for a projected Hawai’i Museum of Music and Dance that would be a repository for Gabby’s legacy and the work of other Hawaiian musicians and songwriters.
THIRD ANNUAL GABBY PAHINUI WAIMANALO KANIKAPILA
Where: Waimanalo Beach Park
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow
Maka’ala, Bernard Kalua, Barry Kimokeo, Alika Odom, Halau Mele o Hawai’i o Pahinui, Doug Fitch, Kapa’ala, Palanai Vaughan and the King’s Own, Kanakapila, Ben Kaili, Victor Chock, J.J. Ahuna, Dwight Tokamoto, Makana, Hi’ikua, Kamuela Kimokeo, Kalehua Krug, Jerry Santos, Blake Leoiki-Haili, Jessie Kalima Ohana, Nikki Hines & Friends, Alan Akaka, Gary Aiko, Momi Sherrie, Nobriga Ohana, Danny Carvalho, Jeff Peterson, George Kuo, Aaron Mahi, Kalani Cockett, Dennis Kamakahi, Greg Sardinha & Kailua Bay Buddies, Darrell Aquino, Mark Caldeira, Clayton Apilando, Kealoha Kalima Ohana, Hawaiiloa, Eddie Palama, Herb Lee, Bobby Kahihikolo, David Kaiapu, Joe Berinobis, Lance Takamiya, Hilo One, Russell Mauga, Likeke Teanio, Aaron Agres, Pahinui Hawaiian Band, Kunia Galdeira, Sonny Lim, Cyril Pahinui, Bla Pahinui, Pahinui Hi’ikua, Kamuela Kimokeo, Kalehua Krug and Blake Leoiki-Haili
While admission to tomorrow’s kanikapila festival is free, sales of this year’s limited-edition Gabby T-shirt will help fund the museum. A dollar from each T-shirt sale will go to the museum fund; starting tomorrow Cyril is donating a dollar from each of his CD sales as well.
Cyril recalls the weekend jam sessions starting after his father joined the Sons of Hawaii in 1962. "They had rehearsals every week. Dad’s friends used to come over to the house — ‘Hey, Gabby, what you guys doing?’ They’d have a few drinks, and before you know it, they’re playing music."
"BEFORE long the word was, ‘Let’s go to Gabby’s house and go play music,’" Cyril recalled. "People would pass by to see what was going on, and if we were out on the lawn kanikapila, people (would) stop. Before you knew it, it was like one luau.
"When Daddy and Atta and Sonny Chillingworth would play, it (would) just bring chicken skin, magic or whatever you call it."
Dennis Kamakahi is one of the many musicians who will be reliving those good old days tomorrow. Kamakahi was introduced to Gabby by Eddie Kamae after he joined a later version of the Sons of Hawaii in 1974.
The night Kamae introduced him, they "played all night," Kamakahi said — but admission to Gabby’s inner circle wasn’t automatic.
"You had to be invited. If he would invite you to come in play in the circle, that was quite a privilege," Kamakahi noted. "If he nodded his head towards you, that meant you had to take a solo — and if you didn’t take a solo, you were out of the circle. You were not going to play for the rest of the night."
Gabby also shared suggestions with young musicians, Kamakahi added.
"He would show you a better way of approaching the music."
"You learn so much by just watching, and so it’s a privilege when they all nod to you to take that solo and you throw your idea in the center of the circle. He wasn’t after perfection — he just wanted to see what your idea was when he’d throw the solo to you. Cyril, myself (and) George Kuo, we were quite the privileged people because we never got scoldings from them."
Cyril Pahinui would like to revive the old-time weekend jam sessions, but modern notions of liability, differing attitudes about drinking and similar issues make it impossible.
"I wish we could do these things like the old days, but with the drinking laws now-days, no, you can’t do it," he said. "Before, it was different. People used to sleep at my dad’s house (if they’d been drinking). There was music from morning to night to the next day, and they’d start all over again. It was nice, but today is so different, you cannot. You don’t want to be responsible if anybody gets into an accident or something, but I miss Dad, I miss Atta, I miss Sonny, I miss Leonard Kwan … and today I just do the best I can."
He describes his support of the Hawai’i Museum as "my homework. That’s my duty, to carry on Dad’s legacy and also trying to build my legacy up."
CYRIL made his first recording with Palani Vaughan and the original Sunday Manoa in 1967. Two years later he went to Vietnam. He returned home and recorded with Vaughan, formed the Sandwich Isle Band, recorded several albums with his father and then joined the Peter Moon Band. For the past 20 years he’s been best known as a solo artist; his solo albums include several for George Winston’s Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters series.
"The years went by so fast, but we’re trying to keep up with the Hawaiian traditional songs (and) I feel like I’ve never changed. My music has always been focused with Dad, Atta Isaacs, Sonny Chillingworth (and) Leonard Kwan. … I love all kinds of music, but Hawaiian music is it (for me). I love my traditional Hawaiian music, and I love hula."
Respect for tradition and desire to honor the family legacy keep the dream of a museum alive for this son of a legend, who himself has now been making music for a lifetime.
"I might not even see the museum, but maybe my grandkids might see it," Cyril said. "It’s not only for the Pahinui family; it’s for all the entertainers that did good for Hawaii — like Auntie Genoa, Jesse Kalima, the Kahauanu Lake Trio, George Helm. … The (Hawaiian) composers should be a part of it (too)."