Island Mele: ‘Renaissance Man’ is ‘an excellent introduction’ to George Kahumoku Jr.
The title of this long-awaited album by slack key master George Kahumoku Jr., is an apt description of the soft-spoken man who is one of the great slack key guitarists of his generation but whose influence on Hawaiian music extends far beyond his personal contributions.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
George Kahumoku Jr. (Kalia Farms Record Company)
The title of this long-awaited album by slack key master George Kahumoku Jr., is an apt description of the soft-spoken man who is one of the great slack key guitarists of his generation but whose influence on Hawaiian music extends far beyond his personal contributions as a guitarist, singer, song writer, nightclub and concert performer, and recording artist: Kahumoku also as a teacher and promoter of young aspiring talents, as the host of a radio show, and as the founder and promoter of the weekly Slack Key Show at the Napili Kai Beach Resort that provided the contents for four Grammy Award-winning albums. (Kahumoku’s name was inadvertently left off the producers’ credits for the first winning compilation album, so officially he is a three-time Grammy Award-winner.)
Kahumoku’s “renaissance” skills extend to business and diplomacy. On tour with two other virtuosos some years ago Kahumoku deferred to the others when the fraught question of performance order came up and offered to be the opening act. Conventional show biz wisdom is that the biggest act on a bill plays last; Kahumoku confided later that playing first gave him more time to meet the fans and sell CDs and other merchandise.
Whatever the performance order may be when Kahumoku tours the mainland this month with Led Kaapana and Kawika Kahiapo, mainland slack key fans will not want to miss the opportunity to get a copy of “Rennaissance Man” and have him sign it.
Anyone discovering Kahumoku with “Renaissance Man” will find it an excellent introduction to his extensive discography. He opens the album with “Aia La O Pele,” a chant honoring the volcano goddess that he set to music during recent eruptions on the Big Island. “Ho‘okupu Kamapua‘a” and “Spirit of Colorado,” the latter written with his brother Moses, are representative of his early work in the 1970s and 1980s. “Ka Aina O Kaonoulu,” written in 2016 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Kaonoulu Ranch, and “O Haleakala NP Slack Key,” a melody composed in 2017 for a documentary, are two recent compositions.
Kahumoku and his team of recording engineers do outstanding work in capturing the acoustic warmth and rich textures heard in his playing. Five instrumentals put the spotlight on his musicianship. His recording of “Imi Au Ia Oe” does so in particularly memorable style.
Kahumoku completes the project with composers’ credits, background information on each selection, and the slack key tuning he used to create this timeless nahenahe (sweet, melodious) Hawaiian music. Including this essential information makes “Renaissance Man” an excellent introduction indeed.