Hawaiian Slack Key

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - October 03, 2008
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Creating a project that expands each listener’s understanding of slack key guitar was just what producers Milton Lau and son Chris had in mind when they created the first Hawaiian Slack Key Kings album just 18 months ago.

After a lot of buzz, a Grammy nomination and many inquiries from musicians and fans in regard to a follow-up album,Vol. II was produced and released last month. The album features 16 tracks and 16 artists, including returning musicians Bobby Moderow, Kawika Kahiapo, Ledward Kaapana, Kevin and Ikaika Brown, Milton Lau, Florent Atem and Makana. Newcomers to the series, but in no way to the music scene, are Donald Kaulia,LT Smooth,Dwight Kanae,Keale, Stephen Inglis, Kamuela Kimokeo, Paul Togioka, Pali Kaaihue and Nathan Aweau.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to do the album is because people always seem to have this impression that slack key is just this one thing, but the styles of slack key are very varied,” says Milton Lau. “We wanted to showcase that, and we wanted to show people that slack key can be progressive and to show people the variety to styles.”

Bobby Moderow

The album features 12 instrumental tracks and four vocal tracks.Adding their vocals to the mix are Bobby Moderow, Donald Kaulia, Keale and Makana. As Milton explains, “We really wanted to do vocals to make sure that the others see that we are trying to do the language,while showcasing the instrumental art form as well.”

For more information on the album’s songs and/or artists, e-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Did the artists get to choose their own songs for the album?

Milton Lau: We kind of gave them the freedom to decide what they want to do and decide if they want to do instrumental or with vocals. We gave them the option to decide the song. I think it gives the album a balance with instrumentals and vocals. We hope to satisfy the people who are looking for vocals also.

Kawika Kahiapo

Because everyone chose their own song, was it difficult to make sure the album flows?

We weren’t really concerned if there would be a natural flow to the album. We thought that people would just appreciate the individual track that the artist was doing. So we have different tempos. We were looking to have as many original compositions as possible. That’s what we were looking for. So I would say that three-fourths of the album is original compositions.

Ledward Kaapana

What sets this album apart from other slack key collaboration albums released?

I gotta tell you that we’re using artists who are not the guys you always hear about when you hear about slack key, although they all do music. We’re kind of just trying to let people know that there’s all different guys who play slack key, and it’s not just this known bunch. One of our missions also is to get these guys exposed in this genre. They are known, for instance, like Nathan Aweau with HAPA - people already know he’s a fantastic bass player. And same with Pali Kaaihue who plays with the group Pali. And the same with Stephen Inglis. He was a rock guitar guy and has been a lead guitar player for many bands, but now he just wants to play slack key. These guys are very talented and can really play. It’s a positive thing. It’s like any other genre, people want to see new artists.

What is the Ki-ho’alu Foundation, and how do the sales from this album benefit the organization?

Our main focus of the foundation is to promote and perpetuate slack key guitar so it will always be known as a Hawaiian art form. The reason behind that is we needed a vehicle to also go out and get grants. The organization is a nonprofit, so no one on our board is paid. Our money goes to perpetuate and promote slack key through different programs whether it be workshops or festivals. When we do different things like the album, the foundation gets a portion of the proceeds so we can continue what we do.


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