John Keawe

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - July 18, 2008
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The 411

Songwriter and slack key guitarist John Keawe captured his love for Hawaii Island and the beauty that makes it unique on his latest album, Hawaii Island ... Is My Home.

The title song, Hawaii Island ... Is My Home, is the gel of the album and is actually a track that Keawe contributed to an album released last September, Na Mele Moku O Keawe (Songs from Hawaii Island) Na Mele Moku O Keawe featured 11 Hawaii Island musicians and was a collaboration of Keoki Kahumoku, Daniel Ho Creations and the Big Island Visitors Bureau to support Hawaiian music education.


“I gave them this song to include with the understanding that I wanted to use it on my album later,” says Keawe,who was honored in 2005 as a contributing artist on Hawaii’s first Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Music Album,titled Slack Key Guitar Volume 2. “So I took that basic recording and added some harmony. Sonny Lim played the steel guitar.And that song just speaks about how I feel about this island, because I want people to call it Hawaii Island instead of the Big Island because it’s a special island.”

All five instrumental and vocal tracks on the album are originals written by Keawe himself, including a very special song that was co-written by his long-time friend Wayne Francisco, who passed away last year.

“The song was written in 1981 with Wayne, with whom I played music for 25 years,“says the born and raised North Kohala resident.“I put a melody on it, and the album is kind of dedicated to him.”

Vocal compositions on the album include Hawaii Island ... Is My Home, O Kakou Ka Po’e (We The People), Across The Way, Just Like An Angel and Ku’u Hoaaloha. Instrumental tracks are: Faces of Pele, Steal The Morning, Auwe Manakuku and Guitarra.

To find out more about Keawe and his upcoming performances, visit www.johnkeawe.com.

 

Q’nA

John Keawe
John Keawe

How and when did your interest in slack key begin?

The first thing that got me interested in slack key was in 1973 when Gabby Pahinui came out with that “Brown Album,” and that’s what got my interest in slack key. So I started to watch anybody I could. At the same time, the Beamer brothers were coming out and Olomana. Because they were more contemporary, I could find a little niche that I wanted where I could write songs and still use the slack key as the medium to express it.

What do you think makes Hawaii Island so special and why did you decide to honor it with this album?

You know,sometimes you don’t realize what you have. Well, after I wrote the song Hawaii Island I looked at the lyrics and realized this is what I’m here for. The beautiful sunset, Pele and the mana on this island is so strong. It’s very much alive, so I wanted people to sense that in the song and the whole album.

What sets this album apart from the other nine albums you’ve released?

This album is special because it’s a little different from my previous albums. There’s a lot of slack key in there, but it’s not what you would call traditional slack key. I used a variety of tunings.Some of them sound almost jazzy and I played a little steel guitar on one song - I tried.There’s one song that’s a little county-flavored, where I even added an electric guitar to bring out that country feeling. It is a little different and I experimented a little more.


Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

My favorite song lately has been Beautiful Hula Dancer, which is a song on my last CD that I wrote for my wife (Hope).It’s kind of become the chicken skin one for me. I wrote it for her and she dances the song, so it’s really special. And she’s going to do a couple hulas for this new CD too.

What are you goals musically?

My goal is to stay healthy enough to continue writing and sharing songs because that’s what I like to do. I like to write my own songs so people can understand where I come from and the kind of person that I am. Sharing the music is what I want to do. People want to learn slack key, too, and I do that. I do lessons so I can pass this on to the next generation.

 

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