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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 26, 2002

Reflections of slack-key masters

(Left to right): "Soliloquy (Ka Leo O Loko)" by Keola Beamer, Dancing Cat Records, 08022-38012-2

"To Honor a Queen (E Ho'ohiwahiwa I Ka Mo'i Wahine)" by Ozzie Kotani, Dancing Cat Records, 08022-38018-2

"Music for Life" by Winston Tan, Golden Bell Records, WT 1814

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

Three Hawai' guitarists are under the spotlight, each with a characteristic style of expression, each a master of his instrument.

"Soliloquy (Ka Leo O Loko)" by Keola Beamer: For more than 30 years, Beamer has been a pioneer in ki ho'alu, the deeply-moving slack-key style of playing guitar. This release, part of the label's Hawaiian Slack Key Masters series, is his fifth for the label, exhibiting without words his eloquence as a musician. He communicates with his heart, with his soul, with his mind, with his fingers, sharing and shaping images of Hawai'i then and now.

There's romance, joy, whimsy, reflection and exploration in his landscape. Beamer's time on Maui has fueled his sense of 'aina (land), as he creates sound pictures of "Kapalua Bay," inspired by the reflective hues of a sunset in West Maui; "Pailolo," about a channel off the Valley Island, which has a lightly tropical flavor a la "Yellow Bird."

His producer pal, George Winston, whose vision has enabled numerous Hawai'i musicians to expose their artistry on his Dancing Cat label, joins Beamer on "Na Hala O Naue," a J. Kahinu tune based on a chant describing Queen Emma's journey to Kaua'i in 1871.

Beamer reached into the family songbag to revive his great-grandmother Helen Desha Beamer's composition, "Kawohikukapulani," originally written for a family wedding and now a Hawaiian classic.

From everyday life, he created "Moana's Laundry Basket," a self-explanatory song about his wife's daily doings. "Li'i's Song" stems from an unexpected find, a crippled dog he encountered along the roadside.

The performances and the accompanying liner notes reflect myriad guitar tunings, generously explained for the serious guitar player and scholar; for the casual listener, the information is educational.

"Kapalua bay" by Keola Beamer. An audio sample is available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

"To Honor a Queen (E Ho'ohiwahiwa I Ka Mo'i Wahine)" by Ozzie Kotani: Kotani is an enduring and inspired educator-guitarist with a ki ho'alu style of his own. This instrumental salute to the prolific composer, Queen Lili'uokalani, and her royal family, puts a new spin on some old favorites.

"Moanalua" describes her trek to Moanalua, "Liliko'i" is a mele inoa (name song) for the first of three hanai (adoptive) children, "The Queen's Prayer" is a signature piece that reflected then, and even now, the power of the divine spirit.

"Aloha 'Oe," easily one of the most recorded and certainly the most recognized of Lili'u's works, is updated with an additional introduction. Kotani also created a brief intro for a medley of "Paoakalani/Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani," the queen's compositions about her beloved Waikiki home.

Like the Beamer CD, this one comes with valuable liner notations on guitar tunings and insights on each selection.

"Moanalua" by Ozzie Kotani. An audio sample is available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

"Music for Life" by Winston Tan: As a classical guitarist, Tan has widened the scope of his music and, in the process, expanded his fan base.

His interpretive skills have mastered a gamut of music beyond the classical genre; here, it's an international scope that taps Broadway ("Don't Cry for Me, Argentina"), Japan ("Sakura"), Beethoven ("Moonlight Sonata"), Hawai'i/Jamaica ("Yellow Bird" and "Jamaica Farewell") and Latin America ("Manha de Carnival").

There's romance in his touch ("Habanera," from "Carmen") as well as reverence ("Wailana/Aloha 'Oe").

In short, it's a whirlwind tour of the globe without leaving home.

"Moonlight Sonata" by Winston Tan. An audio sample is available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.