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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 2, 2006

Recognition catches up with Ledward Ka'apana

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By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Ki ho'alu master Ledward Ka'apana, 58, has a solo release and is part of a compilation album, both in the running for a Grammy award.

JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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7 p.m. (tape-delayed)



Staples center in Los Angeles

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Artist/Label: Ledward Ka'apana / "Ki ho'alu: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar" (Rhythm & Roots Records)

Age: 58

Career Hoku awards: "Maybe 12; but I've recorded 97 CDs"

Attending the Grammys? "Going to Vegas first; but yes, with a big group"

Wearing what? Tuxedo. "We'll get dressy"

What kind of lei? "Maybe 'ilima, or pua kenikeni"

Where would you display the award if you win? "A special place at home, where all the trophies are."

What in the nominated CD are you most proud of? "I like some of the originals I did, like 'Fish Market Slack Key' and 'Pau Hana Slack Key.' Plus I enjoyed playing 'ukulele, too, on 'Song for Anna' and 'Love Is Blue.' "

Unknown fact about the making of the CD: "I like to record in the evening, when it's more relaxing, and my voice is ready to go. With guitar, day or night, no matter."

Should have been nominated, and why? "Not that I know of."

Next up: "I have a tour set up in Denver with Sally Van Meter (resonator and steel-guitar player). Then I'll be back in the recording studio, this time doing a falsetto album. Actually, will start some work (this) week."

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Ledward Ka'apana, flanked by Sonny Lim, left, and Cyril Pahinui, plans to attend the Grammys in Los Angeles. Ka'apana said the biggest thrill of being nominated was that it wasn't anticipated.

JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Ledward Ka'apana has two entries in the competition for the Hawaiian Music Grammy award. If forced to choose, he'd prefer to take the prize for his solo endeavor, "Ki ho'alu: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar," but he's right there in the mix for the "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar" compilation, too.

"The music speaks for itself," said Ka'apana of the special tuning style that distinguishes ki ho'alu. "I've been playing it for so long on the Mainland since 1989, when I was invited by Raymond Kane to join him in shows at the Smithsonian that I'm glad the award recognition is finally catching up with me."

Indeed, Ka'apana has been exporting his instrumental sound worldwide for some time now, via recordings and a succession of concerts. "The music always overwhelms the people," he said. "It's like a new toy they never heard before. ... it's always fun to encounter old folks, who like the mellow slack-key sound, and they say that it takes them back to the old days. They start reminiscing and crying."

For Ka'apana, slack key was a skill passed along from his kin. "In the old days, families all had that knowledge to play but wouldn't teach anyone else outside the family," he said. "So that's how I learned; from family members."

Ka'apana has a bright past, musically speaking, having performed with family-oriented groups like Hui 'Ohana (with twin brother Nedward Ka'apana and a cousin, the late Dennis Pavao) and Ikona. He's not merely a storied instrumentalist he played 'ukulele on two tracks of his nominated disc but a vocalist, too a baritone adept at leo ki'eki'e (falsetto).

The biggest thrill of being nominated, said Ka'apana, was that it was not anticipated. "Old man, already," he gushed. "But it's been fun. And unreal."

Ka'apana did not jump at the ki ho'alu format just because the first Hawaiian Music Grammy winner was a slack-key effort. "I wasn't even thinking Grammy; I didn't even know Charles (Michael) Brotman," he said. "To me, there's nothing wrong about mostly instrumental (nominations). Even if I also sing."

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.