BEST HAWAIIAN MUSIC ALBUM GRAMMY NOMINEES
Recognition catches up with Ledward Ka'apana
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By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
By Wayne Harada
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."
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