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Admin
Pupule

USA
4538 Posts

Posted - 12/05/2004 :  2:33:42 PM  Show Profile  Visit Admin's Homepage  Send Admin an AOL message  Send Admin an ICQ Message  Send Admin a Yahoo! Message
Continued from Makana interview (Part I)


M = Makana
A = Andy (of Taropatch.net)
W = Warren Wyatt (of WorldSound "Agent for Hawaiian musicians outside Hawaii")

Maui Slack Key Festival 2004
photo by Lynette Wang


A: There is a lot of variation from your first album, second album, third album. Slack key is deeply rooted in tradition and some critics are more traditionalists while others appreciate innovation. When you play or write a song, are you torn between tradition and playing new things?

M: Never because I don’t see life that way. I see everything as a gift. It’s up to them to figure out what they like and don’t like. For me, my job is to be open and receptive and to see that everything is one. That’s what the last song “Reflections” was about. Tradition is actually no different from innovation. It’s just how we see it or perceive time but time is an illusion. It’s like a child. You have a child that you love as a baby or 5 years old. When the child grows up, you sometimes hear parents say, “I wish you were still young again. You’re growing up too fast.” People hate change but it’s a natural part of life. In no way am I trying to inhibit the tradition. I’m one of the few people carrying it on. In my generation, it’s not going to survive without me. That’s the sad fact but it’s the truth. Part of my job is to inspire these kids, who have never been to Hawai`i. There are always guitar players out there or kids who haven’t started but they can. Girls, boys, it doesn’t matter.

I totally believe in slack key. In order for a tradition to survive, it needs to expand its audience. I totally appreciate those who call themselves purists. Keep listening to the music, but don’t waste time dissing people like me who create new music. I am one of the few people who knows how to do it, but I’m not going to be an idiot and go on stage on the mainland in front of three thousand 14 year old girls and play Pua Sadinia. I’d get booed off the stage. It’s about knowing when the time is appropriate.

A: Because this tour is so different with a new audience. How does that impact where you’re going for your next album and where you’re going musically. Does this open up new collaborative efforts with other artists, maybe non-Hawaiian artists?

M: I’ll say this. I am open to anything. I love every kind of music because music is how people express themselves. It’s better than violence and all those things. It’s a beautiful thing. There is room for all types of music. If I were to assume what’s going to happen, I would say my career is probably going to split at some point, inevitably. I’m not saying that I want this. I’m just trying to predict what could happen because I’m talking to a lot of major labels. I just played for the head of Atlantic in New York. I’m going to still play Hawaiian music. I probably won’t do another Hawaiian album until I’m ready. I’m not like a machine. The next Hawaiian album is going to be different. I have a whole idea already but it’ll take at least a year or two to develop. And my own music will also develop.

I’m not worried about what people say, because I know what I have to do. I’m very thankful of the things I have, honored to represent Hawai`i and I love Hawai`i. I love slack key. I’ve put more time and energy into slack key than anyone else I know. It’s what I love to do and it’s given so much back to me. [Warren walks in] One of my goals is to influence music itself and other musicians. For many other musicians, they do not know Hawaiian music. It’s an anomaly – it’s not part of their world so I want to make it a part of their world. Like in “To Unlearn” the first song I did tonight, I would never have played that without slack key. “Going to California” (Led Zeppelin) is all slack key. Even “Don’t You Want” in standard tuning is based in slack key. “Erection” that all comes from slack key and nobody plays guitar like that – that’s not Hawaiian style.

A: What tuning is that?

M: That’s just a drop D. Standard with a drop D.

M: I’m showing people that you can rip the guitar to hell and still do your own rhythm. Plus I have the bass, a dual system pickup which is a regular pickup plus a bass pickup so that’s why it sounds so big outside. What I’m trying to show people is: number 1, it’s one guy and a guitar but it f*cking rocks. You don’t need to have a band and the guitar doesn’t just need to just be strummed. There are a millions things that you can do with it. Budgie is here, my Hawaiian guitar tech because I use a different tuning every song.
quote:
The freedom that slack key gives makes me so happy. There’s a spiritual side to it too. When you loosen the strings, it’s almost like opening a magical doorway to the instrument.
It’s just little things like influencing other players. I was showing Raul (Midon) stuff, and he was showing me jazz. This is the cross pollination that I dream about. It’s not about me or what happens to me personally. It’s about what happens 100, 200, 500 years from now, did slack key make an impact in music itself? I always reference the 1920s when Hawaiian music was the biggest selling genre in America and when steel guitar music was cross-pollinating with all kinds and forms of music. And Hawaiian music influenced more music than almost any other kind of music in the world. It was the first World Music genre and craze. History repeats itself. We’re in good times. With acoustic guitar becoming popular again in pop music. I’m right in line. It’s not that I expect anything.

I got here and I was so scared. I was thinking, man, my music is so weird, it doesn’t fit. But then the past couple of nights and tonight, I said, you know what, I don’t care, I’m just going to go up and have a great time because I’m so honored to be here.

A: On the other hand, perhaps because of your appreciation for diverse music and your ability to play varying styles but still uniquely your own, it seems like you are one of a limited number of players from Hawai`i able to attempt the jump that you’re making here?

M: Willie K comes to mind.

A: Yeah, Willie totally rocks.

M: Not to toot my own horn, because I have nothing to do with it - I am young. I have a good look to reach a non-Hawaiian, western audience or even eastern. Those kinds of things play a huge role. Music has an appearance these days. I’m not a big, scary looking Hawaiian guy.

Warren: Hey, hey, hey…

[We all laugh.]

M: I’m somebody that disarms people. I think no matter how important the music is to me, there are other factors. The biggest factor for me is my drive and work ethic. I’m very dedicated and clean with my diet, I don’t drink or do drugs. I mean, I’ll have a glass of wine but I’m very focused when I work. I can work hard, and I love what I do. These things are as important as the talent and everything else. You have to be motivated.

And you talk about other musicians in Hawai`i. It’s not easy to leave Hawai`i emotionally. I’m going to be on tour until, what, October?

W: Longer. You’re just going to start on your third round in October. He’s going on some of the Aloha Live dates this year. He’s going to Japan twice. He’s going to be in Europe playing in Paris, London, Amsterdam, all over Germany…

M: We’re playing in Amsterdam? Yes!

W: These are new frontiers for Makana but also for Hawaiian music in general. There’s only a passing knowledge of any type of music from Hawai`i there so Makana is coming in as one of those pioneers, in modern times, to carry the torch. Back in the 1920s, there was Hawaiian music of a different kind that was big in that market. He’s going to China. We’re taking him to Shanghai in mid-July.

M: I’m excited. I’m a quarter Chinese.

W: And these aren’t club shows. We’re talking big stuff like this where there’s an audience that will really appreciate it. Not that there’s anything wrong with clubs, but there’s not time to play around the world to play in front of 40 people. We have an agenda to get Makana to personally interact with people around the world in as large a venue as doable around the world.

M: The way I approach it, like I said it’s dualistic, my music and Hawaiian music. There’s a blurring line but my job to put it simply is to make Hawaiian music appealing and cool for young people. For older people, most appreciate it when you play it for them. The key is hitting the younger audience so that when they get old, somebody else will come along and do this.

W: That’s a good way of putting it and in that spirit, we’re doing shows like Bumbershoot which is the biggest musical event we have in the Pacific North West. It’s in Seattle, more than 15-years old. Bumbershoot is all about young people and exposing them to new styles of music.

M: It’s a world music festival.

W: And were in the running to do WOMEX which is a huge world music festival in Germany this year. So Makana is on Sunday at Bumbershoot. There’s never been a named Hawaiian artist play at Bumbershoot so it’s a big deal.

M: You know what’s cool. A few years ago, I went to London and went to Redding outside of Oxford played at Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD. I wish I could have had everyone from Hawai`i watch. I was the only guy playing from Hawai`i. I just went there with my girlfriend. I threw on an aloha shirt that I bought in Whitney that was made in India. [we laugh] I was the only solo performer on the big main stage. They had two main stages. One was in a tent and one was outside. I was outside. They had the guys from Buenavista Social Club, African, Egyptian, artists from all around the world. I went up there with one guitar and started with Hi`ilawe. This was a world music festival, not like this, so I bus’ out the Hawaiian. I did the Poi Song (Punahoa Special), Ku`u Lei Awapuhi, Waterfall (the Jimi Hendrix, Willie K song), some of my own stuff. I swear there were 9000 people there flipping out. They were screaming, “Let the bloody bloke play more!” My CDs went – boom – they were gone. And other musicians were like, “Man, you sounded like how many guitar players. We’ve never heard anything like this.” I felt like god was speaking to me, telling me that slack key is going to change the way mankind approaches the guitar.


Maui Slack Key Festival 2004
photo by Lynette Wang


A: Other professionals do talk about Makana’s playing. I talked to Bobby (Moderow) back in March and he was saying, “Have you listened to Makana’s new album? You got to hear it. No one has such a big sound.” I don’t know what slack key festival you guys were playing but he said he and Chino Montero (frequently plays with Amy Hanaiali`i Gilliom) were talking off stage saying, “We don’t know how he (Makana) gets such a big sound. He’s not a big guy.”

W: You saw tonight.

M: The guitar sounded big outside, yeah?

W: Yeah, huge. How many Hawaiian music fans were here tonight? Maybe ten. Tickets were bought up by screaming Jason Mraz fans which was great.

A: Yeah, we’re not used to that by the way. Throngs of screaming teenaged girls.

M: Me neither, man. I was scared sh*tless…

W: It was like a Beatles show, yeah?

M: I was like, “I don’t belong here.” [laughing]

W: But we’re trying to experiment and put him in front of a lot of different people. The Hawaiian music fans are the foundation of Makana’s support.

M: Totally.

W: And we always pay homage to them and go back and do everything we can like slack key festivals which Makana continues to play no matter what.

M: That’s the only show I’m flying back for this summer. The Maui slack key festival.

W: And Aloha Live which is like Hawaii-palooza. Makana has choices right now, but he wants to stay involved with the Hawaiian community. We’re going to mix it up – push the boundaries. Look at him out here. I haven’t seen other Hawaiian artist try to do this. It’s not that they couldn’t but it’s very scary. You’re taking a leap of faith going in front of a Beatles type crowd and playing something they’re not familiar with.

M: That’s why I always try to throw in some Hawaiian. Then I feel the crowd. If there are a lot of Hawaiian out there, great. Getting back to the “big sound,” I’ll tell you the reason why I have a big sound is will power. I always wanted to have a big sound so bad because I couldn’t afford to have a band.

W: It was big tonight.

M: I just sat around and worked with space, when I played the notes, all the right hand work, tunings. The guitar became a rubber band like, kind of a malleable thing. The freedom that slack key gives makes me so happy. There’s a spiritual side to it too. When you loosen the strings, it’s almost like opening a magical doorway to the instrument.

A: Can we talk about tunings for a second? People say that you can play more tunings than anybody.

W: Ask his guitar tech, Budgie! The dude is only 12 years old but looks a 100!

[laughter]

A: How many of the tunings came from your kupuna like Bobby and Sonny and then tunings that you developed on your own? Tradition versus your own exploration?

M: The truth is what happened was, of course I learned from Bobby and Sonny, but when I was with Sonny, George Winston gave me a sheet of 50 tunings. Those 50 tunings were a lot of half note or one note variations so you’ve got about 15-20 good different tunings out of it. So I worked with those when I was a teenager. Then the first time I started experimenting was while working on a commercial for Pearl Ridge with Wade Cambern from Hawaiian Style Band. There was this part where I needed to do this trippy, I don’t know music theory that well, diminished 7th, or some weird chord and I wanted to chime it. I just tuned to the notes I wanted. That’s how I started doing it.

The next tuning I made up was while watching Braveheart. I was in taro patch. That movie was all Celtic. [Makana starts humming celtic melody lines.] It was in C. So I thought what makes Celtic – this droning sound so I took all the D’s and tuned them to C which gave me CGCGBC. That’s like a Celtic major 7 because of the B. That’s what I wrote “She’s All Alone” in. That was the beginning.

Two times the guitar started tuning itself in the case. I sh*t you not, I’d put it in the case in DADGAD or something and it came out in a different tuning. This was at home. I didn’t even move the guitar. It came out in a different tuning – two strings would be tuned completely different. I don’t know what happened.

A: So how about equipment. I know that you have a Takamine EN-10C.

M: That thing is amazing.

A: Bobby told me you had a mishap with that guitar too?

M: Oh yeah, that thing was destroyed in a convertible. I was going to sing karaoke with this girl, and she says I want to take the top down. I was like, nah, it’s going to mess up my hair or something. The guitar was in the back seat in a soft case. She finally convinces me. [Makana makes the sound of the roof opening, claps his hands.] Boom! The headstock came right off. This is the one that Sonny chose for me. She’s [the guitar] like my partner in life. My only prize possession. Totally decapitated – in two pieces. I was destroyed. This was five days before leaving for Tahiti and then playing Hawai`i Theater so my friends bought me a Lawrence Juber Martin.

That’s the other guitar I played tonight. That guitar is a little wider so I had to totally adjust my playing. You know Ko`i. Man, that much space (wider neck) and it feels like your thumb is going to fall off from the muscle change. The hand memorizes things so the change is like working fifty times harder. I had to get used to it in a couple days. That made my playing better. And then this lady in LA fixed my Takamine.

A: Reincarnated?

M: So amazing. It’s a crazy journey.

We speak about the tremendous musical talent in Hawai`i, its unique styles, and how the music of Bruddah Iz and others are spreading globally. Makana concludes by saying that it is his job, along with other musicians, to bring Hawaiian music to people even if they’ve never been to Hawai`i.

For more info: http://www.makanalive.com

hapakid
Luna Ho`omalu

USA
1533 Posts

Posted - 12/05/2004 :  9:41:18 PM  Show Profile  Visit hapakid's Homepage
Thanks for bringing us this great interview word-for-word. It's a peek into Makana's style and drive. What a talent.
Jesse Tinsley
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Reid
Ha`aha`a

Andorra
1526 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2004 :  03:44:26 AM  Show Profile
Andy, This has simply been wonderful-both your thoughtful, penetrating questions, and Makana's thoughtful, penetrating answers. I wonder if it could be exposed to a wider audience. (Not that TP is chopped liver :-) But, it is so good, and so unlike the fluff stuff I often read in music publications - maybe Rolling Stone? or some web outlet like Slate?

Whatever,

mahalo nui loa,

Reid
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wdf
Ha`aha`a

USA
1132 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2004 :  06:12:50 AM  Show Profile
Great job, Andy - but that tiny font size is a killer!

Dusty

Edited by - wdf on 12/06/2004 06:13:23 AM
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Fran Guidry
Ha`aha`a

USA
1448 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2004 :  08:10:44 AM  Show Profile  Visit Fran Guidry's Homepage
Dusty, most browsers offer a way to enlarge the font. In IE it's View/Font Size.

I know this guy is just a kid, but check this:

"but I’m not going to be an idiot and go on stage on the mainland in front of three thousand 14 year old girls and play Pua Sadinia. I’d get booed off the stage."

I'd be willing to bet that a cute skinny guy playing "Pua Sadinia" for three thousand teen-aged girls would have them melting in the aisles and chasing him down the street.

I honestly wish the guy well, and I think I can recognize and allow for youth (maybe I was that age once myself) but the guys he plays with, Jason Mraz and Peter Gabriel, are totally doing something new and different. Bringing the audience something new and different is how one breaks out in pop music (that or having a huge marketing machine and selling sex.) How big an influence was English music on the world before the Beatles??

As far as the spiritual and musical significance of loosening strings, numetal and punk metal guys are way into doing tunings and dropping strings. Then running the guitars through amps cranked up to the point of destruction and screaming untintelligible lyrics over the resulting sludge.

Ok, ok, maybe my real problem is that when I saw him perform, the woman who introduced him made a big deal of how we were going to hear slack key, and were we ready for some real nahenahe, and this guy comes out amped up until it sounded like howitzers going off playing a million notes a minute, ripping off Ledward without throwing in the humor that makes the real thing work. All I could think of was people listening to this and thinking they were hearing slack key would not be too likely to buy something else called slack key. And that the kid had learned the notes and the tunes and the tunings but not the meaning or the mana of slack key.

Fran (the curmudgeon)

E ho`okani pila kakou ma Kaleponi
Slack Key Guitar in California - www.kaleponi.com
"Kaleponi" at CD Baby
Slack Key on YouTube
Homebrewed Music Blog
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RJS
Ha`aha`a

1635 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2004 :  2:41:30 PM  Show Profile
Sorry Fran, but I disagree --
Main point is that there is not just one style of slack key. I saw Makana 3 times and he is the genuine thing. Just because he's not so laid back that he's doing a backward flip doesn't mean that he doesn't "have it." I don't particularly like his "showmanship" but hey, if everyone did it my way the world would get pretty boring very fast.
(Now remember when I critized his first album - I still don't like it -- 'cause I think the songs sucked--)
I've seen that revved up opening twice -- second time I was able to get pay more attention to what he was doing -- got to say, in my opinion -- good stuff, pretty exciting playing. Reminds me a bit of one of my all time favorites -- Peter Moon. (Not calling Peter a slack key player -- don't want to take on the discussion. "Just" a great Hawaiian musician.)

Andy -- great interview -- thanks.
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hapakid
Luna Ho`omalu

USA
1533 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2004 :  8:20:25 PM  Show Profile  Visit hapakid's Homepage
I was just listening to the first Hapa album. It had a lot of different influences in it, and probably turned off some hardcore slack key fans. It demonstrates that change in the artform is inevitable, especially when there are talented musicians like Barry Flanagan and Makana involved. But both these guys have roots in the origins of slack key, so I see them as honoring the original music with their innovation rather than spoofing it.
At George Kahumoku's Maui workshop, the Ukulele Boyz, Garrett and Peter, played a lot of rock-style licks on their ukes, which a lot of us older folks (I'm only 43!) didn't care for. But they could also play like Eddie Kamae or Ohta-san, which means when they are the kupuna, they'll carry that style in the musical bags to teach the next generation.
The interview shows that Makana respects those roots and is serious about the music, not just looking for fame or a paycheck. And if any of his comments seem flip or out of touch, give him a couple decades to find his own way.
Jesse Tinsley
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Reid
Ha`aha`a

Andorra
1526 Posts

Posted - 12/07/2004 :  05:32:08 AM  Show Profile
I would also remind everyone that both Gabby and Eddie Kamae, when they were young, thought that Hawaiian music was simple and boring (to paraphrase), and first settled on jazz as their preferred form. As they grew in music and in years, they, obviously, found more to interest them in slack key and other local forms. Makana is searching for his artistic "voice", as Andy's interview made clear, yet he has not abandoned his musical roots, as these older icons did temporarily. His last (3rd?) album really made clear his love for and appreciation of his elders. Each piece (except his own compositions, which I did not care for - I think he has simply not matured as a composer) was an homage to the original composer of the song.

I was very impressed that he was thinking seriously and deeply about the future and direction of his music and his career as an artist. Especially since the initial choice of art as a career is so financially precarious. I can tell you, that at his age and older, I simply stumbled through life with only the vaguest idea of "what I wanted to be when I grew up". Actualy, I never got it. And, I know lots of smart people who have done the same.

BTW, the interview showed that Andy certainly was interested in the screaming young girls: he mentioned the phenomenon quite a few times :-) Oh, Andy, don't hate me.

...Reid


Edited by - Reid on 12/07/2004 08:19:13 AM
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Admin
Pupule

USA
4538 Posts

Posted - 12/07/2004 :  05:53:11 AM  Show Profile  Visit Admin's Homepage  Send Admin an AOL message  Send Admin an ICQ Message  Send Admin a Yahoo! Message
quote:
Originally posted by Reid

BTW, the interview showed that Andy certainly was interested in the screaming young girls: he mentioned the phenomenon quite a few times :-) Oh, Andy, don't hate me.
Ha ha. Don't we all envy the rock stars?

Seriously though. I grew up going to Don Henley (Eagles), Tom Petty, even Jimmy Buffet shows. And I've been to Metallica, Scorpions (yes, I'll admit it), and various punk/hardcore, alternative shows. Until this Jason Mraz show, I'd never seen such a young, predominately female audience. At 32, I was definitely at the upper end of the age spectrum and the few people older than me were there to chaperone their children. Imagine strumming one chord or saying one thing, and the crowd just screams (a wall of sound). It was amazing.

Andy
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Reid
Ha`aha`a

Andorra
1526 Posts

Posted - 12/07/2004 :  08:25:00 AM  Show Profile
Hey Andy,

No need to envy rock stars: I am one of *your* groupies (but I refuse to scream when you play, even though we *do* hug, Brah)...

...Reid
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RJS
Ha`aha`a

1635 Posts

Posted - 12/07/2004 :  09:25:41 AM  Show Profile
Hm, it seems as if middle age is arriving earlier and earlier
Maybe it will last longer, too.

Reid, to a large degree I agree with you about Makana still finding himself musically. I think that kind of thing goes on throughout much of a genuine artist's life. The people who arrive at one place and just keep repeating it may be good, even great, performers, but questionable artists. One of my teachers whom I most respect once said that the function of art is to help us relate to the mystery of life, and as such an artist needs to keep pushing into the unknown. That's one of the reasons why I admire Keola and Ozzie - they both keep pushing themselves. Makana is still young - will be really interesting what he's doing in 15 years or so, but for now, I think he's, musically, quite genuine. I also am hopeful that in time he will bring new vitality to slack key. One of the worst things that can happen to any artform is for it to be codified into one stylistic expression. Sure death. Frankly, I also agree that his own compositions are not so good. Maybe he needs time to "ripen" -- maybe he's just a mediocre song writer, which is a seperate art from performing, arranging, etc. I don't know. I do think it is incorrect to say that he does not have the "mana of dlack key."
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