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 Quick Q&A: Ozzie Kotani Hōʻihi (Respect)
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Admin
Pupule

USA
4551 Posts

Posted - 01/29/2009 :  5:49:03 PM  Show Profile  Visit Admin's Homepage  Send Admin an AOL message  Send Admin an ICQ Message  Send Admin a Yahoo! Message



TP = Andy (Taropatch.net)
Ozzie = Ozzie Kotani


TP: Ozzie, congrats on the release of Hōʻihi (Respect), your fifth solo release (hope I'm right on that). How is this album different from your previous releases, and what was the inspiration to focus on "traditional Hawaiian slack key guitar?"

Ozzie: Yup, Classical Slack, Kani Kī Hōʻalu, To Honor A Queen, Paka Ua, and Hōʻihi makes number five. This album is different from the previous releases in that it focuses on traditional slack key so there are no inclusions of ballads or developed intros and endings that I like to do. The reason I did this recording was to provide an opportunity for listeners to hear some earlier styles of slack key, to convey that slack key is a folk tradition with a history of recordings and contributors, and that the tradition is alive, respected, perpetuated, and played.

TP: In the liner notes, there is mention of Auntie Alice and "her staunch concern for the dilution of the style and her admittance and acceptance to the oncoming changes." How do you define slack key?

Ozzie: Alice Kuʻuleialohapoinaʻole Namakelua was legendary in her opinion of what could be called slack key. It has been said that she once scolded Raymond Kane for not playing slack key who many of us considered a very traditional player. The “admittance and acceptance to the oncoming changes” refers to the piece I recorded from a cassette tape field recording shared by one of her students to me many years ago. Back then, I didn't really pay much attention due to the quality of the recording but upon revisiting it (after a friend transferred it to cd format) I was intrigued by this song that featured a unique turnaround I'd never heard before. I could also hear her say something about the piece being, “The Beginning of the Modern” which was confirmed by one of Auntie's former students who studied with her until her passing. So, in her perspective this piece which featured many of the major characteristics of slack key such as the alternating bass accompanying a melodic line on the higher pitched strings, and melodic variations – this was something new as compared to songs such as “Ka Manu” which reflects an even earlier style associated with Auntie Alice (who learned from her brothers who learned from the paniolo) which had no alternating bass and which accompanied vocals. I define slack key as a uniquely Hawaiian style of guitar playing which gets its name from the way the guitar is tuned – the strings are lowered from the standard or classical tuning (EADGBE) and characterized by an alternating bass line while a melodic line is played on the higher pitched strings. This is a generality and there are exceptions of course – such as “Ka Manu” – and the great slack key player Fred Punahoa sometimes worked in the standard tuning which would become the “Big Island” or “Kalapana Style” of slack key so popular today and taken to another level by his nephew and my dear friend, the great Ledward Kaapana. It is apparent that it is the WAY a tuning is played that makes it Hawaiian and becomes identified as slack key – it is the “feeling” reflected in that playing which reflects hula rhythms, phrasings that reflect the Hawaiian language, and suitably accompanies Hawaiian songs and compositions. It is why one needs to be familiar and close to Hawaiian music in general to relate to this “feeling” and why it is important to learn as many songs as possible. This can go on but I should stop here.

TP: Can you talk about how you selected the songs featured and some of the players associated with them?

Ozzie: I selected the songs based upon my familiarity with them over the years thanks largely to George Winston for sharing with me. It was great that a collection of early slack key recordings were released under the title, “The History of Slack Key” because that became my resource to first hear and then learn some of the gems recorded prior to 1960. Names such as Abraham Konanui (another of Ledward’s relatives), Henry Kaalekahi (who I was fortunate to meet and talk with) and others influenced some of the greats of yesterday who in turn, influenced many of us who play today – I can hear that in some of the recordings. Yet there are still things I pick-up from these early recordings – unique phrases and vamps - which has not been duplicated since.

TP: How did you learn these songs (listening to old recordings, passed down, etc?)

Ozzie: I learn songs by listening as I have done since I started. I still tune to recordings and don't “cheat” by using modern recorders that can slow down while maintaining pitch. It reflects an exercise in using one's ears and knowledge of tunings that comes over time and opening repertoire. Great to sit and use your maka to watch older players as I did when I studied with my kumu Sonny Chillingworth but in reality there's not too much opportunities for me to do that. Hey, any old timers out there who want to share with me – give me a holler! And I still don't know how to read music and can now say I never will.

TP: Tom Kaulukukui joins you on two tracks, "E Liliʻu ē" and "Moana Chimes Tribute." Can you tell us a bit about Tom and your thought process to invite him as a guest artist?

Ozzie: Tom Kaulukukui is a long-time student of mine who has showed great respect, love, and understanding of traditional slack key. What is most important is that he does what I suggest all my students do – make the song your own by changing it to suit your strengths and preferences. It takes a certain sensitivity to “stay within the boundaries” and create tastefully. It does not imply simplification. It reflects one’s ability to utilize the knowledge gained by studying the music of the earlier players. It reflects lineage and appreciation for the tradition. Someone once told me, “What’s the big deal about teachers and whom you learn from” to which I replied, “For a folk artist like myself, it means everything.” Tom's inclusion reflects that it's not only the young, new players creating slack key (it seems at times more like slack key influenced), there are others out there who can and are adding to the tradition and reminds me of something I remember Ray telling me, “Keep it Hawaiian.”

TP: I love the cover art. Can you tell us about the photo?

Ozzie: The photo comes from the wonderful repository of images in the Bishop Museum Archives. It features paniolo at lunchtime with an old guitar and a ukulele leaning on it. Of course the intent is to reflect the common theory that paniolo were the first slack key players.

TP: You recorded this project with Darin Leong. What was the recording process like?

Ozzie: Very quick. We didn’t do a lot of takes and kept edits to a minimum. I wanted to keep part of the “rawness” associated with some of the early recordings that were done with no edits. Darin Leong was great to work with and he helped tremendously throughout the process and needs be credited with really helping the idea Tom and I developed become a reality.

TP: How will you be promoting the album? Where can we expect to see you performing?

Ozzie: I won't be. Nah, I've always played some of these at my occasional performances but at this time have no promotional schedule. Can I also make it public at this time that I have NEVER been a full-time musician in my lifetime after Gabby told me not to (which was great advice!) and continue to keep it on the side as a recreation and past-time. I teach more than I play so I perpetuate via my students like young great (and I do mean great) Danny Carvalho who perform more often than I do. I actually really want to play more now and working on getting my chops back to speed. Can’t say when I'll be doing any public appearances though.

TP: Anything that I forgot to ask that you'd like to share with the Taropatch.net community?

Ozzie: I consider myself a student of slack key although I'm known as a teacher. I continue to learn and get out of my comfort zone by playing with amazing new talents like Peter Moon’s son and hoping to sit with and learn from other tremendous musicians such as Chino Montero, Benny Chong, Bobby Ingano, and others who come from other disciplines but who are open to sharing their musical knowledge with me. I reserve the title of master to the older players whom I look up to and all who came before – it's all about hō`ihi. My warmest and sincerest mahalo to all the taropatch.net community who love and embrace slack key and Hawaiian music and culture beyond what words can describe. I am humbled and honored to have shared with some of you. Mahalo nui loa also for those who have purchased a copy of the new cd from my developing website. Discussion is healthy – carry on.

TP: Thanks, Ozzie. Thanks for all that you do for the artform of kī hōʻalu and the Taropatch.net community.

For more information, visit www.ozziekotani.com and www.slack-key.net

Andy

sirduke58
`Olu`olu

USA
993 Posts

Posted - 01/29/2009 :  9:46:03 PM  Show Profile
Mahalo for an insightful interview Andy. Cool
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wcerto
Ahonui

USA
5052 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2009 :  12:19:46 AM  Show Profile
A very fine interview Andy. Mahalo to both you and Ozzie.

Me ke aloha
Malama pono,
Wanda
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Auntie Maria
Ha`aha`a

USA
1918 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2009 :  04:55:09 AM  Show Profile
Great interview, Andy -- mahalo nui loa for doing it, and for sharing it with all of us.

The CD can be purchased online from Ozzie, and is a limited run...so don't procrastinate, folks!

Auntie Maria
===================
My "Aloha Kaua`i" radio show streams FREE online every Thu & Fri 7-9am (HST)
www.kkcr.org - Kaua`i Community Radio
"Like" Aloha Kauai on Facebook, for playlists and news/info about island music and musicians!

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sirduke58
`Olu`olu

USA
993 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2009 :  08:21:52 AM  Show Profile
I agree with Aunty Maria, don't procrastinate especially since Ozzie only printed 1000 copies!!!
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RJS
Ha`aha`a

1635 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2009 :  09:02:59 AM  Show Profile
Loved the interview.
Love the CD.
This is not an haiku.
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RWD
`Olu`olu

USA
850 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2009 :  12:48:52 PM  Show Profile
As others have said, the interview was insightful. I would have never guessed that Ozzie did not read music for instance! Thanks for doing the interview and sharing.

Bob
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wcerto
Ahonui

USA
5052 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2009 :  1:30:36 PM  Show Profile
Very nice, John.

Me ke aloha
Malama pono,
Wanda
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braddah jay
Lokahi

235 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2009 :  11:01:25 PM  Show Profile
Thanks andy,and thank you ozzie.More we can enjoy with the knowledge of what this CD is all about.Better for some of us who don't know,but now can.Mahalo
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JeffC
Lokahi

USA
189 Posts

Posted - 02/01/2009 :  08:50:50 AM  Show Profile  Visit JeffC's Homepage
Thanks Ozzie for the music and inspiration. Thanks Andy for doing and sharing the interview. My copy of the cd just arrived yesterday. An instant favorite. Actually it was an instant favorite from the clips on the website.

And finally, I can't pass up...

Poetry inspires
Obsessed with slack key music
No can write good haiku


Apologies to John. I really liked and can relate to yours

Jeff

Making Trout Country safe for Slack Key!
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Pops
Lokahi

USA
387 Posts

Posted - 02/02/2009 :  4:51:54 PM  Show Profile
Andy, mahalo for your energy and commitment to sharing this site with the world and our community. Ozzie, mahalo for your love of the music and for your wonderful generosity in sharing with with us and the world.

Aloha,

--Mark
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garson
Lokahi

USA
112 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  10:47:21 AM  Show Profile  Visit garson's Homepage
Mahalo nui loa Ozzie for your teaching, and Andy for the interview. If any of you out there don't have Ozzie's CD yet - get it. I just can't stop listening. It is an inspiration. Also it is great to hear Tom who plays so beautifully too. So now I am working hard because I just have to learn E Lili'u e.

Jim Garson
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chunky monkey
`Olu`olu

USA
951 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  4:53:17 PM  Show Profile
what garson said. Thanks Andy. If Ozzie recorded a CD of himself snoring, I'd buy it.
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