Celebrate Valentine’s Day With Hawaii’s Renaissance Man


            SOCORRO, N.M. February 7, 2013 – It would be great to celebrate Valentine’s Day on the tropical shores of Hawaii, but such an excursion isn’t feasible or practical for most folks.

            For a delightful alternative, make plans to experience the Grammy-winning music of George Kahumoku Jr., known as Hawaii’s Renaissance Man, at a Performing Arts Series concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center.


  George Kahumoku will perform Hawaiian music Wednesday, Feb. 13, at Macey Center.


 Keoki Kahumoky will join George Jr. for Wednesday's concert


Special Valentine’s Dinner

             An enticing luau will be served at Macey Center prior to the Performing Arts Series show headlined by George Kahumoju Jr. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, beginning with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m.

            Tickets for the event, sponsored by Tech Club-Club Macey are $25 for members, $30 for non-members and $10 for graduate students at New Mexico Tech.

            The menu includes Hawaiian vegetable crunch salad with Sriracha sesame dressing, and a choice of two entrees – cherry-stuffed pork loin roulade with fresh herb jus, or mango basil-crusted tilapia with ginger chile teriyaki, both served with grilled pineapple, wild rice, vegetable and dinner rolls.

Key lime cheesecake with papaya and roasted macadamia nut relish will be served for dessert, along with coffee, iced tea or water.

Optional are tropical-themed drink specials, including mai tais and pina coladas.

To make the evening complete, make reservations for the Tech Club-Club Macey Valentine’s luau dinner, beginning with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. The cost is separate from the show.

The Hawaiian native, along with Keoki Kahumoku and Uncle Richard, plus a hula dancer, will give free workshops, open to the community, in slack-key guitar, ukulele and hula dancing at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13, on the Macey Center Stage.

            “There are many good reasons George Kahumoku Jr. has been called Hawaii’s Renaissance man,” said Performing Arts Series Director Ronna Kalish. “He’s not only a multiple Grammy Award winner, but he’s also a recognized master slack key guitarist, songwriter, world-traveling performer, high school and college teacher, artist and sculptor, storyteller and writer, farmer and entrepreneur.

            “If that doesn’t meet the definition of Renaissance Man, then tell me what does!” Kalish said. “George also is known for establishing a rapport with his audiences, and what better venue for that, than with Macey Center’s appreciative audiences.”

            Kahumoku not only is an American Grammy recipient, but also is a multiple Na Hōkū Hanohano (Hawaiian Grammy) Award winner.

In February of 2006, Kahumoku and fellow slack key artists and producers received the 48th Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Album for their compilation recording, “Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 1: Live in Concert from Maui.”

Kalish, a musician in her own right, said a slack key guitar is a finger- style genre of guitar music that originated in Hawaii. Most slack-key tunings can be achieved by starting with a guitar in standard tuning, and detuning or “slacking” one or more of the strings until all six strings form a single chord, frequently G major.

Kahumoku’s two sequels to his “Masters” album won the 49th and 50th Grammy Awards. In 2009, his “The Spirit of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” album was nominated for another Grammy; all of these recordings are compilations from Kahumoku’s weekly Wednesday night show, the prestigious “Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Concert Series” recorded at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on Maui.

The venue is the first long-running concert hall setting in Hawaii created to feature the great slack key performers of today.

Kahumoku’s newest release, Kani Wai (Sound of Water), has been praised as his finest work to date. The duet CD with lap steel virtuoso and ethnomusicologist, Bob Brozman, is a selection of traditional Hawaiian songs with Brozman’s vocals and extended instrumental interludes, making for a relaxed and playful blending of Kahumoku’s signature 12-string slack key with Brozman’s vintage acoustic lap steel.

Joining Kahumoku for the Socorro performance are George’s son, Keoki Kahumoku, and uncle Richard Ho'opi'I, one of Hawaii’s most beloved singers.

Fifth generation slack-key guitarist Keoki Kahumoku began performing with his father and his uncle, Moses Kahumoku, in 1990 at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii. In 1992, Keoki and his family moved to the island of Maui, to perform at the Westin Maui in Ka’anapali.

The beautiful Hawaiian songs he performed inspired Keoki to teach the local children and thereby preserve this rich Hawaiian heritage. He began teaching ukulele with informal lessons, and then progressed to hosting ukulele and slack key guitar workshops and formal lessons throughout the state of Hawaii and in the continental U.S.

The younger Kahumoku continues to teach private lessons from his home in Hilo on the Big Island. His vision of preserving the musical tradition reaches a wider audience now, with his recently released instructional DVD, “Introduction to Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar.”

Uncle Richard Ho'opi'I, best known as one half of the popular Maui duo, “The Ho'opi'i Brothers,” has practiced the traditional Hawaiian art of leo ki'eki'e (falsetto) for most of his life. He and his brother, Solomon (his life-long singing partner), in 1997 received the prestigious National Endowment of the Arts Folk Heritage Fellowship, America's highest honor for traditional artists.

Born in the tiny village of Kahakuloa on Maui’s remote northwest coast, Uncle Richard grew up immersed in the rural Hawaiian lifestyle of family, church, taro farming, fishing, and homemade entertainment. There was no TV, not even much radio, so everyone in the village helped make music.

“That's what we still do in Kahakuloa every day,” he said. “Fame comes and goes, but the music of the village is always here with us in our hearts and in our memories.”

As a child, Richard sang while doing his chores, at church and at school.

“It just came naturally,” he said. “You didn't have to think about it, you just did it.”

As a teenager, Richard was invited to join the All Maui Choir, under the direction of the legendary Royal Hawaiian Band singer Alice Johnson. Slack key guitarist Sonny Chillingworth provided valuable professional experience by inviting young Richard to perform with his band on occasion.

Hula masters also recruited him on a regular basis.

“What an honor,” he said. “Aunty Alice, Aunty Emma Sharpe, Uncle Sonny, Aunty Genoa Keawe, our mom and dad, brothers and sisters – they taught us so much more than music; it was a whole way of living.”

Meanwhile, George Kahumoku Jr. lives on Maui with his wife, Nancy, and teaches drawing and painting, ceramics, and guitar and ukulele at the historic Lahainaluna High School. He recently started teaching guitar at Maui Community College.

He spends his free time maintaining a three-acre farm growing fruit and vegetables, dry-land taro (for his famous homemade poi) and tending his goats, chickens, ducks, and miniature horses. True to his Hawaiian heritage, wherever he goes, Kahumoju brings bundles of fresh produce to share with friends and students.

“We’re grateful to our sponsors for this special performance,” said Kalish, recognizing IRIS-PASSCAL, Brownbilt Shoes and Western Wear, KUNM in Albuquerque, Associated Universities Inc. (NRAO), Wells Fargo and Socorro EconoLodge.

Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $8 for youth 17 and under, and are available at the Tech Cashier’s Office, Brownbilt Shoes and Western Wear, Burrito Tyme Drive-up or at the door.

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech