GEORGE A SAMPLE PROFILE

SLACK-KEY MASTER
George Kahumoku Jr.

A Grammy-Award Winner Lights a Fire

HE COULD HAVE BEEN A SUCCESSFUL ARTIST or a prolific farmer, or a teacher who could use his skills in art to boost the confidence of troubled high school students, or an itinerant player of music, or a big-name entertainer.

As a matter of fact, for a while, he was all of these, all at the same time. Constantly reinventing himself between struggles to make ends meet, after a bout with cancer at age 27, the energetic and genial Kahumoku, now 60, normally gets only three hours of sleep each 24 hours—a good thing, considering his many interests.

Precocious even at four, a keiki who loved to sketch horses on his parents’ farm, George won his rst scholarship to at- tend classes at the Honolulu Academy of Art in 1954. More scholarships followed to Kamehameha Schools and then the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

He skipped RISD for a full scholarship at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland because it was closer to home. e talented artist, trained as a sculptor, ended up after graduation teaching art to kids in the inner city.

He turned them o putting gra ti on walls and onto to painting giant murals on downtown buildings with per- mission of an enlightened landowner. City o cials were so impressed with this son of Hawaii that they made him art commissioner for California’s Alameda County, including Berkeley.
en opportunity knocked twice. Kamehameha Schools wanted him back in Honolulu to teach art. e job fell through, but he got a reprieve with an o er to start and be- come principal of a new Kamehameha Schools facility on the island of Hawaii near the legendary City of Refuge.
Struggling to make ends meet, he enthusiastically signed on. Ever restless, however, that, too, yielded still another lifestyle. Kahumoku started a farm on Hawaii to raise 1,200 pigs a year. is he found was a quick way to go broke, which he did. In 1990, George began playing slack-key guitar at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Management insisted George per-
form with a partner.

To keep it in the family, he picked his son, Keoki. Hands
shaking, playing poorly, Keoki barely made it through the rst set, supplementing his poor playing with an even worse voice.

No worries.“At the break,” George wrote, “I grabbed Keoki’s ukulele,
used my wire cutters and clipped each of the strings on his instrument. From a distance, you couldn’t see they were not connected.”

The two “played” like that for months, musician and pan- tomime in perfect harmony. (Despite the rough start, Keoki today is a slack-key master and Grammy winner.)
Uncle George (the tag “uncle” is often attached to locals because so many are related to one another) nally gured out the best way to make a living was to play music at the venues along Kaanapali.

In 1992, George began playing at the Westin Maui, with one memorable, funny result that had nothing to do with music. While George was living at the hotel, in an ultimate clash of cultures, he and his Hawaiian friends one afternoon decided they had enough of restaurant food.

They would revert to their Hawaiian ways, grab a net, and go shing at Pu‘u Ke- ka‘a, known to legions of visiting snorkelers as Black Rock.Bringing along handfuls of peas, like those used by visitors to attract fish, George and friends cast their nets and pulled in a mother lode of uhu (parrot fish), manini (sturgeon) and others.

Figuring they should avoid cleaning their catch at the Westin’s spacious pool, they returned to their room, lled up the bathtub with sh for cleaning and ushed the entrails down a single toilet until it clogged up.
The sh would have to be dried. ey strung up ropes, lined them with sh, and turned on the air conditioning. Odors of drying sh wafted through the entire oor—the shermen didn’t realize the AC vents circulated air from one room to another.

Time to cook: gather dried keawe wood stacked outside the Villa Restaurant. Find some rocks around the waterfall. Group the rocks into a small roasting pit on the fourth- oor lanai, and lay a wire shelf from the mini-bar across the rocks. Fire it up—barbecue a huge kala sh on the open re. en walk down the beach for a break.

THe sirens of FIre engines are not often heard along Ka‘anapali Parkway, but they were that day. Yellow-coated FIremen strung up a long ladder to the room to put out the tiny flames amid the rocks, blasting a big hole in the sliding-glass door with the powerful stream of the the hose. Another day in paradise.

The story is told in A Hawaiian Life, the self-published book George sells at his slack-key performances. Such mischief has been a way of life for a man whose infectious laugh is duplicated only by his wife, Nancy, the sister of his first music publisher. By the nineties, George was playing 15 to 20 gigs on Maui a week and traveling to the mainland, playing at performing arts centers as far away as Carnegie Hallin New York.

Then, with a ash of insight, George adopted a new approach that sent him on the path to winning Grammys. Why not duplicate on Maui the successful concerts George appeared in on the mainland? He could stage his own weekly concert series and charge admission.

Paul Konwiser, a retired computer whiz with NASA and a big fan, put together the first show. Clifford Nae‘ole, the able cultural practitioner at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, arranged foran auditorium. The Masters of Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar Concert Series was born.

Years later, George and as many as 20 guest artists a year are still going strong, recently completing well over 300 per- formances at the Ritz and a new venue, Napili Kai Beach Resort.

Dancing Cat Records came calling a few years ago. Impresario George Winston regarded George’s “melodies and his voice as a gentle Hawaiian breeze.”

In 2015, George celebrated the 12th year of his slack- key show and told another story. At a very early age in Oahu, he was waxing cars and making $3.00 a day.
He had written a song and played it for come construction workers. They gave him $27.50. He never waxed a car again.

Constantly reinventing himself between struggles to make ends meet, after a bout with cancer at age, the energetic and genial Kahumoku, now 60, normally gets only 3 hours of sleep each 24 hours—a good thing, con- sidering his many interests.
Precocious even at four, a keiki who loved to sketch horses on his parents’ farm, George won his rst scholarship to at- tend classes at the Honolulu Academy of Art in 1954. More scholarships followed to Kamehameha Schools and then the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
He skipped RISD for a full scholarship at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland because it was closer to home. e talented artist, trained as a sculptor, ended up after graduation teaching art to kids in the inner city.
He turned them o putting gra ti on walls and onto to painting giant murals on downtown buildings with per- mission of an enlightened landowner. City o cials were so impressed with this son of Hawaii that they made him art commissioner for California’s Alameda County, including Berkeley.
en opportunity knocked twice. Kamehameha Schools wanted him back in Honolulu to teach art. e job fell through, but he got a reprieve with an o er to start and be- come principal of a new Kamehameha Schools facility on the island of Hawaii near the legendary City of Refuge.
Struggling to make ends meet, he enthusiastically signed on. Ever restless, however, that, too, yielded still another lifestyle. Kahumoku started a farm on Hawaii to raise 1,200 pigs a year. is he found was a quick way to go broke, which he did. In 1990, George began playing slack-key guitar at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Management insisted George per-
form with a partner.
To keep it in the family, he picked his son, Keoki. Hands
shaking, playing poorly, Keoki barely made it through the rst set, supplementing his poor playing with an even worse voice.

No worries.“At the break,” George wrote, “I grabbed Keoki’s ukulele,
used my wire cutters and clipped each of the strings on his instrument. From a distance, you couldn’t see they were not connected.”
e two “played” like that for months, musician and pan- tomime in perfect harmony. (Despite the rough start, Keoki today is a slack-key master and Grammy winner.)
Uncle George (the tag “uncle” is often attached to locals because so many are related to one another) nally gured out the best way to make a living was to play music at the venues along Ka‘anapali.
In 1992, George began playing at the Westin Maui, with one memorable, funny result that had nothing to do with music.
While George was living at the hotel, in an ultimate clash of cultures, he and his Hawaiian friends one afternoon de- cided they had enough of restaurant food. ey would revert to their Hawaiian ways, grab a net, and go shing at Pu‘u Ke- ka‘a, known to legions of visiting snorkelers as Black Rock.
Bringing along handfuls of peas, like those used by vis- itors to attract sh, George and friends cast their nets and pulled in a mother lode of uhu (parrot sh), manini (stur- geon), aholehole, u‘u, and others.
Figuring they should avoid cleaning their catch at the Westin’s spacious pool, they returned to their room, lled up the bathtub with sh for cleaning and ushed the entrails down a single toilet until it clogged up.
e sh would have to be dried. ey strung up ropes, lined them with sh, and turned on the air conditioning. Odors of drying sh wafted through the entire oor—the shermen didn’t realize the AC vents circulated air from one room to another.

Time to cook: gather dried keawe wood stacked outside the Villa Restaurant. Find some rocks around the waterfall. Group the rocks into a small roasting pit on the fourth- oor lanai, and lay a wire shelf from the mini-bar across the rocks. Fire it up—barbecue a huge kala sh on the open re. en walk down the beach for a break.
e sirens of re engines are not often heard along Ka‘anapali Parkway, but they were that day. Yellow-coated remen strung up a long ladder to the room to put out the tiny ames amid the rocks, blasting a big hole in the slid- ing-glass door with the powerful stream of the rehose. An- other day in paradise.
e story is told in A Hawaiian Life, the self-published book George sells at his slack-key performances. Such mis- chief has been a way of life for a man whose infectious laugh is duplicated only by his wife, Nancy, the sister of his rst music publisher.
By the nineties, George was playing 15 to 20 gigs on Maui a week and traveling to the mainland, playing at performing arts centers as far away as Carnegie Hall in New York. en, with a ash of insight, George adopted a new approach that sent him on the path to winning Grammys.
Why not duplicate on Maui the successful concerts George appeared in on the mainland? He could stage his own weekly concert series and charge admission.
Paul Konwiser, a retired computer whiz with NASA and a big fan, put together the rst show. Cli ord Nae‘ole, the able cultural practitioner at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, o ered an auditorium. e Masters of Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar Concert Series was born.
Years later, George and as many as 20 guest artists a year are still going strong, recently completing well over 300 per- formances at the Ritz and a new venue, Napili Kai Beach Resort. Dancing Cat Records came calling a few years ago. Impresario George Winston regarded George’s “melodies and his voice as a gentle Hawaiian breeze.”
at breeze, plus the slack-key music of a dozen others the last few years, has brought three Grammys and a recent nomination for a possible fourth based on weekly appearanc- es by George and a dozen or more artists, including Uncle Richard Ho‘opi‘i and up-and-coming Peter de Aquino.
In 2015, George celebrated the 12th year of his slack- key show and told another story. At a very early age in Oahu, he was waxing cars and making $3.00 a day.
He had written a song and played it for come construc- tion workers. ey gave him $27.50. He never waxed a car again.