Masters of Hawaiian Music

Masters of Hawaiian Music:
George Kahumoka Jr, Nathan Aweau, Kawika Kahiapo
The Triple Door
Seattle, Washington


Musicians George Kahumoka Jr,, Nathan Aweau and Kawika Kahiapo are truly masters of Hawaiian music. The three use the slack-key guitar fingerstyle, which is a trademark of guitar in Hawaiian folk music. Their vocals were primarily in Hawaiian, and a few of Seattle’s Hawaiians at the show mouthed the words. Other audience members who were less familiar with the songs swayed to the mellow music.

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George Kahumoka Jr. took the stage with his guitar and moved the audience with his singing. The four-time-Grammy winner told stories of his life in Hawaii with his music, focusing on his wife, granddaughter and life on his farm. He then sang Dennis Pavao’s “Hanalei Moon,” which is a touching song that pays tribute to the moon over Hawaii. Kahumoka’s relaxing playing and singing made his calm and relaxing voice accompanied by his skill on the guitar enjoyable and something to remember.

After Kahumoka’s solo, Kawika Kahiapo performed a few songs. His playing style varies slightly from Kahumoka’s, though the theme of his music is the same. While Kahumoka favors a more classic and gentle style, Kahiapo’s style is more modern, but still retains a gentle flow. He performed several songs that he wrote for his wife and the rest of his family. One of his most memorable songs was “East Side Slack Key,” which showcases the slack-key style that the Masters are best known for. The song consists only of guitar music, but still tells a story through the melodies and rhythms. He mentioned that he wrote the song while at the beach near his home in Oahu.

Nathan Aweau then took the stage, and presented his more upbeat and lively style. Many of his songs were accompanied by background tracks with drums and other instruments. Before performing, he told the audience that he spent a few weeks on each of the Hawaiian islands, so he could feel more connected to the islands and show this connection in his music. He performed his song “Mahinahina,” which means “in the pale moonlight.” It told the story of his first date with his wife when he was a teenager. The two walked on the beach, and the full moon shone over the water.

Finally, all three artists came together to perform. Their musical styles contrasted, but once they were all together, it was obvious how much these singers had in common. The three slack-key guitars together filled the room with sweet melodies from the islands. Accompanying the artists were two beautiful hula dancers. Many of the audience were surprised and excited to see the dancers, and everyone enjoyed them. The dancers in combination with the music brought a new level to the storytelling, and one that many during the show seemed to enjoy.

by Caroline LaMotta