Henry Kapono’s Artist2Artist concert series is a unique experience. Not only do fans get to hear their favorite tunes – and a few new ones too – but the performance also embraces the stories and fond memories behind the songs. At various points, the artists interviewed each other, and shared intimate moments not disclosed elsewhere. In a sense, you felt less like an audience member, and more like ohana. Last month Kapono featured Jerry Santos, and tonight we got to know Slack Key guitar master Keola Beamer.
The two-hour show began with a beautiful Hawaiian chant from Keola’s wife and kumu hula (hula master) Moana Beamer. She pointed out that both musicians come from a period in time when the Hawaiian Renaissance was blossoming. In the late 1960s and 1970s, there was a statewide revival of traditional Hawaiian music, language, and hula. “They each, in their very unique ways,” said Ms. Beamer, “brought something special to the young people, which woke us up and made us aware of the wonder we have here in the islands.”
In his first set, Kapono set the holiday tone with two songs about Christmas, before bringing out Keola Beamer. Kapono mentioned that he’d done several West Coast tours with Beamer, and that they went to rival schools – Kapono went to Punahou, while Beamer attended Kamehameha Schools. There were several friendly jabs on this theme throughout the evening.
Keola opened his set with “Nani Ha‘upu,” while his wife danced the hula and played the gourd. Beamer, a descendant of Hawaiian royalty, acknowledged growing up in Kamuela, and appreciated local family members in the audience. He explained that his grandfather had a homestead ranch on the slopes of Mauna Kea, and he got a little teary-eyed during the intro for “The Beauty of Mauna Kea.” “I remember looking out a picture window, thinking how alive she seemed,” reminisced Beamer. “Almost as if she were a part of our family, our Kupuna… guiding us every day.” As he played the Hawaiian nose flute (‘ohe hano ihu), the room echoed with gentle tones. Velvet. Weightless. Not a dry eye in the house.
Before the first act ended, Kapono and Beamer did a Q&A session with themselves. Beamer revealed that he wasn’t physically built for hula and became captivated with Slack Key guitar when he heard a neighbor playing it under a mango tree. Beamer learned Slack Key players often kept their tunings a family secret, but since he came from royalty, various mentors taught him skills over the years.
After a brief intermission, Kapono and Beamer returned to the stage with “Feelin’ Just The Way I Do” from C&K’s 1974 debut album. Beamer played a rather hilarious song about a man who thinks he runs the house, but in reality, it’s his wife – “I’m the top dog around here/but I’ve been neutered.” Moana stood behind him and joyfully played along with the skit.
The duo ended their set with John Lennon’s “Imagine,” sung in both Hawaiian and English, with wishes for a more peaceful world through sharing our aloha. Kapono and Beamer were given leis and finished with the classic “Honolulu City Lights” – which is still one of the best-selling records in Hawaiian Music. Just as the song ended, Moana encouraged everyone to stand, hold hands, and sing along to “Hawaii Aloha,” closing out another historic show at the Kahilu.
Moana Beamer: Opening Chant
Henry Kapono: Merry Christmas To You | America | Highway in the Sun | I Wish Christmas Was Everyday
Keola Beamer: Nani Ha‘upu | Makee ‘Alana | The Beauty Of Mauna Kea | He Ono | Medley: Pūpū Hinuhinu (Shiny Shell Lullaby)/The Promise of the Tree Shells/ Ke ‘Ai Ne | E Ku’u Morning Dew (w/ Henry Kapono)
Kapono & Beamer: Feeling Just The Way I Do (Over You) | Sweet Okole | Dreams | Man Song | Mr. Sun Cho Lee |Home in the Islands | Imagine
Honolulu City Lights | Hawaii Aloha
The third Artist2Artist Series will feature Henry Kapono & Malani Bilyeu. It takes place at the Kahilu Theatre on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at 7:00 pm. Tickets here: http://kahilutheatre.org/
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby