I was first introduced to slack key guitar by a Hawaiian music show on KCRW-FM back when the station seemed to worship world music. Not like today when the music programming seems to have a slavish devotion to the New in the form of hip hop, electronica, etc.
After hearing a good deal of Hawaiian music in the ensuing years, I’ve come to believe that there’s a lot of gooey and sugar-sweet music coming from the islands that doesn’t stand the test of time. But Keola Beamer’s music isn’t in that category at all.
I don’t remember exactly where or how I first heard Keola Beamer, but when I heard Elepaio (hear it), I knew I’d heard not only one of the most beautiful pieces of slack key, but also one of the great guitar pieces of any musical genre. The playing is langorous, vigorous and demonstrative just as I imagine Hawaii itself. It reminds me of a lovely afternoon at the beach with the surf rolling in, the sun warming your body, beautiful white clouds overhead, and perhaps a few white sails on the horizon. All is well here, all is serene. Great music.
Elepaio appears on Wooden Boat by Wyndham Hill.
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