I’m happy to release my debut solo Slack Key (Ki’hoalu) instrumental album, “Aloha, This is Who We Are” featuring all original compositions. Two of the tracks include vocals, the Title song, and “Haleiwa Town”. I hope the music and lyrics in this album lead you to understand the island lifestyle and its reliance on the natural beauty of the islands. This relationship creates an energy that permeates through our being, lifts us up, kindles the Aloha Spirit and sets the framework for Hawai’i’s rich cultural heritage that attracts so many visitors from around the world. My songs pay homage to Hawai’i’s way of life and serve as a reminder that we should cherish and preserve Hawai’i’s natural beauty.
A Look Back:
I was born and raised on the island of Oahu, Hawai’i. During high school, I began picking up the acoustic steel guitar and enjoyed strumming chords to popular songs of the 70s“. My interest changed after hearing my brother’s friend play Mason William’s “Classical Gas”. This was the era of cassette tapes and 33-1/3 RPM vinyl records called LPs. (Long Plays). To figure out how to play the song, I would listen to this piece on Mason William’s 33 LP a few notes at a time lifting and dropping the record player needle arm over and over. Eventually, to my surprise, I was able to play “Classical Gas”. During that time the Hawaiian music renaissance was in full swing. A Keola and Kapono Beamer album caught my ear. The Slack Key guitar was the most beautiful sound I had heard. Not only that, I could feel the spirit (mana) of the islands in those songs sung in perfect harmony. I tried playing it but due to the lack of my understanding of tunings and its fundamentals, I was not able to replicate it.
While I was finishing my final semester at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, I entered the Pro Guitar Shop on Waialae Avenue looking for a classical nylon string guitar and the owner told me, “you play pretty good, want to take lessons for $5 a session? The teacher’s only in the islands for a few months at a time and plays at Bagwells restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. Now that he’s here, you should give it a try. ”Back then, 5 bucks was a lot as I had worked myself through college with money made from trimming pineapples at the cannery, being a companion for cognitive impaired residents at Waimano Home, a stock boy at Kress Store and selling fish. I had enough saved up to buy a cheap guitar. My girlfriend, now my wife, bought me the guitar for $600 so I could afford the lessons. The teacher’s name was Jose Ortega. I remember hearing him practicing before I entered a lesson and was awe struck as I watched him play complicated pieces as he sight read from classical music sheets. He set me up with fundamental positioning, posture and fingering techniques. He told me to buy an exercise book and said, “that person on the book, Andres Segovia, was my teacher.”I began to learn how to read music. Progress was slow as it was like starting from scratch. Shortly after, I began my career as an Engineer and stopped the lessons but continued to work on the classical exercises for years. Looking back, the classical training payed dividends as it strengthened my fingers and disciplined my guitar playing.
Years later, I observed Ozzie Kotani playing a beautiful Slack Key piece at a Slack Key Festival with the same classical style hand positioning. I found that he was teaching at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Outreach Program. I took some classes and he asked if I was interested in undertaking an intense program in the art of Slack Key. We applied and we were awarded a Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA) Folk Arts Apprenticeship grant in year 1992. The SFCA was established by the Hawai’i State Legislature to promote, perpetuate, preserve and encourage culture and the arts, history and the humanities as central to the quality of life of the people of Hawai’i. It was Ozzie’s efforts during and after the apprenticeship that allowed me to transform from a guitar hobbyist to a Slack Key guitar artist. He gave me opportunities to play at public events and meet other musicians, including Slack Key Masters Raymond Kane and Leonard Kwan. Upon completion of the SFCA Apprentice Program, Ozzie provided me the opportunity to teach at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Outreach Program in year 1994. I would continue teaching there for 15 years. Teaching kept me focused and devoted to the art while experiencing great fulfillment by being around those who shared a common passion and love for Ki’hoalu. The warm aloha and appreciation I received from my students, and the friendships made over the years have been gratifying experiences. I want to thank Ozzie Kotani and the SFCA for making all of this possible and to each of my students for learning and sustaining the art by playing Ki’hoalu for your enjoyment as well as the enjoyment of your ohana (family) and friends.
Hawaiian Slack Key guitar music may have a mesmerizing effect on the listener. The casual listener may not be able to discern why. Much is made about the slacking of guitar strings, “Ki” which means “keys on the guitar” and “hoalu” which means, “to loosen”. However, the playing technique is what sets Slack Key guitar apart from other styles of guitar playing. The alternating bass pattern played by the thumb and the melody played with the index, middle and ring fingers on the picking hand optimizes a guitar’s resonance and creates a uniquely warm, flowing and sweet sound. Ornamentation techniques used by fingers on the fret board such as chimes (harmonics), hammers, add-ons, pull-offs, slurs and slides give Slack Key pieces a uniquely Hawaiian sound. The fullness in sound also gives the listener the impression that more than one instrument is playing. Through the art of Slack Key, I developed an appreciation for Hawaiian music and for the island culture in general.
- Ozzie Kotani
- Jose Ortega
- My wife, Jan, and our two children Andrea and Evan Takamiya for their love and inspiration. Together we explored the islands, learned the passion of its people, ate its food, witnessed the indigenous art forms, observed its breathtaking beauty and learned its history. Our life in Hawai’i inspired me to compose these songs.
- Andrea Takamiya, website design
- Kelii Borgonia and Andrea Takamiya, Album cover graphics
- Eric Lagrimas, Pass Out Records and Songs of Passout (ASCAP)
- Fred Domingo
- Michael Cheape
- Les Lichtgenberg
- Steve Grimes of Grimes Guitars.
- Karl Long, Sweetwater Sales Engineer
Contact Lance Takamiya at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Produced and Recorded by Akule Productions LLC, Lance Takamiya