Dennis Kamakahi Remembered by Fellow Hawaiian Musicians

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HONOLULU — Memorial services for renowned Hawaiian entertainer the Rev. Dennis Kamakahi were held on July 5 at Bernice Pauahi Bishop Memorial Chapel at Kamehameha Schools, followed by a celebration of life on the Great Lawn at Bishop Museum.

The Honolulu-born slack-key guitar player, prolific songwriter, recording artist and Christian minister died of lung cancer on April 28. He was 61.

Kamakahi’s contributions to Hawaiian music include his two decades of work as the youngest and last member of the original Sons of Hawaii, the albums he recorded for George Winston’s “Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters” series, and his work as the leader of Na ‘Oiwi with his son, David, Mike Kaawa and Jon Yamasato.

Dennis Kamakahi

Dennis Kamakahi

Kamakahi also contributed as a solo artist to three Grammy Award-winning compilation albums: “Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” in 2007, “Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” in 2008, and “The Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” in 2010. (When a compilation album wins a Grammy, the award goes to the producers, not the artists.)

He was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

Due to his illness, Kamakahi was forced to cancel his appearance at the Hawaiian Music Masters show in Irvine in April.

A “Remembering Dennis Kamakahi” concert will be performed on Saturday, Aug. 2, at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) at Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. For information, call (510) 644-2020, email [email protected] or visit www.thefreight.org/.

“A Tribute to Dennis Kamakahi” will be performed on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 8 p.m. at the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College. To purchase tickets online, go to http://shannoncenter.org/Kamakahi.htm.

“The Rev. Dennis Kamakahi spent a brief 61 years among us, but in that time he gave us the immortal gift of his music,” concert organizers said. “In the spirit of kōkua (assistance) and ho`omaika`i (to give thanks and blessings), five of his musical protégés will perform a series of fundraising concerts, with all proceeds going directly to the Kamakahi family. All five musicians are Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winners.

“David Kamakahi follows in his father’s footsteps with his varied musical pursuits, including his membership in the popular trio Waipuna.”

“Ukulele virtuoso Herb Ohta Jr. is a long-time friend of the family and benefited from Dennis Kamakahi’s mentorship along with that from his father, Ohta-San.

“Jon Yamasato, who was trained by Dennis Kamakahi on slack key guitar, gained musical notoriety as the lead singer in the band Pure Heart prior to his success as a solo artist.

“Slack key guitarist Patrick Landeza met and was mentored by Kamakahi in the early 1990s, and continued to tour with him over the next 20 years.

“‘Guitar slinger’ Stephen Inglis shares credit with Kamakahi on their 2011 CD ‘Waimaka Helelei,’ which was Kamakahi’s last release, and which took him back to the island of Molokai, where he spent much of his childhood.

“Dennis Kamakahi spoke of performance as giving ‘life’ to songs. With this series of memorial concerts, may those who loved him and his music come together to celebrate and honor the greatest and most prolific composer of Hawaiian music in contemporary times. E ola mau kōna mau mele – let his songs live!”

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