Fifth generation slack-key guitarist Keoki Kahumoku began performing with his father, George Kahumoku, Jr., and his uncle, Moses Kahumoku, in 1990 at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. In 1992, Keoki and his family moved to the Island of Maui, to perform at the Westin Maui in Ka’anapali.
The wonderful Hawaiian mele he performed spawned a vision in Keoki — to reach and teach the keiki o ka aina and preserve this rich Hawaiian heritage. Keoki began teaching ‘ukulele with informal lessons, then progressed to ‘ukulele and slack key guitar workshops and formal lessons throughout the state of Hawai‘i and on the mainland. Keoki has taught at various educational institutions, including the Queen Liliuokalani Children Center, Maui Community College’s PACE Program, King Kekaulike High School, Haleakala Waldorf School, Kapalua Art School, Na’alehu Theater, Kona’s Historic Donkey Mill Art Center, and The University of Hawaii at Hilo — College of Continuing Education and Community Service and Senior College classes. He continues to teach private lessons from his home in Hilo on the Big Island. Keoki’s vision of preserving the musical tradition through teaching reaches a wider audience now, with his recently released instructional DVD, Introduction to Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar.
In 1995, Keoki started the Annual Youth ‘Ukulele Players Contest showcasing the musical talents of Maui County children and giving them an opportunity to perform on stage as a member of his ‘ukulele band, Kaulana Na Pua O Maui. Now a musical tradition, the ‘ukulele contest marked its eleventh year in the summer of 2005. In the same year, Keoki was featured on his first recording, Ho‘oilina – The Legacy, with his father.
In 2000, Keoki teamed up with Herb Ohta, Jr. on several projects. Together, they released Hawaiian from the Heart, featuring Keoki’s unique vocal stylings and slack-key guitar artistry. This pairing was so successful that in 2002 they released a second album, Treasures of Aloha.
Keoki’s solo CD – Liko – contains a wonderful mix of contemporary Hawaiian, ki ho’alu, ‘ukulele, and a hint of blues. In 2005 Liko was named one of the top 3 CDs in the Slack Key Category of the Hawai‘i Music Awards. Wayne Harada, entertainment writer for the Honolulu Advertiser said, “Keoki Kahumoku is one of his generation’s masters of the stroke and the voice.”
His latest solo CD is Rise & Shine (Daniel Ho Records). Until recently, Keoki admits he treated music like a hobby. “I was never really sure how to make a living out of it.” Several Grammy Awards later, Keoki found himself playing with a renewed determination to make music a priority.
When not on the road or teaching, you can find Keoki farming his land, hunting with his dogs or tending his mountain pua’a. Equally comfortable cooking for a crowd or performing for them, Keoki draws his inspiration from his roots. Like his dad, Keoki’s performance is as much about his relaxed, engaging “talk story” as it is about his wide Hawaiian repertoire. George Jr. said that his son “has a passion for Hawaiian music in all its forms.” This passion is evident as Keoki continues o teach and share Hawai‘i’s music and culture.
In support and recognition of promising artists who further the development of Asian Pacific American performing arts, Keoki received the 2003 Duane Ebata Award.
With Hula! Big Island Style – Various Artists (Palm, Charles Michael Brotman, producer), Keoki shared the honor of receiving the 2005 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for compilation album of the year:
And the Grammy goes to… ki ho’alu! Keoki was one of ten artists on the 2005 Slack Key Guitar Volume 2 which took the first-ever Hawaiian Album Grammy in a stunning musical milestone. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle praised these winning artists, commenting that the award brings “long-overdue worldwide recognition to our islands’ unique musical stylings.”
He won another Grammy in 2006, performing on the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Volume 1, the 48th Grammy Award Winner for Best Hawaiian Music Album.
He continued his artistic streak as part of Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar – Live from Maui and Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar which were honored with the 49th and 50th Annual Grammy Award, respectively, for Best Hawaiian Music Album.
The 2008 compilation CD: The Spirit of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar (2008 Daniel Ho Records) was nominated for the 51st Annual Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Music Album.
Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Volume 2 (2009 Daniel Ho Creations) won the 52nd Annual Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Music Album on January 31, 2010.