Keola Beamer is one of Hawai'i's premier singer/songwriters, arrangers, composers and Master Of The Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar. His well of talent springs from five generations of Hawai's most illustrious and beloved musical families. The Beamers trace their roots to the 14th century; among their ancestors are Queen Ahiakumai Ki'eki'e and Ho'olulu, a child of the favored wife of Kamehameha I.
Born in 1951, Keolamaikalani Breckenridge Beamer was raised in Kamuela, on the Big Island, surrounded by the beautiful open pastures of his Grandfather's cattle ranch.
Keola established himself early on as the family's youngest standard-bearer. A child of the rock and roll era, he has always been on the vanguard of the Hawaiian contemporary sound. However, he also helped drive what has come to be known today as the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance: he has recorded many of the songs written by his ancestors, from the lively Keawaiki to the lullaby Pupu Hinuhinu. He has recorded and produced more than twenty albums, winning numerous Hoku Awards, Hawai'i's equivalent of the Grammys. He has even appeared on Sesame Street and on NBC's "Today Show." He is a Grammy Nominee and in 2010 received the "Lifetime Achievement" award from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts in Honolulu, Hawai'i.
Keola was one of Hawai'i's first recording artists to integrate Hawaiian chants and instruments, like the tiny gourd whistle and the nose flute, with contemporary forms of music. "A lot of musicians in the past treated the nose flute as a frame," he says. "They played it at the beginning and the end of a piece. Through experimentation, I managed to integrate it into the piece. It has a gorgeous sound, a gorgeous texture."
Keola's legendary great-grandmother, Helen Desha Beamer (1882-1952), was one of Hawai'i's most prolific and accomplished singer-songwriters, whose compositions came to her in dreams, on boat rides, and during visits with friends. Possessed of a high, clear soprano, her fluency in the Hawaiian language endowed her with lyrics with vivid images. She was also a skilled dancer whose intricate footwork and fluid grace left a lasting imprint on the hula.
Keola's mother, revered cultural treasure, Winona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Beamer, (Aunty Nona, 1926 - 2008) was also a noted chanter, composer, Kumu Hula (Hula Master) and author, who had spent a lifetime researching and teaching "Hawaiiana," a term she coined. Indeed, Keola's career as a musician began in his mother's Honolulu hula studio, where he played guitar as an accompaniment for the dancers. "That's part of being in the Beamer family - your job is as a musician," he says. Then he adds with a laugh: "And my mom is the only person who ever fired me!"
In high school and college, Keola studied classical guitar, and later, when he began to teach guitar, he published the first ever, method book for the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, using a tablature system for 16th-century lutes as his starting point. At about the same time, in 1972, he recorded his first landmark solo album, "Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar in the Real Old Style," filled with the nahenahe (soft and sweet) sound of this Hawaiian tradition. This album and method book (now online at kbeamer.com) continues to influence many guitarists.
Keola in combination with the Beamer Ohana (Family) Non Profit Corporation -- The Mohala Hou Foundation -- conducts genuine cultural immersion experiences through their bi-annual "Aloha Music Camp" held at the Keauhou Beach Resort in Kailua, Kona during the months of February and July. These week long immersions instruct musicians and non musicians in the art of the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Ukulele, Hula, Olelo Hawai'i (Hawaiian Language) and Oli (Chant). For many people, this is a life-changing experience, as the contextual learning of the immersion experience is presented with the true sincerity and clarity of Aloha. "Our guests are not tourists"' says Keola. "They are our extended family".
Keola shares the following artistic statement, as it relates to his performances with Hula Master- Moanlani Beamer:
"When I was growing up, my mother Winona Beamer would often say, “Malama Ko Aloha"
"Mom wanted us to cherish or keep our love. Her idea was that by keeping Aloha in our hearts and reflecting upon its meaning in our lives, we could help the idea of Aloha to grow in the world. Thanks to my mother, Aloha became much more than a word to me. It became a way of being in the world.
“It is not easy to follow the path of Aloha. When we are angry or frustrated, Aloha can be forgotten. Sometimes in difficult situations, we may even take a step backwards from Aloha. If we remember my mom’s advice, “Malama Ko Aloha”, we can gather our courage, take a deep breath and try again. We can endeavor to live our lives with compassion for other human beings. We can live our lives embracing the ideas of diversity, harmony, and peace.
“Hawaiian philosophical thought suggests that within each of us, there exists a bowl of light. It is our sincere hope that as we share our music with you, we might each take a moment to explore this light. We believe it is the presence of Aloha.
“And then ask yourself ... will you Malama Ko Aloha? Will you help us keep Aloha alive in the world?”
PASIFIKA ARTISTS NETWORK LLC | KAREN A. FISCHER, PRESIDENT | 1-808-283-7007 | KAREN@PASIFIKA-ARTISTS.COM