Dec 1, 2008 ~ I had the pleasure of meeting David at the December 2007 Kahumoku Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle Workshop. He shared a lot of great information while I was there. At the time I didn’t know much about Kamakahi; now I do. He has not only played on 12 records and performed with many of Hawaii’s premiere musicians, but he won a Na Hoku Hanohano award in 2005 for his own album “Pa’ani”. Thank you David for taking the time to do this interview with me.
Live ‘Ukulele: Who were your musical heroes growing up?
David Kamakahi: My father was my first musical hero, when me and my brother were small, his music would always be the music playing at bedtime. Eddie Kamae is another music hero along with Peter Moon, Lyle Ritz, Ohta-San, the way these ukulele players changed how people saw the ukulele at the time was groundbreaking. Some of my other musical heroes include Stevie Ray Vaughn, Stevie Wonder, BB Shawn, James Taylor. But currently as I meet more amazing musicians I realized that whoever I play music with or whoever I watch play is someone I consider as my hero. Because we all have music to share and the music each of us plays has a sound that separates us from each other that makes us special, like fingerprints, our own unique sound.
LU: What has been your favorite performance and why?
DK: My favorite performance…would have to be Kahilu Theater in Waimea on The Big Island. For the past 7 years I have been privileged to be a part of the Waimea Ukulele and Slack Key Guitar Institute. A various group of musicians are brought to Waimea to teach ukulele and slack-key guitar to the public, but we also do school performances at various schools on the Big Island. My favorite performances would have to be the culmination of school performances and workshops for the past 7 years of this program. Because seeing an audience totally blown away by your performance young and old is an unforgettable experience.
LU: At what point in your career were you approached with an ukulele sponsorship?
DK: I was approached about 7 years after the start of my professional career around 2002. I have changed sponsors since then and moved to KoAloha Ukuleles now, they are indeed a bunch of characters and I have a lot of fun whenever i visit the factory to hang out or talk shop. They are an amazing family with dreamers, jokers, and friends.
LU: What kind of advice can you give to aspiring musicians?
DK: Finish school, no matter the temptation to travel the globe and try to be a rock star, an education is important. It took me a long time to get my associates degree from community college because of touring and so forth. It makes a difference having that degree as opposed to having nothing. Second, always keep an open mind when it comes to music, don’t think that your music is the only music worth listening to, you might learn a thing or two by listening to a variety of music. You can’t lose by broadening your horizons, it leads to innovations you never thought possible.
LU: Are you planning to record a new album in the near future?
DK: I am currently in the studio right now finishing my solo album under my new label. I am planning to release it in the Spring of 2009. I haven’t named the album but I can say it’s a labor of love. Working with musicians and friends who I admire and love sharing music with is indeed a blessing. [Update: the album is called “Shine“. You can get it from David’s site or Amazon.com ~ BB]