Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: Kino alu Sundays with George Kuo, Martin Pahinui and Aaron Mahi at Waikiki Beach Marriott

Aaron Mahi, George Kuo and Martin Pahinui at the Waikiki Beach Marriott on May 16, 2010. Photo by Lia Chang

Aaron Mahi, George Kuo and Martin Pahinui at the Waikiki Beach Marriott on May 16, 2010. Photo by Lia Chang

I am visiting Honolulu with my sister Tami to attend the graduation ceremony of our sister Karina Umehara. She is getting an MBA from Hawaii Pacific University and we are so proud of her. My friend Cathy Foy, an actress and singer who recently started ALL Entertainment LLC which provides custom designed Polynesian and Continental entertainment for family and corporate events, picked me up from the airport and whisked me off to the Waikiki Beach Marriott Hotel for “Kiho`alu Sundays”.

For more than a decade, her husband Aaron Mahi, George Kuo and Martin Pahinui, have been performing every Sunday from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Hotel, Moana Terrace. Their performances are known as “Kiho`alu Sundays” because they play traditional Hawaiian music with Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar stylings (kiho`alu – to loosen the guitar strings to a particular tuning and play Hawaiian finger-picking e guitar). Their blend of instrumentation mastery and warm vocal harmonies are chicken-skin moments (goose bumps on the arm from feeling the deep soulful character of the music) reminiscent of an older, romantic, traditional style of Hawaiian folk art music with spontaneous riffs and passages being created only for the moment. Their stories in introducing the songs provide special insight on the older culture of Hawaii relevant to the Kaona of the songs (special meanings, secret poetic references and similes) involving romantic affairs and adoration, and tributes to special persons and places.

Aaron Mahi, George Kuo and Martin Pahinui with special guest Cathy Foy at the Waikiki Beach Marriott on May 16, 2010. Photo by Lia Chang

Aaron Mahi, George Kuo and Martin Pahinui with special guest Cathy Foy at the Waikiki Beach Marriott on May 16, 2010. Photo by Lia Chang

Their album “Ho’olohe”(to listen), was a final nominee at the 2004 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (similar to the Grammy Awards for Hawaii) for the categories of: Hawaiian Album of the Year and Best Male Vocalist (Martin Pahinui) of the Year. George Kuo (6 and 12 string slack key guitar), Martin Pahinui (6 string slack key guitar), and Aaron Mahi (bass guitar) present the traditional folk art of Hawaiian slack key guitar and vocal melodies. Each of them are highly accomplished and recognized Hawaiian musicians that have been performing together many years, for the pure enjoyment of perpetuating traditional music and reciprocating and embellishing each other’s talents, to where these feelings become instilled in all audiences.
Aaron Mahi, George Kuo, Lia Chang, Martin Pahinui, Cathy Foy and Tami Chang at the Waikiki Beach Marriott on May 16, 2010.

Aaron Mahi, George Kuo, Lia Chang, Martin Pahinui, Cathy Foy and Tami Chang at the Waikiki Beach Marriott on May 16, 2010.

Cathy joined the Trio onstage for a few numbers. If you are a fan of slackkey guitar and traditional Hawaiian music like my sister Tami, you will want to experience Kino alu Sundays with George Kuo, Martin Pahinui and Aaron Mahi at Waikiki Beach Marriott Hotel. It was a very lovely and relaxing evening. After 11 hours of traveling, it was the perfect way to embrace the spirit of Aloha. There is no cover charge and there is free parking in the Marriott garage with validation.

Check back for video of the night.
About the artists
GEORGE KUO – Known for perpetuating traditional Hawaiian slack key guitar styling (kiho`alu), George started playing slack key in the 1970’s at garage jam-sessions, bars, concerts, and parties with friends and old–time slack key masters Raymond Kane, Sonny Chillingworth, Gabby Pahinui, Leland “Atta” Isaacs, Leonard Kwan, Tommy Solomon, Uncle Fred Punahoa, and steel guitar master Barney Isaacs. George shares the feelings and enjoyment of a by-gone era in Hawaii that he was fortunate to have been a part of. George formed a group in 1980 named the Kipapa Rush Band, and later joined Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawaii in 1986, and currently performs steadily at the Waikiki Marriott Hotel and in concerts across the United States and Japan with Martin Pahinui, and Aaron Mahi. George has done several slack-key recordings, most recently on the Dancing Cat/Windham Hill records produced by George Winston.

MARTIN PAHINUI – Martin is known for his out-of-this-world singing and legendary family musical tradition. Martin’s incredible voice range from a low deep bass to a rich high and haunting falsetto is reminiscent of his legendary father, Gabby Pahinui. Martin grew up listening and watching his dad and other legendary performer friends gather at their home for rehearsals and memorable jam sessions that sometimes lasted for several days. Martin played on his father’s recordings with his brothers Cyril, Bla, Philip, and master slack-key guitarists Leland “Atta” Isaacs and Sonny Chillingworth. Martin performed at nightclubs on Maui for many years before coming home and playing with the Peter Moon Band in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Currently Martin performs with George Kuo and Aaron Mahi at their regular engagements and concert tours. Martin has done many recordings with his family on Panini Records; The Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Productions); a solo CD Martin Pahinui (Mountain Apple Productions); and with George Kuo, Dennis and David Kamakahi, on a CD titled Hui Aloha, and with George Kuo, Aaron Mahi, and Bobby Ingano on the CD, Ho`olohe (Dancing Cat/Windham Hill Records).

AARON MAHI – Aaron is one of Hawaii’s living legends in traditional Hawaiian music. He has a tremendous repertoire and knowledge of the hidden meanings of traditional Hawaiian songs, and combines traditional Hawaiian with formal music arranging, and has achieved the highest accolades in classical music circles. Upon graduating with distinction from the Hart School of Music, he performed as a bassist and later became the assistant conductor for the Honolulu Symphony, and currently, Aaron has been the conductor of the City and County of Honolulu’s Royal Hawaiian Band since 1980. Aaron is also fluent in Hawaiian language and perpetuates many of the old ways that he spent time learning from his family and from many elder Hawaiians that were famous musicians, arrangers, and songwriters. Aaron is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, famous for its Hawaiian musical tradition and he learned and performed with his classmates, many who became prominent Hawaiian musicians. Aaron is Hawaii’s musical ambassador to the world as he performs with various Hawaiian shows and was the conductor for 24 years from 1981 – 2005 with the Royal Hawaiian Band all over the world. Aaron has recorded with and arranged recordings with many legendary Hawaiian artists.

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
Photos: A.B. Cruz III and Lillian Kimura Receive 2011 AALDEF Justice in Action Awards
Photos: Chinese New Year Festival at The Huntington in San Marino
Geffen Playhouse Production Photos: LaBute’s The Break of Noon- Kevin Anderson, Tracee Chimo, Catherine Dent & John Earl Jelks
Photos:The Working Theater’s Off-Broadway production of HONEY BROWN EYES by Stefanie Zadravec at The Clurman
Andy Warhol, Romare Bearden, Alexander Calder, Lia Chang in Art & Healing Exhibit at Snug Harbor on SI
Photos: David Duchovny, John Earl Jelks, Amanda Peet,Tracee Chimo opening night of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon
André De Shields leads cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at Abrons Arts Center
STORIES FROM CHINESE AMERICA: The Arthur Dong Collection, Vol. 2 as 4 disc DVD Box Set
Photos & Video Disney’s The Lion King Las Vegas-In the Makeup Chair with Thom Sesma
Photo Call: BD Wong and the Cast of Heading East at the Asia Society
Multimedia: Promises, Promises’ Stars Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes at Lord & Taylor Fifth Ave
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

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Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.

This year, selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space will become part of newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre,, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle,,,,,, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

2 comments on “Lia Chang: Kino alu Sundays with George Kuo, Martin Pahinui and Aaron Mahi at Waikiki Beach Marriott

  1. Skye
    August 30, 2010

    Ha! I so enjoyed listening to Aaron Mahi, George Kuo and Martin Pahinui – I must have missed Cathy Foy though. Oh well, hopefully I’ll get to travel back to Waikiki next year. Thanks for the article. I’ll forward it to my friends.

  2. Tom and Karon Gilles
    November 30, 2010

    We ALWAYS go to their concert EVERY time we are in Waikiki. We have even gotten our long-time friend Lenore (Ewa Beach) bitten by their great music. Next year we will have at least 2 weeks in Waikiki. More concert time ! ! ! Looking forward to the 5th and 12th of December !

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