A powerful improviser, gifted composer and interpreter, Moses "Moke" Kahumoku was born in 1953 in Honolulu, and was raised in Keaukaha on the Big Island. Moses began playing music around the age of five, and like most ki ho`alu (slack key) masters, he looked first to his family for his source. "My first inspiration," he says, "was the most beautiful lady in the world, Aileen N. Waiolama Perez, my mom. Others include my dad, George Kahumoku, Sr., Sonny Chillingworth, Gabby Pahinui, Ledward Kaapana, Leonard Kwan, Ray Kane, Atta Isaacs, Cyril Pahinui and my stepdad, Roman P. Perez. I love them all."
A pillar of Big Island slack key, Moses is well known as a musician, farmer, fisherman and activist struggling to help protect the 'aina (land) and working for Hawaiian sovereignty through his association with the Aloha `Aina organization and other groups. He is also well known outside of his home island for his performances and recordings with his brother George as The Kahumoku Brothers. "My brother George is the best 12 string slack key guitarist I've ever had the honor of playing with," Moses says proudly.
In addition to their own recordings, KAI MALINO (THE PEACEFUL SEA), SWEET AND SASSY and MORE THAN WORDS CAN SAY, the two brothers have also worked with the group Na `Oiwi, who accompanied kumu hula (hula master) and haku mele (composer) Aunty Edith Kanaka`ole on her highly acclaimed album HI'IPOI I KA 'AINA ALOHA (CHERISH THE BELOVED LAND).
Moses says he plays music because "it saves my soul." He adds that he wants his listeners "to just enjoy and feel the positive gifts from Akua (God) through the sounds, rhythms and melodies."
On HO'OKUPU "THE GIFT", his first solo recording, released in 1995 on Dancing Cat Records, Moses presents a brilliant collection of powerful originals and interpretations of Hawaiian classics. He plays a nylon string guitar in G Major tuning, also known as Open G or Taro Patch (D-G-D-G-B-D, from the lowest-pitched string to the highest), for all the songs on this album, although overall he uses at least six other tunings. His instrumental style has many distinctive characteristics: his extensive use of his thumb to play powerful arpeggios to embellish the melody; rapid pull-offs; fast single-note picking; extensive improvisation; flamenco-type picking techniques; and a very soulful approach to ballads.
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