JIM KIMO WEST
Moku Maluhia - Peaceful Island
(Westernmost Records)

 

Hot on the heels of his 2016 solo album Guitar Stories as well as Slackers In Paradise—his 2016 CD with guitarist Ken Emerson—Jim “Kimo” West makes fans happy again with his 2018 solo album Moku Maluhia – Peaceful Island. Released on Kimo’s Westernmost label, the twelve track Moku Maluhia CD brings an impressive repertoire of newly recorded Slack Key guitar instrumentals that Kimo says, “transports the listener to their own peaceful island.” The sound of Slack Key guitar music is virtually intrinsic to the culture and whole vibe of Hawaii and its beautiful islands and, there’s no better guitarist than Jim Kimo West to represent the sound of that magical land. Well known in the pop music world as electric lead guitarist in the band of “Weird Al” Yankovic, in a wonderfully contrasting manner, Jim Kimo West is equally well respected as a cutting edge advocate of the timeless, acoustic Slack Key guitar sound. Kimo’s track-by-track liner notes include recording info and insights into each song—as well as the various guitar tunings used on each track. Dedicated to Kimo’s composer friend Ried Kapo Ku, Moku Maluhia also features superb, picturesque album artwork created by acclaimed Hawaiian painter Harry Wishard that almost instantly provides you with a sublime, scenic backdrop for Kimo’s meditative slack key musical experience. Pure slack key guitar magic by one of the world’s finest fretboard masters, Moko Maluhia is like a sonic treasure hunt into the lore and legend of Hawaii. www.jimkimowest.com

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
JIM KIMO WEST


mwe3
: You were talking about making a new slack key album after the release of Guitar Stories. Is Moku Maluhia the album you were planning to follow Guitar Stories and the Slackers In Paradise album that you recorded with Ken Emerson? So along those lines, how would you compare Moku Maluhia with Guitar Stories and your earlier albums?

Jim Kimo West: I had been thinking of making a CD that was all slow-to-medium tempo contemporary slack key music that might be useful for relaxation. I feel the "Nahenahe" style of traditional Slack Key to be so peaceful and thought I could maybe lend a contemporary edge to that. Guitar Stories was more about exploring the possibilities of slack key in very broad strokes. Slackers In Paradise was a collaboration with the great Ken Emerson so it has a lot of his energy and influences. It’s a nice mix really. All my other CDs have featured a mix of moods and tempos and this one really is different in that respect.

mwe3: Is Moku Maluhia a kind of slack key tribute to the Hawaiian Islands? Where did the idea of Moko Maluhia come from? You’ve spent so much time in Hawaii so I wanted to ask if you speak the native Hawaiian language?

Jim Kimo West: No, I’m not a fluent speaker of O’lelo Hawai’i by any stretch of the imagination but I do try to understand the language enough to know the lyrics I sing in live shows , some Hawaiian history etc... I find that Hawaii and Polynesia are places that are essentially very peaceful. Hawaii has all these different cultures that have come together as one... they all identify as Hawaiian.

mwe3: “Tidepools” is a great way to start Moku Maluhia. Is the ocean and water very important to the way of life in Hawaii even today? Your music almost sounds like the ocean waves coming in from the sea.

Jim Kimo West: Yes the ocean is so important in Hawaiian culture. It is the breadbasket and also the source of many legends. I spent a lot of time on the Hana Coast where the ocean is usually very rough and powerful. A hike along the spectacular coastline is always better with a cooling dip in a tide pool. If you have a dive mask it’s even better as they are virtual microcosms with so much life in them!

mwe3: As you say in track 2 on Moku Maluhia - “A’ole Pilikia”, which translates to “No Worries”. You say that’s a Hawaiian expression. Do you find it’s as true today as it was say 50 or 60 years ago?

Jim Kimo West: Yes that’s still a common phrase I’m Hawaii- it goes hand-in-hand with the “hang loose”. “Island time” attitude! And we love Hawaii for that!

mwe3: Moku Maluhia is further represented by the title track “Peaceful Island”. What part of Hawaii would you say is the most peaceful and are you still able to spend time in Hawaii?

Jim Kimo West: Luckily I still get to spend time in Hawaii, mostly Maui and Kaua’i . Of course all the islands have suffered from development and exploitation over the years but Molokai is the place to go to really relax. It’s really slow there even by Hawaiian standards!

mwe3: “Aloha Ku’u Hoa” (“Aloha, Dear Friend”) features the G Wahine tuning with the G string lowered to F#. Why is it the only track on Moku Maluhia with that tuning? The track has a kind of sense of finality. Is your friend still with us?

Jim Kimo West: I wrote that song as a tribute to my dear friend Kapo Ku who was my kumu (teacher) ) of Hawaiian language and culture. He was a man of aloha and unfortunately could not find his own peace on this earth. I dedicate this CD to him in the hope that he has found his peaceful island. Funny thing about the tuning… I mistakenly listed it as G Wahine but I actually played the song in Taro Patch (open G) tuning. Kapo would have had a good laugh about that!

mwe3: Can you explain the G Taro Patch tuning you use on “The ‘Iwa Birds” with your guitar capoed to with a capo on the 5th fret right? Those birds are beautiful. Is Hawaii a kind of bird sanctuary in a way? How do the birds even find the Hawaiian Islands?

Jim Kimo West: Yes, the capo shortens the scale and makes all the harmonics higher. I felt that seemed to fit the soaring of the ‘iwa (frigate ) birds. I have always seen large flocks of them soaring over Alau Island in Hana. Hawaii is the most isolated island group in the world, in terms of physical distance. Ocean birds of many kinds nest there and use it as a way station on their long distance migrations. Unfortunately most of the land-based birds are extinct.

mwe3: “My Old Island Home” has a very down home Hawaiian feel to it. Is the Big Island of Hawaii the last hold out against the ravages of commercial development? And are the Hawaiians rethinking statehood? I was in awe of the Hilo to Kona drive! It’s like six hours drive straight across right?

Jim Kimo West:The Big Island is big! And measuring from the ocean floor it’s the biggest pile of dirt (lava) anywhere at about 38,000 feet! The Big Island is still Old Hawaii for the most part. It was the first place that voyaging Polynesians found when they came North from Tahiti and the Marquesas islands.

There is a strong sovereignty movement in Hawaii. It was forcibly taken from the Hawaiians by a cartel of wealthy European businessmen with a little help from the US government. Hawaiians don’t want the “rights” of mainland Native Americans, they want their country back. I’m actually looking forward to having a Hawaiian passport!

mwe3: George Abe’s flute is dazzling in “Bamboo Forest”. Tell us about George and is Maui your favorite Hawaiian Island, because it’s the most mythical and/or mystical? I remember driving the Hana Road on the way to the Lindberg burial site.

Jim Kimo West: George is a dear friend and plays with so much soul. I have hiked through some amazing bamboo forests on Maui, and the sound of those huge bamboo canes rattling in the breeze is some powerful music. Maui has a very special place in my heart as it was where I first visited and where I made my home for many years. The Hana area in particular is so very special to me and I have so many friends and memories there!

mwe3: Track 8, “Hanalei River” is one of the many highlights on Moku Maluhia. What info can you add about that track and do you consider it one of the most moving songs you’ve recorded? Why did you choose the Baritone guitar for that track?

Jim Kimo West: Besides Hana, Hanalei and the North Shore of Kauai is my other favorite place. I feel very at home there. Last trip, I rented a standup paddle board and went up the Hanalei River a ways past the huge taro fields, the dramatic Na Pali Coast looming in the distance, the gentle intermittent rain and the native “nene” geese on the shoreline. It is indeed heaven on earth! My baritone guitar is a source of inspiration… every time I pick it up, something magical happens!

mwe3: “The Glistening Ocean” is just that, superbly calm and glistening as you say like diamonds. How does the G Taro Patch contrast with the G Wahine tuning as you use on “Aloha Ku’u Hoa”?

Jim Kimo West: The main difference in this tune is the use of artificial harmonics which is the “glistening”. With the stereo mic-ing it almost sounds like two different instruments.

mwe3: Tell us about “The Gentle Rain Of Koali”. Does it rain more on Maui than the other islands? There’s also another guitar on the track so you’re overdubbing on that track as well. What is involved in overdubbing guitars and what fret did you put the capo on for the C tuning?

Jim Kimo West: Koali is the area if Maui where I first came. There are hundreds of different names for rain specific to different areas of Hawaii. In the Hana area we have the “ ya Kea O Hana”- the white rain of Hana. It is the finest and most gentle of all rains and has inspired a few of my songs actually. I used a second guitar capoed in the fifth fret in a different tuning to add some sparkle!

mwe3: You can hear the Baritone guitar sound on “The Pathway Of Pi’ilani”, which is another unforgettable track on Moku Maluhia. You must be a kind of scholar of Hawaiian history to mention the time of King Pi’liani. He would have loved this track!

Jim Kimo West: Well I’m not sure what Pi’ilani would have thought… he might have had me beheaded! I do love old Hawaiian history… it is rare because they had no written language. The old chants that have been handed down have carried on some of the history and early works like David Malo’s Hawaiian Antiquities is one of the first books in English to set down in writing Hawaiian history and culture.

mwe3: Why did you choose to revisit “Mele Menehune” on Moko Maluhia and how does it differ from the version on the Guitar Stories album? The track speaks about the mythical little people of Kaua’I, which is so cool. How much credence do you put Hawaiian mythology? But, either way it’s an awesome track.

Jim Kimo West: The story of the “menehune” is remarkable and there is evidence of a race of people in Hawaii pre- Polynesian contact. The legends of the menehune are amazing and not unlike the Irish leprechaun. This song started as a two guitar piece, baritone and regular guitar capoed to the seventh fret which makes them an octave apart. For the Guitar Stories track, I expanded on that so I decided to revisit the original two-guitar version for this CD.

mwe3: Also you speak about Ried Kapo Ku in the Moku Maluhia liner notes. What can you tell us about Ried and also what can you say about the art of Harry Wishard which graces the album cover. Harry’s artwork is truly brilliant. So many great artists in Hawaii right?

Jim Kimo West: I first met Kapo in a Hawaiian language class. I wasn’t a great student but they would have a kanikapila (a jam session) after every class and that’s what I loved! I learned so many traditional Hawaiian songs there. We started playing together and I produced his first record on Hawaii’s Mountain Apple label. We had a lot of good times.

I was looking for a photographer for my new CD and Harry Wishard’s artwork came up in my search. I knew then and there that his beautiful paintings were the exact sentiment I was trying to express in this record. I emailed him asking his permission and gracefully agreed… I was so thrilled!

mwe3: How many guitars are you playing on Moku Maluhia and regarding favorites, are there other guitars that you can mention?

Jim Kimo West: I’m mostly playing my two Taylor 514 CE guitars. My 1970 Martin D 18 is played on “My Old Island Home” and of course my Tacoma baritone is featured a lot. I used a newer Martin F 41 for the second guitar part on “The Gentle Rain of Koali”.

mwe3: Any other up and coming news in the music world for you? Are you also playing any live concerts in 2018?

Jim Kimo West: I’ve just started the new tour with Weird Al and I am doing my own “tour within a tour” called the Parallel Universe Tour with bassist Stephen Jay. All the dates are here.




 

 
   
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