Venus And The Sky Turns To Clay
(Makana Music)


Simply put, there is nothing more beautiful or serene—at least in a musical, guitar-centric way—then the art of Ki ho’alu, also known as Hawaiian slack key guitar. The art of instrumental slack key guitar has, through the ages, grown in stature and one modern master keeping the flame burning bright is Hawaii’s native son Makana. Returning in 2009 Makana goes back to his instrumental slack key guitar roots with his CD Venus And The Sky Turns To Clay, released on his own Makana music. A solo recording with no overdubbing, the 15 cut instrumental CD features nine newly composed tracks paired with six of his earlier classic instrumentals. Far from being just a routine excercise of old time slack key tracks, Makana’s guitar sound simply explodes with a daring mix of virtuosity and heightened musical imagination. Earthy, ancient and modern at the same time, Venus And The Sky Turns To Clay is truly a slack key record for the 21st century. Hawaiian and slack key instrumental music will feel the same way that Hawaii’s slack key guitar great Sonny Chillingworth felt when he first encountered Makana when he declared, ‘Young man, I’ve been looking for you.’ Guitar fans will want to hear Venus And The Sky Turns To Clay though pop and rock fans may also want to give a listen to some of Makana’s other recordings, including the 2008 CD release of his pop based, but no less excellent, Different Game.

Guitars Center Stage
Guitarists making waves in the music world,
their new recordings and gear!

Musical Background

I began performing at the age of 7 in the Honolulu Boy Choir, then picked up 'ukulele at 9. My father wanted me to learn more Hawaiian music, he was from Minnesota and is a huge fan. We discovered slack key guitar the next year and by 11 I was learning from a young teacher named Bobby Moderow. At 13 I had the honor of meeting the living legend Sonny Chillingworth, who offered to teach me under a grant from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. A year later Sonny passed away. Now I'm 31, have been playing guitar for 20 years, and out of the solid foundation that my teachers gave me I have developed my own approach to the guitar, which is rooted in the technical practice of slack key but more universal in its musicality.

New CD

My new album is called Venus, and the Sky Turns to Clay: The Instrumental World of Makana, and is an all original collection of solo slack key guitar pieces. The entire recording was done without the use of overdubs; I wanted to explore the potential of what I could do with just my fingers and the guitar. It was recorded in Manoa Valley on O'ahu with my longtime engineer friend Pierre Grill. Slack key guitar or Ki Ho'alu is an art form indigenous to Hawai'i, characterized by slacking the strings to a chord and then simultaneously playing an alternating bass pattern, faux rhythm and lead melody all at once. One of the fun techniques we applied was setting up another acoustic so that its soundhole faced the soundhole of the guitar I was playing, so that the second guitar became a resonant chamber, and then we recorded its resonance. I tuned both guitars to sympathetic chords but different tunings. It was like having a room tuned to the song! The songs on the album truly reflect my evolution of style, from traditional Hawaiian slack key to bluegrass, blues, raga, flamenco, celtic, progressive and classical. It is really of language, the guitar, and here the vocabulary is expanded.

Favorite Guitars

I used 8 different guitars on the album: a Parlor all maple Larrivee acoustic; 2 different Takamine EN-10C acoustics (my main axe); a Laurence Juber signature Martin acoustic; an old beat-up D-18 Martin acoustic; an American re-issue Fender telecaster; a Taylor 12-string acoustic; and a Martin 1969 nylon string classical guitar. Most of the songs were done without and pedals and just a light reverb (we have a giant rusty old plate hanging above the studio in Pierre's garage!), and on one song I used a DD-5 BOSS digital delay. On the electric piece ("A Touch of Deviance") I played through an old Fender twin reverb amp with one of my old BOSS multi-effects processors, mainly using wah and delay with a tapping, slapping and muffling technique. All songs were done in open slack key tunings. For mics, we used either double ribbons or a pair of Neumanns, or sometimes a blend of all.

Musical Influences

Because of my inclusive mind and philosophy that "everything is a gift", my influences are broad and far reaching, only excluding purely-commercially driven work. Major guitar influences include the Hawaiian slack key masters Gabby Pahinui, Sonny Chillingworth (my teacher), Ledward Ka'apana, Peter Moon; rock influences Jimmy Page, David Gilmore & Hendrix; some of my favorite musicians include Andrea Vollenweider, Floyd, Zeppelin, the Police, Joy Division, the Buckleys, Peter Gabriel & old Genesis; and then there are my literary ones like Rumi, Krishnamurti, and Ayn Rand. Richard Thompson's live performance was a big moment for me inspirationally; I eventually opened for him. My favorite group and record of all time is The Sunday Manoa "Guava Jam"- true contemporary Hawaiian folk music from the 70's.

Upcoming Plans

We have CD release events in many cities so check out our website for info.

Web Site


Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by
Send to
: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249
CD Reviews Feature Reviews & Features Archive Photo Archive Contact MWE3 Home


Copyright 2000-2009, Inc. All Rights Reserved