on the heels of his 2016 solo album Guitar Stories as well
as Slackers In Paradisehis 2016 CD with guitarist Ken
EmersonJim Kimo West makes fans happy again
with his 2018 solo album Moku Maluhia Peaceful Island.
Released on Kimos 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, theres 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. Kimos track-by-track liner
notes include recording info and insights into each songas well
as the various guitar tunings used on each track. Dedicated to Kimos
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 Kimos meditative slack key musical experience.
Pure slack key guitar magic by one of the worlds 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
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. Its 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? Youve spent so much time in Hawaii so I wanted to ask
if you speak the native Hawaiian language?
Jim Kimo West: No, Im not a fluent speaker of Olelo
Hawaii 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 its
even better as they are virtual microcosms with so much life in them!
mwe3: As you say in track 2 on Moku Maluhia - Aole
Pilikia, which translates to No Worries. You say
thats a Hawaiian expression. Do you find its as true today
as it was say 50 or 60 years ago?
Jim Kimo West: Yes thats still a common phrase Im
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?
Kimo West: Luckily I still get to spend time in Hawaii,
mostly Maui and Kauai . Of course all the islands have suffered
from development and exploitation over the years but Molokai is the
place to go to really relax. Its really slow there even by Hawaiian
mwe3: Aloha Kuu 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
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! Its like
six hours drive straight across right?
Jim Kimo West:The Big Island is big! And measuring from the
ocean floor its 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.
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 dont want the
rights of mainland Native Americans, they want their country
back. Im actually looking forward to having a Hawaiian passport!
mwe3: George Abes flute is dazzling in Bamboo Forest.
Tell us about George and is Maui your favorite Hawaiian Island, because
its 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 youve
recorded? Why did you choose the Baritone guitar for that track?
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
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
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? Theres also another
guitar on the track so youre 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 in 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 Piilani, which is another unforgettable track on Moku
Maluhia. You must be a kind of scholar of Hawaiian history to
mention the time of King Piliani. He would have loved this track!
Jim Kimo West: Well Im not sure what Piilani would
he might have had me beheaded! I do love old Hawaiian
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 Malos 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 KauaI, which is so cool. How much credence
do you put Hawaiian mythology? But, either way its an awesome
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. Harrys
artwork is truly brilliant. So many great artists in Hawaii right?
Jim Kimo West: I first met Kapo in a Hawaiian language class.
I wasnt a great student but they would have a kanikapila (a
jam session) after every class and thats what I loved! I learned
so many traditional Hawaiian songs there. We started playing together
and I produced his first record on Hawaiis Mountain Apple label.
We had a lot of good times.
looking for a photographer for my new CD and Harry Wishards
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: Im 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
Any other up and coming news in the music world for you? Are you also
playing any live concerts in 2018?
Jim Kimo West: Ive 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