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Master slack key guitarist George Kahumoku Jr. has been
performing slack key guitar and “talking story” with his audiences
for more than four decades.
He has played twice at Carnegie Hall in New York, and now plays at
a place he dubs “the Carnegie Hall of Hawaii.” Every Tuesday for
the past two years he has hosted the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key
Guitar Concert Series, held at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on
While Kahumoku only performs on the 12-string guitar, he says the
ukulele can be a good place to start for those interested in
playing Hawaiian music.
To purchase instruments in Hawaii, Kahumoku points to Mele Ukulele
on Maui as offering the “best starting prices” for ukuleles. “They
are the cheapest. Its a brand name for ukuleles, but they have the
retail store,” he says.
A beginner ukulele starts at $40. The store mostly sells good
quality ukuleles in the $150 to $450 range, while top-end ukuleles,
with all the electronics, can reach $1,200.
One of Kahumoku’s favorite music stores on Maui is Lahaina Music.
Aside from its ukuleles, the store specializes in guitars,
particularly electric guitars. The company custom-makes them.
Another Kahumoku favorite is Bounty Music. The store opened on Maui
some 25 years ago and has since expanded to Kauai. The Kauai store
features a broad inventory of ukuleles, from introductory ukes
starting at $29.99, to top of the line. In addition to keyboards,
drums and guitars, customers can purchase hula-dancing instruments,
including hula sticks, stone castanets, feather gourd rattles and
On the Big Island, where Kahumoku grew up, he recommends both Mele
Kai Music and the Music Exchange, taking the lead from his Grammy
Award-winning son Keoki, who resides there now.
“He likes those stores,” Kahumoku says.
Mele Kai Music in Kailua-Kona has an excellent inventory of
guitars, bass guitars and ukuleles. They are also a great source
for local Hawaiian music recordings and a major ticket outlet for
local music shows.
The two Music Exchange shops, in Hilo and Kamuela, offer a complete
inventory of ukuleles at competitive prices.
The Hilo shop has long been on the scene and features the prized
brands of Martin, Gibbons and Fender.
On Oahu, Kahumoku points to Kamaka Ukulele.
“I played Kamakas all my life,” he says.
The small manufacturer sells made-to-order ukuleles. The standard
model starts at $500, with a 10 percent factory-order discount
available. The pineapple model, also $500, comes in the shape of an
oval pineapple rather than in the standard figure-8 shape.