Namaka Cosma, guitarist of Slack Key, perpetuates the “old style” | News, Sports, Jobs

Namaka Cosma, the 21-year-old daughter of legend Hana Pekelo Cosma, will make her debut at the annual Ki Ho’alu festival at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sunday. — WHITE ROBIN photo

Namaka Cosma is a Na Hoku Hanohano Award nominated rising Hawaiian music star, daughter of Hana legend Pekelo Cosma.

A graduate of the Institute of Hawaiian Music program at the University of Hawaii Maui College, she is one of the few women in the state to pursue the art of slack key guitar.

Growing up surrounded by traditional Hawaiian music, she keeps the torch alive, following her father’s mission, as he reported in a 1998 Maui News interview, “to keep the light on so the kids can see we still have the old music around.”

“I love Hawaiian music, but you don’t really hear the old style,” said Namaka Cosma. “It’s so rich. I grew up surrounded by traditional music. I adopted him. Then, when I was a teenager, my mother, my sister and I had to go to San Diego for three years to take care of my grandfather. And I was going through different phases with rock, hip hop and R&B. One day we were visiting Maui, and a Gabby Pahinui song played on the radio, and I just started crying and crying. I had missed it so much. After that, I really got into it. »

As a child, she often performed with her father.

Kevin Brown, a veteran musician and one of Cosma’s mentors, will also perform at the free Sunday festival which celebrates the art of slack key guitar. — Photo by BRYAN BERKOWITZ

“Me and my younger sister would go up. He made eyes at us in the crowd. We were singing and doing a few hula’s,” she remembers.

Helping to perpetuate the Hawaiian slack key guitar, Pekelo Cosma founded the Maui Youth Slack Key project and mentored Maui guitarist Ikaika Brown, the son of veteran musician Kevin Brown, when he was young. Years later, Kevin Brown began mentoring Namaka Cosma.

“After we got back to Maui, I was a senior in high school, and we called Uncle Kevin, and he offered to tutor me,” she explained. “I was still taking baby steps. A year passed and I was finally ready to study with him. It was so amazing. I found memories of my childhood – I remember this little riff or this song. It’s really moving.

Kevin Brown recalled that “It all started in 1996, when Pekelo met Ikaika.”

“Ikaika was only 9 years old and he was a little hypnotized”, he said. “Ikaika learned from me, but he also learned Pekelo’s style. When Pekelo passed away, I told Namaka that if you are interested in studying slack key, I will teach you. Before he even met us, his mother and the two daughters went to San Diego. When she came back, the first thing she did was call me, “Uncle, I’m back, can you help me with the lessons?”

“She has been taking lessons for about a year and a half now. She took it very quickly, and she has a unique voice. I told him to continue because there are only a few left. One is Haunani (Apoliona), the other is Ku’uipo Kumukahi and the other is Owana Salazar. You will continue for women. If you look at the other slack key artists, they’re all passing.

While studying at the Hawaiian Music Institute, Namaka Cosma recorded two songs with Geri Hewahewa, Gilbert Emata’s daughter, which were released as singles. “Ho’oheno A’o Pi’ilani” is nominated for a 2022 Hoku for Hawaiian Single of the Year.

As a 21-year-old slack key guitarist, she is acutely aware of playing an important role in perpetuating the art form.

“Almost every gig I’ve been to, people say, ‘oh my God, wow.’ There aren’t really that many female Hawaiian musicians these days, especially at my age. she says.

At the MACC festival, she will be joined by her boyfriend, guitarist Sean Parks.

“We met in Hana because of Uncle Kevin,” she says. “He also plays the key released.”

Later, she hopes to release her first album.

“I worked on finding melodies for my father’s old compositions,” she says. “He had over 100 songs he never released, all about Hana. I would really like to connect more with my family there and write songs in Hana.

The 31st Annual Slack Key Hawaiian Guitar Festival – Maui Style! is presented for free on Sundays at the A&B Amphitheater at the Maui Arts & Culture Center, beginning at 1 p.m. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. The 2022 festival lineup includes: Ledward Kaapana, George Kuo, Kevin Brown and Ola Hou, Bobby Moderow, Stephen Inglis, Jonah Domingo, Halemanu, Kimberly Hope, Kawika Kahiapo, Kamuela Kahoano, Dwight Kanae, Kailua Moon (Danny and Nani Carvalho), Paul Togioka and Namaka Cosma.

The concert will also be streamed live on the MACC website and on its Facebook and YouTube pages. Festival-goers are encouraged to bring their own beach chairs and low-backed blankets. Shaded seats for kupuna will be provided.

The festival is presented by MACC and sponsored by Maui County, the Office of Economic Development and The Maui News, with additional support from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, of the Ki Ho’alu Foundation, of Ka-Hoku Productions. and KPOA.

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