Ozzie Kotani

Biography (from Dancing Cat Records)

Ozzie Kotani is a respected teacher, arranger, composer and Hawaiian slack key guitar, for over 20 years, representing it on the Mainland, in Spain and Japan, as well as all around the Hawaiian islands. Like the late slack key master Sonny Chillingworth, with whom he studied, he freely interjects his own personality into his playing, preserving and expanding the tradition.

Born in 1956, Ozzie grew up in the Honolulu neighborhood of Pauoa. He learned a bit of `ukulele in the fourth grade as part of the statewide music and culture curriculum. His interest in ki ho`alu blossomed during high school, when he heard one of the great instrumentals from slack key guitarist Keola Beamer's album, THE REAL OLD STYLE (Music of Polynesia, MOP-22000), on the radio. "I was captivated by his sound," Ozzie recalls. "I somehow managed to learn some elementary slack key by listening to a tape of Keola over and over. Not having the faintest idea how to tune, I experimented. Some of the harmonics gave me a clue to the melody strings." Ozzie also developed a distinctive four-finger picking method. "Many people insist I'm a classically trained guitarist when they watch or hear me play. This could not be further from the truth!"

In 1975 Ozzie enrolled in Peter Medeiros' slack key class at the University of Hawai`i Continuing Education Program (where he later returned as a teacher, and continues to do so currently). In 1976 he began studying privately with legendary Sonny Chillingworth. The 1970s were an exciting time in Hawai`i as many young people of all backgrounds began to look to na kupuna (the elders) for inspiration. Many of the legends of Hawaiian music and dance performed regularly and made albums, some for the first time.

With the guidance of his teachers, the influence of recordings and long hours of practice, Ozzie established a style of his own. His completely unique guitar techniques are instantly recognizable to aficionados of ki ho`alu. He recorded his landmark first album, CLASSICAL SLACK (Pacific Sound Design PSD-1001) in 1988. It is an all-instrumental, mainly solo collection of his own compositions and his great interpretations of Hawaiian standards, such as Ku`u Pua I Paoakalani. He is currently recording a series of solo instrumental guitar albums for Dancing Cat Records' Hawaiian slack key guitar masters series, documenting his entire repertoire as well as other experimental pieces.


Ki Ho`alu Instruction

Ozzie currently teaches Ki Ho`alu at the University of Hawaii, and in private lessons. He also recently released his first Ki Ho`alu instruction book:

Ki Ho`alu/An Instructional Method for Slack Key/Volume One
by Ozzie Kotani with Dennis Ladd

Volume One includes tablature and an accompanying casette tape.

The book retails for $19.95 plus tax and can be ordered through Native Books.

Call: 1-800-887-7751.

Or email Ozzie