KAILUA-KONA — Trevor Gordon Hall has traveled the world with his one-of-a-kind instrument, the kalimbatar, but has never had the opportunity to bring his unique invention to Hawaii. And for Hall, performing on the islands is a childhood dream come true.
“I’ve been playing all over and I’ve just been waiting for the opportunity to get down to Hawaii, so I can’t believe it’s here,” Hall said. “I’m so excited.”
This weekend, the musician and his kalimbatar, a hybrid of an acoustic guitar and a kalimba, will make their Big Island debut. The final island stop on his Hawaii tour, Hall will be playing two shows at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar on Friday, followed by shows at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort in Kohala on Saturday and at Kukua Studio in Hilo on Sunday.
While Hall dreams of getting into the Hawaiian spirit by drinking pina coladas on the beach this week, his opportunities to travel provide him with more than just playing time and a vacation. He hopes Hawaii will be able to provide him with inspiration for new music.
“Every time I travel to a place, I love to just go completely open and just get a feel for the culture and all of that just gets buried in my subconscious,” Hall said. “My last record I put out has like a couple scenes from Iceland, and I just got through Spain and Portugal. And everywhere I go, if I am open, I feel like I receive something from that area, some sort of inspiration. And something is born from that. And I’m just kind of excited to see what gets birthed and what seeds are planted.”
Because it is his first time in Hawaii, Hall’s set list for his Big Island shows will include a range of tunes that span all of his albums. He said he wants the music to be accessible to everyone, especially people who don’t play guitar.
The kalimbatar, while unique, is made up of familiar sounds to even the non-musically inclined. Hall said the sound created by his kalimbatar evokes the spirit of traditional African music played with a kalimba, and combines it with the more western sound of the acoustic guitar.
“I saw somebody playing at an art exhibit about 10 years ago and I was just floored by the sound,” Hall said of the kalimba. “It was just one of these really cool, interesting things. I didn’t quite understand how the instrument worked, because this guy was playing with his thumbs and yet it was a very huge mess of sounds. So I actually went and ordered one online.
“In order to get it to ring a little bit louder, I stuck it on the top of my guitar, and the sound resonated throughout the guitar body.”
The kalimbatar is not Hall’s first time crafting for the sake of music. As a child, acoustic guitar was Hall’s instrument of choice, but he played piano at the wishes of his parents. To convince them he was serious about learning how to play guitar, he constructed one on his own in his family’s basement out of fishing wire.
“I didn’t have any musicians in my house growing up but my parents played a lot of different records, and part of that was the acoustic instrumental stuff,” Hall said. “From my very early years, I loved the solitude of just a person with their instrument just seeing what happens, so that kind of inspired me when I was a kid. …I’ve always have just been experimenting with different sounds, and so my most recent incarnation of the kalimbatar I’ll be bringing with me. That’s just, again, expanding on my childhood inspirations of just exploring sounds and seeing what happens.”
Hall’s childhood fascination with music still hasn’t died, even in his decade-long career as a professional.
“When I was a kid, I played my first E-minor chord and I could strum every string and it sounded really big and majestic,” Hall said. “And that feeling I got when I first strummed that first chord, I tried to keep that alive all these years later to just really love the sound of that. I still feel like I’m responding to something I felt when I was a kid about guitar. It’s still a fun mystery to me.”
Info: Trevor Gordon Hall’s concerts on the Big Island are at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona, 7 p.m. Saturday at Westin Hapuna Beach Resort in Kohala and at 7 p.m. Sunday at Kukua Studio in Hilo. A guitar workshop with Hall is also set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. Tickets for all concerts can be purchased at bluesbearhawaii.com.