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Mark’s Boogie

March 10, 2011

Mark Kahi Te Ao HouThe man regarded as New Zealand’s leading jazz guitarist of the 1950s passed away on Saturday 5 March. Mark Kahi  grew up in Rawene in the Hokianga, and Auckland. He spent most of his performing career in Auckland in the late 40s and 50s, and Christchurch, where he lived in recent years. Born on 29 December 1926, he was one of three musical Kahi brothers, alongside Alex and Tommy (also a well-known guitarist and teacher).

In the 1950s Kahi performed at the Maori Community Centre in Freeman’s Bay (also passing his skills on to others), in Lou Mati’s band, and as part of Nancy Harrie’s quartet. He often backed Mavis Rivers and played on many radio sessions and recordings for Tanza. In 1952 he was apparently voted seventh best jazz guitarist in the world by a “leading jazz magazine” (Downbeat is often mentioned).

Kahi “had that relaxed style,” veteran jazz bassist Bobby Ewing told journalist Adam Gifford for Waatea News. “He could improvise tremendously. You would have thought you were listening to Les Paul.” This was indeed the impression left upon a reviewer in the July 1954 Australian Music Maker: “Mark’s fiery guitar is reminiscent of the old Les Paul before the gimmicks appeared.” On the  Tanza disc Z83, ‘Mark’s Boogie’, he can be heard playing along with himself, in an early New Zealand example of over-dubbing. Kahi regarded Barney Kessel as an influence on his playing, and owned one of his guitars (until it was stolen).

The best place to hear Kahi is on the Jazz Concert 1950 recording, which Jim Sutton rescued, and Ode Records released on cassette only in 1994 (Sodet 467). Kahi’s delicate, lyrical playing comes to the fore on ‘Caravan’ and on ‘High High the Moon’. This show took place in the Concert Chamber on 7 August 1950, billed as “Auckland’s first jazz concert”: ie, the audience sat and listened rather than danced. The tape deserves a proper release on CD, as it is one of the few places to hear live-in-concert the talents of artists such as Mavis Rivers, Crombie Murdoch, Colin Martin, Julian Lee – and Mark Kahi.

Meanwhile, more information on Mark Kahi – and the musical milieu of Auckland in the late 1950s – can be found on-line here at the digitised collection of Te Ao Hou magazine.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Reedy permalink
    March 10, 2011 3:17 pm

    Hi there – thanks for the tribute to Mark. I’ve uploaded a very simple video to go with the audio to “Mark’s Boogie”. It was the B-side to Mavis Rivers doing “How High the Moon” and came out on Tanza about 1951, #Z83.

  2. March 10, 2011 3:22 pm

    Thanks, I’ve added the link – CB

  3. Regina Kahi Brown permalink
    March 13, 2011 1:51 pm

    Thank you so much for the tribute to my uncle Mark Kahi, which his daughter posted to us. I know my Dad played with Mavis Rivers, Johnny and them all – he was Alex and played bass, and Tommy was my uncle. Thank you.

  4. Mrs Jillian Helsby permalink
    April 20, 2011 12:59 pm

    It is with sadness that I’ve just learned of the passing of Mark Kahi, yet another of NZ’s fine musicians who helped pave the way for today’s generation in the field of music. My father was/is the late George Campbell, one of NZ’s top bass players in his day. My uncle was/is the late Lew Campbell, pianist and trumpet were his instruments. The Kahi brothers (Mark and Tommy) worked extensively with both my dad and uncle during the 50’s & 60’s, and Tommy Kahi gave me my first two guitar lessons. While reading the article above, names and faces emerge in my mind and bring back fond memories. My brother Phil Campbell and I would like to send our heartfelt condolences to the Kahi family.

  5. mark kahi permalink
    July 1, 2011 10:53 pm

    I am Mark Kahi Jr: Alex was my father. My uncle Mark inspired me in many ways. I have never had a music lesson in my life nor have I bought a record or CD. So how is this possible? When I was 12, I didnt realize I could play guitar, so at my first gig I was paid a bag of lollies. That was with my Uncle Tom, Mark and Alex. Since then I’ve been proud to have been good enough to open clubs and perform with inspiring artists. My uncle playe a chord, a minor 9th, and I loved the chord. The way it was given to me inspired me. I have enjoyed my work so much and am so proud of it. There is such a thing as a gift or inheritance, and I am very grateful to have my uncle share his knowledge in his gentle way. Thank you my Uncle Mark, and also his daughters, for their hearts and the kindness shown to me. Love U all.

    • Ronald Kuiper permalink
      November 28, 2012 11:17 am

      Howdy; was just looking up Tommy Kahi. He taught me ukelele when I was 5..myself and my 2 brothers used to catch a bus to Nth Beach. We all learned the guitar off Tommy and I always had these memories of music and it has only properley come over me how important and poignant this time was. I spent most of my life working on the sea but I still play and sing. Some love it, some don’t but I keep playing because my father, as a Dutch migrant, spent his hard to get money on those guitar lessons. Those showbands had style. Cheers, Ronald Kuiper ( live in Tasmania)

  6. Hamish Balfour permalink
    August 16, 2011 9:02 pm

    I remember seeing Beaver with the Kahi brothers, Rufus Rehu and one or two others at the Gluepot in Ponsonby some time in the late 1980s. It was a fabulous gig, and amongst all those excellent musicians Mark Kahi stood out as being especially talented. A sad loss to New Zealand music.

  7. Jeronimo permalink
    September 3, 2011 11:14 pm

    Hi is it possible to upload the Mavis Rivers songs from this 1950s concert?
    Very interested in that! And it will make my collection of her sides almost complete 🙂


    • September 4, 2011 3:02 pm

      I can’t, but suggest you try Trade Me to track down a copy of the cassette of the concert that was released in 1994, thanks to the groundwork of Jim Sutton. Ode only released it on cassette, unfortunately, but the sound quality is good. The catalogue number is Sodet 467.

  8. Jeronimo permalink
    September 4, 2011 8:39 pm

    Ok – thanks for the suggestion!


  9. Jeronimo permalink
    September 17, 2011 7:40 am

    @Chris Bourke – just “discovered” something amazing…
    A certain Kevin Bowen/Kevin J. Bowen has compiled the early TANZA recordings and other rarities by Rivers. He released them on two cd’s of which one is titled ‘The New Zealand Years’. Included are rare broadcasts, and even appearances with Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.
    Found this info in an internet article dated from 2007.
    On some other site he mentions to have released two dvd’s of Mavis concerts…Question is do you know about these releases? And do you know how to get in touch with Mr. Bowen…Searched the whole net without succes…Unfortunately…

    Also an New Zealandic friend of mine told me that the complete output of TANZA records has been issued on a 14 cd collection…It’s out of print, and untraceable…Also it’s said that this was reissued by a guy from Holland…


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