Mark Kailana Nelson’s music transports you to a tranquil world where tropical winds carry the echoes of soft music and far-off lands. Explore music from islands real and imaginary, lovingly played on instruments from widely different parts of the world.
Bringing together two of the world’s most beautiful instrumental styles-the Hawaiian slack key guitar and Mark’s ground-breaking Celtic dulcimer-Mark Nelson creates an enchanting new sound as soothing as an island breeze. During a career that started well before he could drive, Mark has picked up music from places as far afield as the South Pacific, the Irish Sea and Alta California. A gifted multi-instrumentalist, he is equally at home in a wide variety of traditional music settings and a number of interesting folk and vintage musical instruments.
In the early 1970’s Mark was one of a handful of free-spirited musicians who created a whole new vocabulary for the Appalachian dulcimer and guitar. He created a driving flatpicking dulcimer style, playing the instrument with a force and passion seldom heard before. A first place win at the National Mountain Dulcimer Championships in Winfield, Kansas in 1979 led to appearances at festivals, colleges and coffeehouses across North America and Europe, and a recording career spanning over 25 years and counting. Ki Ho `alu, or slack key guitar, is a uniquely Hawaiian music. Legend has it that Spanish cowboys hired to teach cattle handling in the 1830’s brought the first guitars the Polynesians had seen. Until very recently, slack key was almost unknown outside of the Islands–Mark was one of the first non-Hawaiian musicians to master and share the style.
He was given the name Kailana by Aunty Nona Beamer, who blessed his playing and encouraged him to teach. His playing honors those that came before, and his teaching passes it on to the next generation. The ukulele has well known Hawaiian roots as well. Mark took up the instrument in Hawaii and plays just about every kind of music imaginable on it. From early rags and jug band music to Hawaiian slack key, classical and even surf music, Mark makes it all sound easy. Mark’s recordings have won accolades and airplay around the world. His best-selling books, videos and online lessons have inspired thousands to further their dream of making music on their own. In addition, he is an in-demand workshop leader at festivals and music camps across the country.
Mark is an engaging performer, artfully weaving stories and humor with heartfelt music to transport the audience. He has performed just about everywhere-from Barrow to Boston; Sligo to San Diego. Aloha the way he’s shared the stage with performers as diverse as Grover Washington, Jr.; Keola Beamer; Norton Buffalo; Phoebe Snow, Doc Watson, George Winston and many others. When not touring Mark maintains a small recording studio and writes about music and music technology for several national magazines. He and his wife, Annie Dempsey, a designer of hand knitting patterns, live in Southern Oregon’s rural Applegate Valley along with an assortment of pets, semi-tame birds and the ever present squirrel hoard. He once worked as a banjo playing gorilla in Dublin, but that’s another story…