Guitar innovator brings ‘kalimbatar’ to Big Isle

  • courtesy photo Trevor Gordon Hall

Trevor Gordon Hall was named one of the top 30 acoustic guitarists under 30 in the world by Acoustic Guitar Magazine a few years back.

The prestigious guitar magazine described the Philadelphia native, who’s now 33, as “young, talented, daring — helping to transform the way the instrument is being played around the world.”


Hall has also opened the eyes and ears of other guitar greats.

Tommy Emmanuel, the Australian picker who recently wowed a Honokaa People’s Theatre audience, described Hall as “very skilled” and added, “His compositions are beautiful, atmospheric, open and heartfelt.” John Mayer said it’s “so refreshing to hear a player take a whole new approach to the instrument.” And Graham Nash, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer opined, “In the genre of intriguing guitar players, Trevor really stands out.”

Hall told the Tribune-Herald the accolades are “surreal.”

“I don’t do this for the praise,” he said. “My lifelong experience of music has been very personal. I’m an introvert, and I’ve spent so many years alone with my instrument. And the fact that so many people I’ve looked up to for years are sort of affirming all those years of me and my instrument, I’m extremely grateful. And when someone I’ve idolized gives me a nod of respect, I don’t take that lightly.”

Hall will play four shows on the Big Island this weekend, starting Friday with 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. shows at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona, where dinner reservations are recommended. He’ll also play shows Saturday night at the Kamani Room in the Hapuna Prince Hotel on the Kohala Coast and Sunday at Kukuau Studio in Hilo. Both shows are at 7 p.m.

“It’s a bit of a cliché, but my goal is to be as adventurous and accessible as possible,” Hall said.

One of Hall’s innovations is a hybrid instrument he invented — the kalimbatar, an acoustic guitar with an attached kalimba which shares the guitar’s sound box. Hall described it as “quite a harebrained idea of mine.”

“The funny thing was after blending two acoustic instruments, it takes an insane amount of electronics … and pedals to get back to a quote-unquote live natural acoustic sound,” Hall said. “But, at least initially, I wanted to be sort of purist about it and blend two acoustic instruments and see what the vibrating of the metal tines and the strings coming through the same box, what that sound could be.

“I originally got the idea off the ground with Dick Boak of Martin Guitars. He sent me to a couple other luthiers … including a luthier from Canada. I drove up there and we spent a couple of weekends building kalimbas, trying different metal, trying different bridge material, trying different wood until we kinda zeroed in on the right kind of spring steel. … My idea was to easily play two octaves of the piano, which means I have more options than those kalimbas that come in a single key. The most recent incarnation is, up to this point, the best version I could’ve imagined, although I’m tweaking some designs for a future one that I’ll probably dive into with the same builder in the next couple of years.”

The kalimbatar, in Hall’s hands, produces sounds that are beautiful, haunting and otherworldly.

Hall said he’s “lumped under the genre of fingerstyle” — which he noted is the actual method of playing and encompasses a number of musical styles and influences, including ki ho‘alu, Hawaiian slack-key guitar, which he’s looking forward to hearing.

“One thing I’m excited about is soaking up some of the culture and the music there, because everything that I’ve heard has been like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is incredible!’” he said. “So that’s kind of an undiscovered well I haven’t dived into yet, but I’m hoping this trip there — and this will be my first — will push me in, headfirst.”

Tickets — all prices are for advance sale — are $35 for the Kona shows, $35 general admission and $48 gold circle for the Hapuna show and $30 for the Hilo show.

Outlets include: Gertrude’s Jazz Bar and Kona Music Exchange in Kailua-Kona; Kiernan Music in Kainaliu; Waimea General Store in Parker Square; Waipio Cook House and Top Stitch in Honokaa; Kukuau Studio, Hilo Ukuleles &Guitars and Hilo Music Exchange in Hilo; Kea‘au Natural Foods; by calling 896-4845; and at


Hall will also conduct a guitar workshop at the Hapuna Prince Hotel, 1:30-3 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $75, and must be booked in advance at

Email John Burnett at

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