Mark Nelson has been on the forefront of the contemporary acoustic music scene since the early 1970's. His mastery of the Applachian dulcimer and its European cousin, the Swedish hummel, has redefined what these deceptively simple instruments are capable of. Growing up surrounded by the music of the Pacific and Caribbean, he has developed a uniquely appealing Island-style guitar technique that blends elements of Hawaiian slack key guitar, finger-style, and Celtic influences.
He and noted master musician Keola Beamer co-authored the first ever comprehensive tutorial for ki ho`alu, the wonderful Hawaiin guitar style: "Learn to Play Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar." (Mel Bay Publications).
Mark was one of a handful of free-spirited musicians who created a whole new vocabulary for the Appalachian dulcimer. He created a driving flatpicking style, playing the dulcimer with a force and passion seldom heard before. This led to a first place win at the National Mountain Dulcimer Championships in Winfield, Kansas in 1979, appearances at festivals, colleges and coffeehouses across North America and Europe, and a recording career spanning over 20 years.
Mark has performed just about anywhere - from Barrow to Boston; Sligo to San Diego. He's shared the stage with performers as diverse as Grover Washington, Jr.: Norton Buffalo; Doc Watson, and the Skagway Girls Jr. Varsity basketball team. He once worked as a banjo playing gorilla in Dublin, but that's another story...
He has recorded numerous albums, including the award winning "After the Morning" with legendary Irish fiddler Kevin Burke (The Bothy Band, Patrick Street) and "Southern Light", a genre-defining project featuring steel pan virtuoso Andy Narel, new acoustic pioneer Dave Balakrisnan and Celtic bopsters Danny Carnahan and Robin Petrie.
Mark's release, "The Water is Wide," features 12 heartfelt instrumentals played on slack key guitar and dulcimer. The music comes from islands real and imaginary - places as far away as the South Pacific, the Irish Sea and Old California. "When I play slack key, I want to honor all of the great musicians who came before. And I want to put a little of my own experiences into the mix. As a friend once said to me: 'I don't care what notes you play, I just want to feel your aloha.'" The nahenahe strains of ki ho`alu meets the sweet sound of the dulcimer - creating music that is at once refreshingly new and timeless.
Several years ago, Mark was given the name "Kailana" (Floating Gently on the Sea) by revered Hawaiian kupuna Aunty Nona Beamer. Be sure to check out his more recent CDs recorded under the name Mark Kailana Nelson here on CDBaby.
When not touring Mark maintains a small recording studio and writes about music and music technology for several national magazines. He and his wife live in Southern Oregon's rural Applegate Valley.