SLACK-KEY SERIES AT THE RITZ-CARLTON -by Robert Smith as printed in the Maui County Happenings section of Hawaii Magazine January/February 2004

If you’re a fan of Hawaiian slack key guitar, plan to attend one of the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Concert Series held every Tuesday in the amphitheater at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. The event is hosted by George Kahumoku Jr., a master slack-key guitarist. Another slack-key master will join Kahumoku for each performance.

Master guitarists like Cyril Pahinui (son of the legendary Gabby Pahinui), Ledward Kaapana, Brother Noland and George Kuo are slated to join Kahumoku for slack-key music and to talk story in a carefree format reminiscent of the traditional Hawaiian backyard music and story sessions held with friends and relatives. Occasionally, the concert will showcase ukulele, steel guitar and falsetto musical artists.

“We go on tour and perform for audiences of thousands on the mainland,” Kahumoku says, “but in Hawaii, it’s difficult to find our music. Our new venue at The Ritz-Carlton is ka homea ki hoalu (home of slack-key music), a place where residents and visitors can find us.”

Hawaiian slack-key music is a unique Hawaiian method of guitar tuning and playing. Slack-key guitar strings are loosened or slacked, resulting in a lingering, resonant sound behind the melody. Bass notes are played with the thumb, while the other fingers pluck the melody. The first and last strings are tuned to D instead of E. The unique sound also derives from techniques such as “hammering-on” and “pulling-off” which mimic yodeling and falsetto, common in Hawaiian singing.

It’s “more than just music concerts,” promoter Wayne Wong says. “We try to present a look at Hawaiian family culture, humor and storytelling.”

Wong’s partner, Paul Konwiser, added, “I think it is a great opportunity for people to understand these
musicians and what’s behind their work and their passion.”

Showtimes are every Wednesday at 6 and 8:30 p.m. (7:30pm only during the Fall season from Sept 21-Dec 14). Tickets are priced at $40. Beverages will be available at a cash bar before each performance and during intermission.

Copyright © 2004 — Robert Smith

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