What is slack key guitar (ki ho’alu)? By Louise Rockett, Lahaina News

“To me, slack key is a ‘one man band’ – bass strings, guitar strings, loose strings and heart strings – all combined to produce melodies of Hawaiian Heart and Soul,” Ritz-Carlton Hawaiian Cultural Advisor Clifford J. Nae’ole described.

“The technical definition,” musicologist Bob Brozman explained, “is Hawaiian songs played in normal guitar position, with special open tunings. Another way to refer to it is – the blues of Hawaii … a fragile culture asserting its independent beauty.”

It’s Cyril Pahinui’s Blue Hawaiian Moonlight, the Ledward Kaapana signature giggle, kanikapila and the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar concert series, hosted by George Kahumoku, Jr., at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

The ki ho’alu concerts are held on Tuesdays, with two shows nightly at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Weekly Kahumoku shares the stage with different masters, like Cyril Pahinui, Ledward Kaapana, Dennis Kamakahi and Ozzie Kotani.

On October 12, 2004 series co-producers, Paul Konwiser, Sandy Wales and Wayne Wong celebrate the first anniversary performance.

“One of our key objectives in this series was to provide a place where these talented artists could play in a concert-like setting here in Hawaii,” noted Konwiser.

“The founders (Paul, Sandy and George) are doing this from their heart because of their passion for the music,” Nae’ole noted.

Konwiser admits he is a “slackhead” weekly during his tongue-in-cheek warning to the audience: “There’s a band called the Grateful Dead, with a bunch of fans known as deadheads. You should know that in attending this concert, you are well on your way to becoming a slackhead.”

“I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet. I love Hawaii, and I love this music,” Konwiser added in a later interview.

“It creates sweet, healing sounds, and, when Hawaiian language lyrics are included, it truly is like no other music I have heard,” Konwiser commentd.

Wong’s love of the art is equally heartfelt. “Hawaiian slack key is a unique cultural legacy. Each slack key master draws from the traditions of the area where they grew up, intertwines music of their ‘ohana (family) and finally adds their own individual way of playing …What results is different each performance and represents one of the great acoustic guitar traditions in the world. George (Kahumoku) uses a phrase in his workshop: ‘Ka pu’uwai ame ka’uhane me ke na manamana lima’ (The heart and the soul through the fingers).”

Konwiser attributes the success of the past year to Kahumoku: “He is the glue that holds it all together. His talent, generosity, huge heart and love of these islands and their music make it happen. We are along for the ride,” he said.

Hawaiian composer Aunty Edna Pualani Farden Bekeart agrees: “George has brought slack key out of the country and into the modern scene.”

The anniversary show at the Ritz next Tuesday night (Oct 12, 2004) features the talented Ledward Kaapana.

“This weekly event,” Nae’ole remarked, “is about sharing, about ‘remembering when’, about paying tribute and most of all…smiling and laughing while sharing Hawaiian heart and soul …The only props absent from the stage would be a couple of chickens, a hibachi and a case of beer.”

“Sometimes I have more fun than the audience,” Kaapana confided.

Copyright © 2004 Lahaina News and Louise Rockett. All rights reserved. Going to Maui? Experience our live show where these Grammy winning compilations were recorded…
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