Hawaiian slack key guitar is a captivating folk art that has been gaining traction in recent years. Players like Leonard Kwan, Leland “Atta” Isaacs, Fred Punahoa, Nedward and Leddy Ka'apana, Aunt Alice Namakelua, Peter Moon and, of course, Raymond, Sonny and Gabby, have all contributed to the legacy of Kī Hō'alu, bringing this relatively unknown folk art into the spotlight. The sound of steel strings became popular among Hawaiians and spread to all of the Hawaiian Islands by the late 1880s. When playing loose key Hawaiian guitar, you can hear a major chord, a major sixth, a major seventh, or a mix of two related chords.
This practice has evolved over time as the preservation of older Hawaiian traditions has become increasingly respected, and now loose-key guitarists are more willing to share their knowledge outside the family circle with those who are genuinely interested in learning. Gabby Pahinui was instrumental in preventing the thin-key guitar from disappearing in the islands. His prolific guitar techniques made the instrument more widely recognized as a solo instrument. He pushed the boundaries of loose-key guitar playing, transforming it into a fully developed solo guitar style that could creatively interpret a wide variety of traditional and popular Hawaiian standards, original guitar parts, and even pieces from other countries.
In 2000, Jens Bludau published the Slack Key Guitar Festival in Hannover. The series was named Masters of Hawaiian Music and featured many well-known Slack Key guitar players such as Daniel Ho and George Kahumoku Jr. In addition to Gabby, two other influential Slack Key artists have been Leonard Kwan and Sonny Chillingworth. You may be able to find loose-key guitar as background entertainment in restaurants or hotels. When staying at Honokeana Cove, you'll be just 800 meters away from Maui's best slack key guitar concerts.
These shows are presented every Wednesday (and often Thursday) at night at the Napili Kai resort. With these factors and the increasing techniques and influences of today's musicians who expand the range of guitars with loose keys, kī hōʻalu has a bright future.