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Kī Hōʻalu Slack Key

Kī Hōʻalu; Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar

Uniquely Hawaiian Style

Playing Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar

Kī hōʻalu, Hawaiian slack key is a fingerstyle genre of playing the guitar by picking or plucking instead of strumming. It originated in Hawai’i after Mexican cowboys who were invited to teach Hawaiians about ranching introduced Spanish guitars to the Hawaiian people in the late 1800s.

Hawaiians didn’t embrace standard tuning of the traditional Spanish guitars. Instead, they re-tuned and developed their own unique style of tuning and playing.

King David Kalākaua promoted the newly developed unique style of music. Slack key held great value and importance with the Hawaiian cultural resurgence during the 1880s and 1890s.

Gabby Pahinui was the first to cut a series of records, recording the slack key sounds in 1946 and 1947. The tradition surged in popularity during the 1970s as Hawaiian musicians such as Gabby, Atta Isaacs, Sonny Chillingworth, and Raymond Kāne mastered the slack key art. Towards the end of the decade a newer, modern style of playing slack key was embraced by Peter Moon, Keola and Kapono Beamer.

Kī Hōʻalu, so nahenahe!

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