Big month for slack-key guitar lovers

I love Hawaiian slack key guitar because it's such a beautiful melding of musical traditions. Songs about a favorite horse who falls into a lava tube, or much more universal experiences of wistfulness, sound amazing in this style. Here's a slow sample from legend Led Kaapana:

August is one of the best months for aficionados of the form, with the Aloha Festival in San Francisco and the annual Hawaii Slack Key Guitar Festival in Honolulu. I posted a couple of examples from this month's events below.

From the Honolulu Festival, here's a few samples of the range:

Fran Guidry was a highlight at the San Francisco event. Here's him performing a piece he did there:

One of the best intros to the form is the Dancing Cat album Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters, Vol. 1. Many of the greatest slack-key artists are featured. Check it out!


  1. Saw him few months ago in a small venue. Just a stupid guitarist and an angelic voice. Ned being there would’ve burnt the place down.

  2. I never knew until reading some things just now that George Winston is a huge slack-key aficionado and the Dancing Cat is his record label. It makes sense, the music is open and soothing much like Winston’s piano work.

  3. that (last guy in particular) sounds a lot like John Fahey (who was mostly influenced by delta blues, ragtime, and Indian ragas), weird to hear two different sources arriving at the same point.

  4. Ray Kane’s Punahele (featured on the album you link to, and yes it’s a great introduction to the style) is an all-time favorite. It manages to be bouncy and wistful at the same time.

    For those dipping toes in, be sure to check out the older styles too. Dancing Cat has a good guide to the history and styles here:

  5. From Ry Cooder’s “The Gabby Pahinui
    Hawaiian Band Vol 1” some years ago: I always pictured this version of ‘Moonlight Lady’ as perfect for the closing credits of a buddy movie. Imagine the credits crawling up the screen as you listen:

    I have to find Vol 2…

    Also see here:
    Cyril Pahinui playing Hi’ilawe

  6. As a fan of Surf Guitar and The Ventures, I can hear some influence of this Slack-Guitar in their sound for example listen to their version of
    Slaughter on 10th Avenue

  7. The music is nice, but does anyone else notice that Led Kaapana needed to tune his guitar in that first lullaby?

  8. 21 years ago, Led played at my wedding in Honolulu… a sweet start to a marriage that has lasted all these years!

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