Oahu visitors who love music, especially those staying in Waikiki, are in for a special treat on Saturday, August 10. The Waikiki Aquarium is hosting the 37th Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival.
For a modest $5 donation to the aquarium, guests can enjoy the outdoor performances of more than a dozen of Hawaii’s most accomplished slack key players on Oahu’s Gold Coast.
Slack key guitar is one of Hawaii’s unique contributions to world music. Hawaiian steel guitar and the ukulele became popular in the mainstream during the early part of the 20th century. Slack key did not find the same popularity. For the most part, slack key kept to family gatherings and such. Its unique sound comes from the loosening, or slackening, of strings to produce full open chords. There are dozens of such tunings, with names like “Taro Patch” and “Wahine C”.
More than a quirky guitar technique, Hawaiian slack key is a discipline. It takes years of study and practice to master the myriad tunings, finger-picking styles, melodies and harmonies that makes slack key music what it is. The slack key discipline is woven through with ancient, traditional, and modern elements. Its significance can be seen in the inclusion of Best Hawaiian Slack Key category at the annual Grammy Awards.
Gabby “Pops” Pahinui is universally regarded and revered as the soul of slack key guitar. His music was first recorded in the mid-20th century. Slack key became prominent in Hawaii and around the world as the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance of the late 1960s through the 1970s blossomed. “Pops” will no doubt be honored by many if not all of the musicians scheduled to perform at the 37th Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Music Festival.
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The performers at the festival are established virtuosos of the slack key guitar. Many are Grammy Award winners or nominees. Makana, Brother Noland, Tavana, and Stephen Inglis have all played to adoring crowds from Tokyo to Dublin, from New York to Nashville and far beyond. These players are committed to a love and respect for the distinctly Hawaiian artform and have cultivated an international fanbase.
As with all forms of art, new generations find ways to interpret and expand on tradition. The performers at the 37th Annual Waikiki Slack Key Guitar Music Festival all offer their own musical voice and version of a shared heritage.
For visitors, the festival is just a short walk from the heart of Waikiki’s bustling resorts, dining and shopping mecca. Without towering hotels overhead and throngs of pedestrians clogging intersections, the Waikiki Aquarium is an ideal venue for an outdoor music festival.
There are many ways to enjoy a sunny Waikiki afternoon. The Waikiki Slack Key Guitar Music Festival is at the top of the list. Enjoy the music as waves lap at the shore steps away, and families gather and laugh together around barbeques at the adjacent Kaimana Beach Park. Hawaii Aloha Travel can get you there.