Bishop Museum Features Ki ho’alu (Slack Key Guitar) with Cyril Pahinui

October 14, 2009 · Print This Article

Bishop Museum is pleased to announce that Ki ho’alu Master, Cyril Pahinui will be the featured instructor of an on-going class in slack key guitar. Public educational programs incorporating the expertise of one of Hawai’i’s preeminent cultural practitioners, and artists is in keeping with the Bishop Museum’s mission of sharing and preserving the cultural history of Hawai’i.

“I am honored to share what I was given by my father, Gabby and the other masters of my time, says Cyril. That is our way to pass on and preserve from one generation to the next. I felt so honored when I came to see the opening of the Hawaiian Hall and saw my family’s Brown Album in the display. I feel so grateful to be given this opportunity to teach here among the treasures of our Hawaiian culture.”

Cyril Pahinui, son of musical legend, Gabby Pahinui, is, in his own right, one of Hawai’i’s most gifted guitarists and singers. Cyril has twice played at Carnegie Hall, has contributed to three Grammy Award-winning compilation albums, was nominated for another for his 2007 solo album “He’eia”, has received numerous Hoku Hanohano Awards, and has recorded on more than 30 Hawaiian musical releases. As a Master slack key guitarist, Cyril’s technical virtuosity, rhythmic adaptations, and instrumental harmonics impart the soul of Hawaiian music, and his beautiful, emotive, and well-recognized voice renders an intimate picture of his Pacific island home.

As a traditional master of Kiho’alu, Cyril instructs in the kanikapila style. Nana ka maka; ho’olohe ka pepeiao -watch with the eyes, and listen with the ears. Thus one learns. This traditional method provides the perfect instruction to this rich tradition. Students of all levels will be guided through simple exercises and solos to create the “slack key” sound.

Slack key can be played on any guitar, acoustic or electric. The term refers to both the musical style and the myriad ways the instrument is tuned. Cyril teaches several traditional tunings and focuses on those that originated in his family. Students of all levels will be guided through simple exercises and solos to create the “slack key” sound. In addition, you will learn the use of vibrato, harmonics, slurs, harmonies in thirds and sixths, legato playing and other musical ideas that have helped create a distinctive guitar sound.

Students will also gain a deeper understanding of Hawaiian music and Hawaiian slack key guitar as Cyril shares his knowledge of one of the world’s great acoustic guitar traditions. A brief history introduces the student to Hawaiian music styling and slack key’s specific context. Featured songs are selections traditionally performed by the Pahinui family. Each has specific techniques and ideas that will enhance and improve the student’s skills and add variety and uniqueness to each individuals playing. These songs and slack key guitar pieces reflect stories of the past and present and people’s lives. Historic and place context, insights on the composer and theme are also explored. All ages and skill levels are welcome. Students must bring their own guitar. The introductory series is scheduled for Oct 26, Nov 30, and Dec 21, 2 sessions each day at 4:30 and 6:00pm $40 per Session. For more information, or to register please email Cyril directly at:


Comments are closed.