Hawaii in Tune

A Waikiki festival celebrates the traditional slack key guitar.

If Elvis is the King of rock ’n’ roll, then Charles Philip Pahinui is the Big Kahuna of slack key: a style of acoustic guitar music that originated in Hawaii in the 1830s. The Slack Key Guitar Festival, held in the late Pahinui’s honor, has now swelled to include multiple events across all the islands throughout the year. Oʻahu, though, birthplace to Pahinui, is where it all started back in 1982.


More than 3,000 people come to hear the masters strum kï hō’alu,as it is known in Hawaiian. The festival, held in Kapiolani Park in Waikiki, dishes out six hours of slack key by some of the best. You can also browse crafts and the display of ukuleles and slack key guitars, and admission is free.