Ki Ho'alu (or Slack Key)is a word of Hawaiian origin used to describe a way of playing the guitar. It is finger-picking way that came from the Hawaiian cowboys. In slack key, the guitar strings are tuned differently than those used in the "standard" tuning. Strings in slack key may be tuned higher or lower than the "standard" tuning of EADGBE.
How did this music come about? It goes back to more than one hundred eighty years after cattle, non-Hawaiian cowboys and guitars arrived on the Big Island. Around this time in Hawaii's history, some native Hawaiian forefathers showed their talent and interest to adopt the newly arrived guitar. They loosen or slacken the tension of some guitar strings. Thus a new word, ki ho'alu, [ki=key; ho'alu= to slack or loose] came about. This guitar style also evolved as a distinctive sound in music.
I learned an old style of slack key at a community school program in the early 1980's. Listening and watching my teachers playing slack key made me fall in love with this haunting and sweet music.
In the early 1990s, I began another journey on the Big Island to share this nahenahe (soft and sweet) music in the classrooms, the community and resort hotels. In the fall of 2001, we returned to Oahu where I am continuing this endless journey. Today, I am a founding member of Na Hoa Ki Ho'alu - Friends of Slack Key, a group dedicated to share and entertain in the old playing style.
I enjoy very much the challenges this music has to offer. It will always be a continuing journey for me to learn more and share it in the community where I reside. My dream is to see slack key grow with all music lovers in our Hawaiian islands and throughout the world.