Born in 1942 to the late slack key guitar legend Gabby Pahinui (1921-1980), founder of the modern slack key era (he made the first ever slack key recordings in 1946), and the late Emily Pahinui, Bla was raised in Waimanalo, on O'ahu's picturesque windward side. He is one of the most individualistic Hawaiian musicians of his generation. Though he is very much his father's son, he has carved a distinctive niche in Hawaiian music. "I go back to the fifties and I love my rhythm and blues," he says. "So when it comes to Hawaiian music, sometimes I find myself changing it, not to destroy it, but to express it the way I hear it." He feels his main innovations are in phrasing. "I don't like to rush the note," he says. "I like to stretch it and to take the melody in a new direction." He adds that in recent years he's learned the value of understatement. "You can say so much with simplicity. The most important thing is how you present the tone, and how things fit together in the big picture."
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