Cyril Pahinui & Bob Brozman – FOUR HANDS, SWEET AND HOT

Dancing Cat continues its series of pure Slack Key and acoustic steel guitar duets with the first CD to bring together the talents of Slack Key master Cyril Pahinui and acoustic steel master Bob Brozman. This unique album showcases the great improvisational qualities of both artists in a variety of songs, tunings and tempos. Featured are classic pieces from Bob’s main era of influence, Hawaii in the 1920s, and those that have inspired Cyril, particularly from the 1940s and 1950s. Cyril’s contributions include songs he learned from his dad, the most influential Slack Key player ever, Gabby Pahinui.


1. Hilo Ë/Ë Lili’u Ë (instrumental) 3:56
2. Wai Ulu (instrumental) 6:05
3. Lei ‘Ohu (instrumental) 4:31
4. Lïhu’e (instrumental) 3:15
5. E Mama E (instrumental) 4:47
6. Hawaiian Cowboy (instrumental) 3:01
7. Ïnikiniki Mälie(Gentle Pinches of the Wind) (vocal) 3:06
8. Lei No Ka’iulani (instrumental) 2:16
9. LBC Slack Key (instrumental) 3:12
10. Coquette (instrumental) 3:40
11. E Nihi Ka Hele (vocal) 6:08
12. Wai’alae (instrumental) 3:06
13. Kela Mea Whiffa/Hilo March (instrumental) 3:38
14. Hula O Makee (vocal) 4:40
15. Hilo Hanakahi (instrumental) 5:16
16. Ku’u Lei (My Wreath of Flowers) (instrumental) 5:37

Total Time: 1:06:48 

When steel guitar wizard Bob Brozman started performing with Slack Key master Led Kaapana back in the early 1990s, it was inevitable he would eventually also meet and make beautiful music with Cyril Pahinui. Cyril is another virtuoso Hawaiian musician deeply immersed in kï hö’alu, both maintaining and expanding the tradition. On the one hand, he lovingly performs Slack Key standards and gratefully acknowledges his teachers. On the other, he freely draws upon a wide variety of music styles. Like most Slack Key masters, Cyril revels in the exhilarating give and take of a good jam session. His musical intelligence, great ear, killer chops and spirit of aloha make him an ideal partner for Bob.

Cyril Lani Pahinui was born April 21, 1950. He grew up in Waimänalo on O’ahu’s windward coast. He started playing music very early and credits his father, the legendary Philip “Gabby” Pahinui (1921–1980), affectionately called “Pops” by Hawaiians, as his most profound inspiration. Gabby, who made the first ever recordings of Slack Key in 1946, is the most influential Slack Key guitarist of all time, and has earned the title of Father of the Modern Slack Key Era.

Cyril’s first Dancing Cat CD, the entirely solo 6 & 12 STRING SLACK KEY, came out in 1994, and won the Nä Hökü Hanohano award for Instrumental Album of the Year. His second solo CD, NIGHT MOON • PÖ MAHINA, was released in 1998.

Born in New York in 1954, Bob Brozman also started music early. Like most great musicians, he takes his craft very seriously yet continues to maintain the infectious sense of fun that first drew him to pick up an instrument and play. His main influences for Hawaiian music have been the great steel guitarist Sol Ho’opi’i (1902–1953) and Tau Moe (1908–2004). As discussed at greater length in the notes to his pure duet album on Dancing Cat with Led Kaapana, KÏKÄ KILA MEETS KÏ HÖ’ALU, Bob is not only a great and soulful performer, but also a dedicated scholar. His book, THE HISTORY AND ARTISTRY OF

NATIONAL RESONATOR INSTRUMENTS, is recognized as the most authoritative work on the subject to date. In addition, Bob writes, lectures, produces, and researches the music he loves.

Especially dear to Bob’s heart is his documentary film, still in the works, on the incredible adventures of Tau and Rose Moe, who toured the world from 1928 to 1982, and are directly responsible for the presence of Hawaiian guitar in the popular recordings of many countries, including Japan, Germany, Greece, and India. Bob met Tau Moe when Tau called him to order some records he’d made. Learning that Tau also played National guitar, Bob asked him about an obscure 78 he had found of Maika’i No Kaua’i in a San Francisco basement in 1977. The album, which had deeply impressed Bob, credited Mme. Riviere’s Hawaiians but not the individual musicians. To Bob’s surprise, Tau and his wife had been in the group in the twenties. According to Bob, “He called his wife to the phone and they started singing it.” Bob flew to Hawai’i and met the Moes. Together they recorded HO’OMANA’O I NA MELE O KA WÄ U’I (REMEBERING THE SONGS OF OUR YOUTH) (Rounder 6028), which was chosen for the prestigious Library of Congress Select List. The documentary, directed by music buff Terry Zwigoff (LOUIE BLUIE, CRUMB), has been shot but remains unfinished due to arts funding cuts.

Meeting and playing with Cyril has been an enriching experience for Bob, who finds the differences between him and Led fascinating. “Cyril really wanted the melodies to be correct, and was very patient in teaching them to me,” Bob observes. “Led takes a more improvisatory approach, over the underlying harmony. The harmony employed by Cyril is a little more modern than Led’s, while Led’s rhythmic variations expand the limits of Slack Key just a little more.” The most obvious difference is Led’s Slack Key thumb rhythm as compared to Cyril’s Latin–American thumb rhythm. Most Slack Key players, including Led, place their thumbstrokes on the straight or swung quarter–notes. Cyril constantly syncopates his thumbstrokes, usually on beats 1, 2 1/2 and 4 of a 4–beat measure, which sets up many polyrhythmic possibilities of 3 over 2 or 3 over 4. In waltz time, this thumb style allows the very Africa–to–Latin–America 6/8 over 3/4, which is what many colonized people did to the European waltz (on this album, see song #12, Wai’alae).

This album is the fruits of Cyril and Bob’s first series of meetings. A labor of love and mutual respect, of risk taking and stretching out, it conveys the pure joy of music. Rehearsing for the sessions often took the form of extended jams, which generated incredible excitement among the musicians and everyone present. Takes often ended in laughter, in high fives, or in tears. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” says Cyril.

On Pronouncing Hawaiian:
A is sounded as in ‘ah’
E is sounded either ‘ay’ as in ‘bay,’ or ‘eh’ as in ‘men’
I is sounded like ‘ee’ as in ‘see’
O is sounded as in ‘go’
U is sounded ‘oo’ as in ‘too’
All syllables are pronounced separately, and most words are pronounced by sounding all the vowels. For example, ka’a is pronounced ‘kah–ah.’


1. Hilo Ë/Ë Lili’u Ë (instrumental)

Cyril: 12 string in C Major “Atta’s C” Tuning (C–G–E–G–C–E, from the lowest pitched string to the highest), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of B flat
Bob: National steel in G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D–G–D–G–B–D), tuned up three half steps to sound in the key of B flat

Strong syncopation and easy give and take infuse these two classics with the backyard feel so crucial to Slack Key. Cyril’s tuning is often referred to as “Atta’s C” because it was used most prominently by Cyril’s mentor, the late, great Slack Key guitarist, Leland “Atta” Isaacs (1929–1983).

Hilo Ë is sometimes attributed to Mary Heanu. It celebrates the lehua flower, Waiäkea and other natural beauties in and around the famous Big Island harbor town of Hilo. Slack Key versions appear on Ray Käne’s 1998 recording, WA’AHILA (Dancing Cat 38002), and Cyril’s 6 & 12 STRING SLACK KEY.

A traditional mele inoa (praise chant) adapted by John Kaulia and Charles E. King, Ë Lili’u Ë honors Queen Lili’uokalani (1838–1917), Hawai’i’s last reigning monarch (so far). Lili’uokalani was one of Hawai’i’s greatest composers and poets. Eighty years after her passing, she remains a very beloved figure. Bob recorded this song with Led Kaapana on their 1997 pure duet album KÏKÄ KILA MEETS KÏ HÖ’ALU. Led also recorded it solo on his 1994 album LED LIVE • SOLO (Dancing Cat) and Leonard Kwan also recorded it solo on his 1995 album KE’ALA’S MELE (Dancing Cat), respectively.

In this song Bob and Cyril play in tunings that are in different key families,and Cyril is tuned down from the C Tuning to B flat to match Bob’s G Major Tuning that is tuned up to B flat. This is a common practice when two Slack Key guitarists play together, accomplished by tuning up or down, or capoing the guitar. It is also very common to have both guitarists play in different tunings in the same key.

2. Wai Ulu (instrumental)

Cyril: 12 string in C Major Tuning (C–G–E–G–C–E)
Bob: Weissenborn in Mainland Open C Tuning (C–G–C–G–C–E)

E awaiäulu i ke aloha (a love securely bound) is the subject of this popular mele ho’oipoipo (love song) attributed to Lala Mahelona and George Kalelohi, Sr., and frequently played at weddings. Slack Key versions include Gabby Pahinui with The Sons of Hawai’i on their 1971 album AN ISLAND HERITAGE (Panini 1001) and Sonny Chillingworth on SONNY SOLO (Dancing Cat) as well as this powerful performance.

3. Lei ‘Ohu (instrumental)

Cyril: 12 string in D Major “Open D” Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of C
Bob: Baby Kona in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up five half steps to sound in the key of C

Lei ‘Ohu takes us island hopping, at each stop receiving the lei that represents the island: lehua (Big Island), roselani (Maui), ‘ilima (O’ahu) and mokihana (Kaua’i). George Akiu composed this song, which Pops sang on his very influential 1972 album, GABBY (“The Brown Album”, Panini 1002). Cyril followed suit on his 1994 album 6 & 12 STRING SLACK KEY (Dancing Cat). This version features a lovely rhythmic interplay, between the deep 12 string and the high–strung Baby Kona steel, that lends itself to swooping lines and intense rhythmic decoration.

4. Lïhu’e (instrumental)

Cyril: 6 string in D Major Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of C
Bob: Baby Kona in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up five half steps to sound in the key of C

Immortalized by Pops on PURE GABBY (Hula 567), Lïhu’e was composed by Annie Kohlukou as a mele hula (chant or song with choreography based on the text) celebrating the Kaua’i town of Lïhu’e, beloved in the Pa’üpili rain. It also mentions the sea at Niumalu, the roses of Hauola and the precious shell leis of Ni’ihau. “This is one of my dad’s signature songs,” Cyril says. “The melody is kind of sad but really beautiful, bittersweet.” Bob agrees,”It’s one of my favorite sad Hawaiian blues.”

5. E Mama E (instrumental)

Cyril: 6 string in D Major Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D), tuned down two half steps to to sound in the key of C
Bob: Baby Kona in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up five half steps to to sound in the key of C

A favorite of leo ki’eki’e (falsetto) singers, E Mama E is often attributed to either Hiram Kaehu or Johnny Noble. It dates from the 1920s, when a racetrack at the foot of Lë’ahi (Diamond Head) drew malihini (visitors) and their kälä (dollars). Once at the track, more than one young Honolulu resident caught the travel bug, winding up in Kaleponi (California) or some other exotic locale. In the song, the protagonist tells his mother, I’m going, but don’t worry, I’m coming back.

Tau and Rose Moe recorded this song for Columbia in 1929 while in Japan, with Tau re–writing the melody. Bob originally learned it from them, although he and Cyril play the better known melody. This version is offered as a musical makana (gift) to the Moes. Leonard Kwan also recorded a Slack Key version, as part of a medley with Kaneohe, on his 1960 album, SLACK KEY (the “Red album”, originally on Tradewinds 103), now reissued along with all of Leonard’s early recordings on LEONARD KWAN–SLACK KEY MASTER–THE COMPLETE EARLY RECORDINGS, on Hana Old Records).

6. Hawaiian Cowboy (instrumental)

Cyril: 6 string in D Major Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of C
Bob: Baby Kona in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up five half steps to Ssound in the key of C

For over half a century, Sol K. Bright regaled audiences around the world with this mele paniolo (cowboy song) about Roselani and her hard riding daddy, the pride of Maui Island. According to Bright, he improvised Hawaiian Cowboy in 1933 in a California nightclub when he noticed a couple high rollers passing long green to a fellow Hawaiian musician who was yodeling. In the impromptu spirit of the original, this new arrangement for steel and Slack Key came out of the clear blue sky in front of the studio while Cyril and Bob were taking a break. “I knew the song from hana buttah (little kid) days,” Cyril says. “And I’ve always loved it, so we just started going for it.”

Keola Beamer created the first Slack Key arrangement of this song for his 1973 album, HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY GUITAR IN THE REAL OLD STYLE (Music of Polynesia 22000). Cyril also recorded a powerful instrumental version on his 1998 album NIGHT MOON • PÖ MAHINA. (Dancing Cat). Cyril and Led Kaapana, both being master improvisers, often play a song in more than one tuning.

7. Ïnikiniki Mälie (Gentle Pinches of the Wind) (vocal)

Cyril: 6 string in D Major Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of C
Bob: Baby Kona in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up five half steps toS sound in the key of C

Ïnikiniki Mälie gives reign to the nahenahe (relaxing) side of Cyril and Bob’s playing. Bob says this song reminds him a little of the blues; not surprising since it dates from the 1920s, and many of Hawai’i’s leading performers shared stages and swapped ideas with blues musicians on the vaudeville circuit in the early 20th Century. According to Bob, “Hawaiian music is one of the few types of music in the world where deep sadness or at least a wistful quality occurs in Major keys.” This can also be heard on the recording of Ïnikiniki Mälie by the Kalama’s Quartet on EARLY HAWAIIAN CLASSICS 1927 – 1932 (Folklyric 7028)

8. Lei No Ka’iulani (instrumental)

Cyril: 6 string Santa Cruz Brozman model in C Major Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of B flat
Bob: National steel in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up three half steps to sound in the key of B flat

Lei No Ka’iulani was composed by John Edwards as a mele inoa to Princess Victoria Ka’iulani, the daughter of Princess Likelike and Archibald Cleghorn, and heir to the throne of her aunt, Lili’uokalani. With its graceful melody and focus on the long denied but never forgotten Hawaiian monarchy, it remains a popular song with hïmeni (choral) groups as well as Slack Key guitarists. Cyril learned the song from his father, who recorded it on the 1963 album GABBY PAHINUI WITH THE SONS OF HAWAI’I (Hula Records 503) and on his 1972 album GABBY (“The Brown Album”,Panini 1002).

9. LBC Slack Key (instrumental)

Cyril: 6 string in D Major Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of C
Bob: Baby Kona in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up five half steps to sound in the key of C

This original composition is Bob and Cyril’s tribute to their friend Led Kaapana. Both have played with Led a lot and feel great aloha for him as a musician and a human being. While Led’s style inspired LBC Slack Key, Cyril doesn’t attempt to imitate him. The song illuminates the differences, as well as the similarities, between these two modern Slack Key masters.

10. Coquette (instrumental)

Cyril: 6 string in D Major “Open D” Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of C
Bob: Baby Kona in G Wahine Tuning (D–G–D–F#–B–D), tuned up five steps to sound in the key of C

Both being big fans of swing and having recorded it at various times in their careers, it was natural for Cyril and Bob to include a classic of this genre. Coquette dates from 1928. This version shows off Cyril’s jazz influence, which he attributes primarily to his dad and Atta Isaacs. As Bob points out, Open D Tuning is used a lot in the blues as well as in east Indian guitar. “It gives you great chord voicings and makes it easier to play some real tricky rhythms.” The G Wahine Tuning (D-G-D-F#-B-D), with it’s characteristic Major 7th note (here the F# note on the 3rd string), in which Bob plays, is a variation of Sol Ho’opi’i’s C# Minor Tuning (E-B-E-G#-C#-E) tuned down two half steps (which would be D-A-D-F#-B-D, which is also used by the Slack Key guitarist Moses Kahumoku played in the key of D. It could also be called D6th Tuning (or E6th when tuned up like Sol Ho’opi’i did), as D is the relative Major key of B minor (and E is the relative key of C# minor).

11. E Nihi Ka Hele (vocal)

Cyril: 12 string in C Major Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E), tuned down three half steps to sound in the key of A
Bob: National steel in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up two half steps to sound in the key of A

E Nihi Ka Hele can be translated into English as “step softly”. The song, popularly attributed to King David Kaläkaua’s Healani Glee Club, dates back to 1887 and centers on the trip Queen Kapi’olani and Lili’uokalani (Kaläkaua’s wife and sister, respectively) took to England. Like most Hawaiian mele, E Nihi Ka Hele is highly poetic and makes good use of many traditional Polynesian literary devices, including nature imagery. The first verse asks the ocean to stay calm and the wind to blow gently. The second describes California and compares the snow there to the skin of the princess. The third verse reminds the travelers to return home. Gabby recorded this on his 1975 album THE GABBY PAHINUI HAWAIIAN BAND, VOL. I (Panini Records 1007).

12. Wai’alae (instrumental)

Cyril: 12 string in C Major Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E)
Bob: Weissenborn in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), playing in the key of C

Former Royal Hawaiian Band director Mekia Kealakai composed Wai’alae around the turn of the last century when waltzing was in vogue in Hawai’i, as elsewhere. Though unmistakably Hawaiian, Wai’alae is probably based on a Mexican song. Similarly, the uniquely Hawaiian tradition of Slack Key traces its roots back to Mexican paniolo (cowboys). With this in mind, Cyril and Bob decided to give Wai’alae the full Latin–American rhythmic treatment by superimposing a strong 6/8 feel over the 3/4 waltz. “I love Latin music,” Cyril says. “And Wai’alae for me has a real Latin feel.”

Gabby Pahinui recorded Wai’alae around 1946 as one third of the song Hula Medley for the Bell label. This track has been reissued on THE HISTORY OF SLACK KEY GUITAR (Hana Ola Records). In 1961, he recorded it as part of different medley on PURE GABBY (Hula Records 567), and he recorded it by itself on his 1973 album RABBIT ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL (Panini 1004).

13. Kela Mea Whiffa/Hilo March (instrumental)

Cyril: 12 string in D Major Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D)
Bob: National steel in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), and playing in the key of C, with the guitar tuned tuned up two half steps to the key of A, therefore sounding in the key of D.

Written by Eddie Kamae about the distinctive aroma of burning sugar cane, Kela Mea Whiffa debuted in the early 1970s on EDDIE KAMAE PRESENTS THE SONS OF HAWAII (Hawaii Sons 1001). “At the session we just spontaneously went to Hilo March, normally a stand–alone piece. They just seemed to fit together well,” Bob says. Hilo March, written in the late 19th Century by Joseph Ae’a of the Royal Hawaiian Band, recalls the days when Hawaiian musicians readily absorbed marching rhythms and brass band melodies into their original music. Considered one of the Big Island’s theme songs, it was especially popular with steel guitarists in the 1920s. The Kahumoku Brothers (George & Moses) recorded a Slack Key version in 1988 on their album, SWEET AND SASSY – HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY STYLING VOL. 1 (Kahumoku Brothers 1005).

14. Hula O Makee (vocal)

Cyril: 6 string Santa Cruz in C Major Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of B flat
Bob: National steel in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up three half steps to to sound in the key of B flat

This traditional mele hula speaks of a ship, the Makee, running aground on the reef at Kapa’a, Kaua’i. Another ship, the Malulani, comes to its aid. The kaona (hidden meaning) is said to represent two lovers: one who left and another who came looking. Frequently performed and recorded, Gabby recorded a version on the Brown album, GABBY (“the Brown Album”, Panini 1002), Ray Käne did it on his 1994 album PUNAHELE (Dancing Cat), and Cyril recorded it on his 1998 album, KA HO’OILINA MAU...THE LEGACY CONTINUES (Poki Records 9062).

15. Hilo Hanakahi (instrumental)

Cyril: 12 string in C Major Tuning (C–G–E–G–C–E)
Bob: Weissenborn in Mainland Open C Tuning (C–G–C–G–C–E)

A mele pana (place song) for the Big Island, Hilo Hanakahi celebrates lehua blossoms rustling in the rain in Hilo, fragrant hala in Puna, the wind at Ka’ü and other notable experiences. The song is popular, especially with Big Island musicians. According to Bob, he and Cyril hadn’t planned to record this very original arrangement; they just started jamming in the studio with the tape running.

16. Ku’u Lei (My Wreath of Flowers) (instrumental)

Cyril: 12 string in C Major Tuning (C–G–E–G–C–E),
Bob: Baby Kona in G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned up five half steps to sound in the key of C

Although normally performed as a vocal, this vintage mele ho’oipoipo from around 1929 lends itself beautifully to the voice–like qualities of Bob’s steel guitar. Cyril fingerpicks a sensitive but steady rhythmic accompaniment, decorating the melody with his unique cascading arpeggios. The chord progression, a haunting minor III chord (Em) followed by a chromatic descent to the II minor (Dm), was quite progressive in the 1920s and still sounds modern. A version of Ku’u Lei by the Kalama’s Quartet is available on EARLY HAWAIIAN CLASSICS 1927 – 1932 (Folklyric 7028)

Liner notes by J. W. Junker, Bob Brozman and George Winston.


  • C Major “Atta’s C” Tuning (C–G–E–G–C–E) for Hilo Ë/Ë Lili’u Ë, Wai Ulu, Lei No Ka’iulani, E Nihi Ka Hele, Wai’alae, Hula O Makee, Hilo Hanakahi and Ku’u Lei.

  • D Major“Open D” Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–D) for Lei ‘Ohu, Lïhu’e, E Mama E, Hawaiian Cowboy, Ïnikiniki Mälie, LBC Slack Key, Coquette and Kela Mea Whiffa/Hilo March.


  • G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D–G–D–G–B–D) for Hilo Ë/Ë Lili’u Ë, Lei ‘Ohu, Lïhu’e, E Mama E, Hawaiian Cowboy, Ïnikiniki Mälie, Lei No Ka’iulani, LBC Slack Key, E Nihi Ka Hele, Wai’alae, Kela Mea Whiffa/Hilo March, Hula O Makee, and Ku’u Lei.

  • G Wahine Tuning (D–G–D–F#–B–D) for Coquette.

  • Mainland Open C Tuning (C–G–C–G–C–E) for Wai Ulu and Hilo Hanakahi.

Produced by Bob Brozman & George Winston
Engineered by Howard Johnston
Additional engineering by Mark Slagle, Porter Miller & Justin Lieberman
Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Los Angeles, CA