Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters Collection, Vol. 2 

Dancing Cat’s second Slack Key guitar compilation CD draws from the most recent Dancing Cat recordings in the ongoing Hawaiian Slack Key guitar masters series, including two previously unavailable bonus tracks. The many artists on this album represent the very best from Hawaii. This new collection contains both vocal and instrumental tracks, demonstrating how Slack Key can be played solo, in duets or with varying accompaniment (‘ukulele, acoustic steel guitar and two or more guitars). This compilation serves as a great introduction to the wealth of artists and styles characterizing Slack Key guitar today. 


  1. Pöpoki Slack Key (instrumental) – Ray Käne – 2:42 

  2. ‘Ülili E (vocal) – Dennis Kamakahi & David Kamakahi – 4:20 

  3. Hilo Ë/Ë Lili’u Ë (instrumental) – Cyril Pahinui & Bob Brozman – 3:58 

  4. Liloa’s Mele (instrumental) – Sonny Chillingworth – 2:51 

  5. Radio Hula (instrumental) – Led Kaapana & Friends – 3:33 

  6. ‘Imi Au Iä ‘Oe (instrumental) – Keola Beamer – 3:13 

  7. Pu’u Anahulu (vocal) – Kamakahi/Kuo/Pahinui Hawaiian Slack Key Band – 7:03 

  8. Hurrah Lani Ha’a Ha’a (vocal) – Cyril Pahinui – 4:11 

  9. Maori Brown Eyes (instrumental) – Bla Pahinui – 3:49 

  10. Wahine ‘Ilikea (vocal) – Dennis Kamakahi – 4:29 

  11. Lei ‘Awapuhi (Yellow Ginger Lei) (instrumental) – Bob Brozman & Led Kaapana – 4:44 

  12. The Beauty of Mauna Kea (vocal) – Keola Beamer & George Winston – 5:10 

  13. Mai Poina ‘Oe Ia’u (Not To Be Forgotten) (vocal) – Sonny Chillingworth – 5:32 

  14. Aloha ‘Oe (instrumental) – George Kahumoku – 6:33 

Bonus Tracks 

  1. Ulu Niu Ke’eke’e (The Crooked Coconut Tree) (vocal) – George Kahumoku & Kekuhi Kanahele – 5:54 

  2. Slack Key Serenade (instrumental) – Leonard Kwan & Ozzie Kotani – 2:32 


1.Pöpoki Slack Key (instrumental) - A Mauna Loa Tuning tuned up one half step to sound in the key of Bb. 
Ray Käne: Slack Key guitar 

From the album Wa’ahila  

The title of this beautiful poignant instrumental can mean “little cat”. Composed by Ray Käne, the elder statesman of Slack Key, this song suggests the end of the day and evokes the beautiful Hawaiian sunsets.  

2. ‘Ülili E (vocal)  
Dennis Kamakahi: Slack Key guitar & lead vocal - C Mauna Loa Tuning (C–G–E–G–A–E) 
David Kamakahi: ‘ukulele & back–up vocal - Standard Tuning (G–C–E–A) playing in C  

From the album ‘Ohana (Family)  

This traditional Hawaiian standard describes a tattler bird running along the shore of a calm, deserted beach. The father–son performance honors the classic Gabby Pahinui and Eddie Kamae duets from the Sons of Hawai’i, whose version can be heard on their classic album Gabby Pahinui with the Sons of Hawai’i (Hula 503). 

3. Hilo Ë/Ë Lili’u Ë (instrumental) 
Cyril Pahinui: 12 string Slack Key guitar - 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 Brozman: National acoustic steel guitar - G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D–G–D–G–B–D), tuned up three half steps to sound in the key of B flat. 

From the album Four Hands Sweet & Hot  

Cyril Pahinui is one of the greatest improvisers in the Slack Key tradition, and one of the sons of the late Gabby Pahinui, the most influential Slack Key guitarist in history. Bob Brozman is recognized as the greatest exponent of 1920s style acoustic steel playing and is especially inspired by the late great Sol Hoopii. Strong syncopation and easy give and take infuse these two classic songs with the backyard feel so crucial to Slack Key. 

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.  

A traditional mele inoa (praise chant) adapted by John Kaulia and Charles E. King, Ë Lili’u Ë honor 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 and influential figure. Bob has also recorded this song with Slack Key guitarist Led Kaapana on Kïkä Kila Meets Kï Hö’alu (Dancing Cat 38031). 

4. Liloa’s Mele (instrumental) - G Major, tuned down two half steps to F 
Sonny Chillingworth: Slack Key guitar  

From the album Endlessly  

The late Sonny Chillingworth was one of the three most influential Slack Key guitarists in history (along with Gabby Pahinui and Leonard Kwan). From the beginning of his career, in the early 1950s, Sonny had the respect of the Slack Key community. In the 1960s, club dates and recordings brought him wider recognition. He was also, at times, a member of the Sons of Hawai’i and the Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band. Sonny’s repertoire was always diverse, encompassing Hawaiian standards, original compositions, country, Portuguese, rock oldies, Puerto Rican, Mexican and R&B. Sonny’s unique approach to bass patterns, chord voicings, bass runs and vamps made his style easy to identify. 

Written for one of Sonny’s grandchildren, Liloa’s Mele features beautiful hammer–ons and pull–offs, and two bass patterns. Since Liloa was also Sonny’s Hawaiian name, the song takes his music full circle, from listening to his grandfather play for him to playing for his own grandchild. 

5. Radio Hula (instrumental) - G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D) from the lowest pitched string to the highest. 
Led Kaapana: Slack Key guitar 
Pat Bergeson: guitar 
Viktor Krauss: upright bass 
Tom Roady: percussion 
Joey Miskulin: accordion 

From the album Waltz of the Wind  

Led Kaapana, one of the greatest Slack Key guitarists ever, is especially recognized for his improvisational prowess. Royal Hawaiian Band singer Lizzie Kahau Alohikea composed this mele hula (song with choreography) in the 1920s to celebrate the arrival of radio in the Islands. Led’s uncle, the late, great Slack Key guitarist Fred Punahoa created an arrangement of this song for Slack Key in the 1940s, which Led learned as a teenager and used as the basis for his own improvisations. This Nashville session marks the first time Led has recorded the song with so many backing musicians, including percussion and accordion. “It was nice having all that support,” he says. “It takes the song to a whole new dimension.” 

6. ‘Imi Au Iä ‘Oe (instrumental) - C Wahine Tuning (C–G–D–G–B–E), from  the lowest pitched string to the highest. 
Keola Beamer: Slack Key guitars 

From the album Mauna Kea – White Mountain Journal  

Keola recalls, “In a small koa church, my Grandfather’s voice would carry this song up along the pews, reverberating against the windows. As a small boy, I would stand next to him, holding my hymnal, not knowing about Good or Evil, who or what God was, just listening to the sound of the old man’s voice and watching the skylarks high above the open fields.” 

Keola created this arrangement for two nylon string guitars and one electric guitar, adding a second melody to fill out the song. He is especially noted for his ability to compose additional parts to instrumental arrangements of simple, yet deeply profound Hawaiian melodies where, especially in the past, the words have been the most important element. 

7. Pu’u Anahulu (vocal) 
Hui Aloha: 
Martin Pahinui: lead vocals & bass 
Dennis Kamakahi: Slack Key guitar - C Mauna Loa Tuning 
George Kuo: Slack Key guitar - Double neck guitar with 6 string neck in C Wahine Tuning & 12 string neck in C Mauna Loa Tuning. 
David Kamakahi: ‘ukulele  

From the album Hui Aloha  

This traditional paniolo (cowboy) classic tells the story of a beautiful and lofty Big Island pu’u (hill) where dwells some ‘ö’ö birds with yellow feathers. The chorus asks the birds to give their love, suggesting that the Hawaiian compositional technique of kaona (hidden meaning) is at work. Most likely, the ‘ö’ö, in a poetically round about way, represent people the composer would like to get to know better. 

The song was a favorite of Pops Gabby Pahinui and remains a staple of the Slack Key scene. Gabby recorded it on his influential 1975 album The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band (Panini 1007). His son Cyril recently released an instrumental version on Night Moon • Pö Mahina (Dancing Cat 38030). Gabby’s son Martin soulfully sings it here with Dennis and David Kamakahi and George Kuo. Longtime friends, these celebrated musicians love playing Pu’u Anahulu at jam sessions, especially around three in the morning. "Sometimes you get to playing it and it just takes you to another place," says George. "You forget about the time and almost miss your plane." The recording comes from the upcoming album, to be released in January 2000, that the foursome has been working on between other commitments. "We’ve each had our own groups," says Dennis, "but we’ve always kept in touch. Finally, after all these years, we’ve started a group together and it feels great." 

8. Hurrah Lani Ha’a Ha’a (vocal) - Ni’ihau/Old Mauna Loa Tuning (D–A–D–F#–B–E). 
Cyril Pahinui: Slack Key guitar & vocals 

From the album Night Moon- Pö Mahina  

This vintage march–type piece celebrates three famous things on Maui: the wind called Kili’o’opu; the Ïao Needle, a natural landmark and sacred burying place near Wailuku; and Lani Ha’a Ha’a, an old poetic name for the town of Häna. Cyril sings the verse four times, but mostly uses the song to blast into some of his powerful and incredibly inventive improvisations. 

9. Maori Brown Eyes (instrumental) - No capo, key of D. 
James “Bla” Pahinui: Slack Key guitar 

From the album Mana  

Bla, another son of Gabby Pahinui, does a unique, instrumental nylon string version of Claude Malani’s Slack Key classic, which extols the beauty and powerful attraction of a certain resident of Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, also known as New Zealand. Maori Brown Eyes was originally played as a waltz back in the 1920s and 30s, but since the 1950s it has been played more often in 4/4 time. Other guitarists have recorded this well–known piece in different tunings. The most influential version is Leonard Kwan’s instrumental rendition from his landmark 1960 album, Slack Key (Tradewinds 103), known in Slack Key circles as the “Red Album”. 

10. Wahine ‘Ilikea (vocal) - G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned down to F. 
Dennis Kamakahi: Slack Key guitar & vocals 

From the album Pua’ena - “Glow Brightly”  

Dennis is one of Hawai’i’s greatest, most prolific and romantic songwriter in history. Wahine ‘Ilikea, a Hawaiian standard by Dennis frequently performed around Hawai’i, describes the white mist of Kamakou, a mountain on the island of Moloka’i. “At a place called Kamalö, the mountain reveals the beauty of eleven waterfalls,” Dennis says, “like a woman who reveals her beauty to the one she loves.” 

11. Lei ‘Awapuhi (Yellow Ginger Lei) (instrumental) 
Bob Brozman: Weissenborn koa wood guitar - G Major Tuning (D­G­D­G­B­D) 
Led Kaapana: Slack Key guitar - G Major Tuning (D­G­D­G­B­D) 

From the album Kïkä Kila Meets KÏ Hö’alu  

On this rendition of the nahenahe (relaxing) local standard by John Keawehawaii there is some particularly nice interweaving of parts. Bob says, “There was no rehearsal, just real careful listening – not just to notes but also rhythm and tone and timbre. Ledward really listened and I really listened, and we took turns.” 

This version with the traditional song E Hulihuli Ho’i Mai is based on the medley by the very influential Slack Key guitarist Leonard Kwan, who first recorded Yellow Ginger Lei, again on his Red Album, Slack Key on Tradewinds Records. 

12. The Beauty of Mauna Kea (vocal) - C Wahine Tuning (C–G–D–G–B–E) 
Keola Beamer: Slack Key guitar, ‘ohe hano ihu (bamboo nose flute) & vocals 
George Winston: piano 

From the album Kolonahe – From the Gentle Wind  

Dating back to Keola’s first album in the early 1970s, this song eloquently expresses love for the Big Island’s famous white capped peak. The mele (chanted poetry) that opens the performance was written by Nona Beamer, and can be translated as: “The soft white lei encircles the crest of the mountain, the mountain high above, standing in great majesty, majestic on high, veiled in the clouds.” 

“I’ve wanted to do a fresh take on The Beauty of Mauna Kea for a long time,” Keola says. “It’s always been one of my favorites.” It’s also one of his most requested songs. In both arrangements, Keola plays ‘ohe hano ihu (bamboo nose flute). “That beautiful, ethereal sound is like wind off in the distance,” he says. Because it’s played with breath from the nostrils, the ‘ohe hano ihu forms a very close communion with the few who play it.” 

13. Mai Poina ‘Oe Ia’u (Not To Be Forgotten) (vocal) - G Major, tuned down two half steps to F 
Sonny Chillingworth: Slack Key guitar & vocals 

From the album Endlessly  

Anyone who has looked up at night in Hawai’i has probably been struck speechless at least once by the sight of enormous billowy clouds, illuminated by the moon, majestically making their way across the heavens. In this old favorite, Lizzie Doerin calls her lover ka ‘öpua hiki ahiahi (the cloud that comes at night). She requests more frequent visits and makes the title plea, “Don’t forget me.” Note Sonny’s beautiful and unusual bass pattern. Sonny will certainly never be forgotten. 

14. Aloha ‘Oe (instrumental) - G Major Tuning (D–G–D–G–B–D), capoed up five frets to C, and nylon string guitar in the D Wahine Tuning (D–A–D–F#–A–C#), tuned down two half steps to C. 
George Kahumoku: Slack Key guitars 

From the album Drenched by Music  

George Kahumoku is one of Hawai’i’s great composers and Slack Key guitarists. He wears many hats as, among other things, he is also a gifted school teacher and farmer. 

Inspired by a tender parting scene, Queen Lili’uokalani penned this classic love song in 1877. Through the years, Aloha ‘Oe has earned fame the world over, becoming a popular song of farewell. 

Bonus Tracks 

  1. Ulu Niu Ke’eke’e (The Crooked Coconut Tree) (vocal) 
    George Kahumoku: Slack Key guitars & ‘ükëkë (Hawaiian mouth bow) 
    Kekuhi Kanahele: vocal & ‘ili’ili (percussion stones) 
    Kekuhi Kanahele appears courtesy of Mountain Apple Records. 

    Kekuhi’s husband, noted chanter and dancer Kaipo Frias, wrote this song about a coconut tree on Hilo Bay that has lived through several tidal waves. Each tidal wave knocks over the top of the tree and distorts its shape. By repeatedly surviving the destructive force of these tidal waves, the tree has become a symbol of hope and inspiration. 

    George overdubs two Slack Key guitars, ingeniously in two different tunings. One is in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D–G–D–G–B–D) capoed up two frets to sounding the key of A. The other is in a C Major 7 “Wahine” Tuning (C–G–D–G–B–D) tuned down to the key of A. The ‘ükëkë George plays was made by master–craftsman and music instrument maker, Kalvin Ho. 

    Kekuhi has released two solo albums, Hahani Mai (Punahele 004) and Kekuhi (Mountain Apple 2054). Elegantly combining chant, song and composition, Kekuhi perpetuates and expands her highly esteemed family traditions. 

  2. Slack Key Serenade (instrumental) 
    Leonard Kwan: Slack Key guitar
    Ozzie Kotani: Slack Key guitar 

    This previously unreleased duet, with Slack Key legend Leonard Kwan and Ozzie Kotani, was created spontaneously in the studio. Leonard is playing in a G “Wahine” Tuning (D–G–D–F#–B–D) tuned down three half steps to sound in the key of E. Ozzie is in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D–G–D–G–B–D) tuned down three half steps to sound in the key of E. It is common in the Slack Key tradition for guitarists to play together in different tunings so that they can complement each other in different ways. 

Liner notes by Jay W. Junker and George Winston 

Produced by George Winston 
Compiled by Ben Churchill 
Engineered by Howard Johnston 
Additional engineering by Justing Lieberman, Mark Slagle and Porter Miller 
Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Los Angeles, CA 
Liner notes edited by Corrina Burnley 
Mahalo to all the hard working people at BMG, Windham Hill, Navarre Hawaii and Dancing Cat.