Ray Kane - Punahele

Widely regarded as the ambassador of Slack Key guitar, Ray Kane (1925-2008) embodied the essence of traditional Hawaiian music in this collection showcasing his sweet, soulful guitar and his deep, expressive vocals sung in the old style. 

Slack Key (ki ho ‘alu) is the name of the acoustic guitar style unique to Hawaii. First woven into Island tradition by Hawaiian cowboys in the early 1800s, this evocative music is characterized by a variety of tunings and the expressive moods of each individual artist. 

  1. Wai'anae Slack Key Hula 2:55 

  2. Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua 3:30 

  3. Pua Sadinia  3:39 

  4. Five Song Medley: Kealoha / Papakolea / E Hulihuli Ho'i Mai / Mauna Loa / Pua Makahala 5:30 

  5. Mai'Ae I Ka Hewa  2:58 

  6. Punahele  3:34 

  7. Nanea Kou Maka I Ka Le'ale'a  4:17 

  8. Morning Dew  3:10 

  9. Hula O Makee  5:20 

  10. Nani Ho'omana'o  2:43 

  11. Hawai'i Aloha  2:34 

  12. Ua Noho Au A Kupa  4:26 


Ray Kane [pronounced Kah'-nay] (1925-2008) was born in 1925 on the island of Kaua’i. He grew up in Nanakuli on the island of O'ahu, the son of a fisherman. At the early age of nine, Ray began to learn guitar from Albert Kawelo and Henry Kapuana, two Slack Key players from the island of Ni'ihau. 

"This fella from Makua Ranch, he brought his guitar down on weekends," Ray remembers. "One time I got up early in the morning and I heard this beautiful music. I thought there were three guys playing, but it was only him. I asked him to teach me, but he said 'No, go away, humbug.' It was hard to convince the old folks to teach me. They liked their fish and I was a good diver to catch the fish, so we traded. I caught the fish and they taught me Slack Key." 

In the 1940s Ray spent time in the service. Stationed on the Mainland and in Germany, he did not play much, but in 1947 he became re-inspired by the late Gabby Pahinui's (1921-1980) first 78 rpm record, the classic 1946 recording Hi'ilawe, for Bell Records. Ray first recorded in 1961, and did his first complete album in 1976. In 1973 he was the first Slack Key guitarist ever to give a full length solo recital. During this time he made his living as a welder, and lived in Nanakuli with his wife, Elodia, and their children. 

In 1987 Ray and Elodia traveled to Washington, D.C., where he was presented with the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship Award. Since then he toured and performed frequently, and recording three albums for Dancing Cat Records, as well as two other albums. 

In the wide spectrum of Slack Key guitar, Ray represents the older ways of playing. To help the art flourish, he issued a Slack Key instruction book and video, and he taught regularly. Ray was also a featured performer at the annual Gabby Pahinui/Atta Isaacs Slack Key Festival on O'ahu, and at the Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival, held annually in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai'i. 


  1. Wai'anae Slack Key Hula (Ray Kane) - Instrumental – played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of F. 

    Ray plays this song in the G Major Tuning, often called Taro Patch tuning, as he does on all but two songs on this recording. Wai'anae is the region of O'ahu where Ray lives in the town of Nanakuli. This spirited and evocative piece uses part of the traditional Slack Key guitar piece Ki Ho'alu  (Slack Key). 

  2. Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua (Emma Bush) – Vocal  -  played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of F. 

    The title refers to the region of Pauoa, a neighborhood in Honolulu up in the Nu'uanu Valley, which is famous for its liko ka lehua (lehua buds). Written by the early radio and nightclub entertainer Emma Bush, this very personal song refers to fluttering skirts and scalloped petticoats swinging left and right. It enjoys wide circulation among traditional Hawaiian musicians. Ray's singing on this song is in the Hawaiian style known as 'i'i vocals, which means feisty or expressive vocals. Both men and women sing in this style. Ray learned this song from his friend Gabby Pahinui. In the second instrumental verse he gets some beautiful chiming overtones out of the guitar that are unique to this version.  

  3. Pua Sadinia (David Nape) – Instrumental - played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning, tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of F. 
    Sadinia is the Hawaiian name for the Gardenia flower (pua). This song, also known as I Never Will Forget You, dates from the late 1930s and is Samoan based. Ki ho'alu is a style of music that evokes strong feelings of nostalgia, and Pua Sadinia is especially effective for dropping tears.  

  4. Five Song Medley: Kealoha/Papakolea/E Hulihuli Ho'i Mai/Mauna Loa/Pua Makahala – Instrumental  – played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning, tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of F. 

    This is a beautiful medley of five classic Hawaiian pieces, which are often played as instrumental Slack Key pieces. Recording these five pieces as a medley works very well, almost making it seem as if it is one long, beautiful, complex piece. Ray plays Kealoha and Papakolea in honor of Genoa Keawe (1918-2008), one of the most beloved and influential Hawaiian singers.  
    Kealoha (The Compassion) (Lei Collins & Maddy Lam) - A popular love song from "the Golden Age of Hawaiian music," the era between 1920 and 1960, when Hawaiian song and dance were broadcast worldwide via radio (especially the Hawai'i Calls program), film, television, and major international record labels. 
    Papakolea (John K. Almeida) - Composed by "the dean of Hawaiian music," blind mandolinist, composer and singer Johnny K. Almeida (1897-1985). The title honors a Hawaiian Homesteads community in Honolulu on the slopes of Puowaina (now called Punchbowl). The poetic lyrics praise the mikinolia (magnolia) that grow there, and mention the nearby neighborhoods of Makiki and Manoa. Most old-time Slack Key players like to keep the lyrics in mind while playing, whether or not they are singing. 
    E Hulihuli Ho'i Mai (Attributed to Maddy Lam) - A song of longing and romance popularized in the late 1930s by Hawai'i's Songbird, Lena Machado (1903-1974). The title means "Turn and Come Back", and has sensual hidden meanings. 
    Mauna Loa (traditional) - A "naughty" hula by the Big Island singer and songwriter Helen Lindsey Parker, the Lark of Waimea (and Slack Key guitarist Sonny Chillingworth's aunt), who is also credited with writing the beautiful Hawaiian standard Akaka Falls. The title does not refer to the massive Big Island mountain, as you might expect, but to a ship plying the waves toward Ka'awaloa (the town known today as Captain Cook), and the kaona (hidden or double meaning) is an explicit description of a woman. Mauna Loa is most commonly associated with Gabby Pahinui. Ray learned the song in the 1950s from Papa David Kalua, who sang at the Reef Hotel, where Ray and many other Hawaiian musicians (including Gabby, Jesse Kalima, Clyde "Kindy" Sproat, and local sportscaster Larry Price) used to congregate on Tuesday and Sunday nights for impromptu jam sessions under the hau tree. 
    Pua Makahala (Katie Stevens I'i, James I'i and Vickie I'i Rodrigues) - The makahala is a shrub with fragrant, white, yellow or orange flowers. This was another Lena Machado hit from the 1930s, and Ray has played it for years. It is becoming popular again, and is often played at hula contests. 
    Kealoha is played again briefly to end this beautiful medley.

  5. Mai 'Ae I Ka Hewa (Horatio R. Palmer) - Instrumental  - played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning, tuned down one half step to sound in the key of F#. 

    A rendition of the old himeni (hymn) Yield Not to Temptation, which Ray and his wife, Elodia, learned from Uncle Buddy Kelly, their church’s late choir director. For Ray, the song's meaning is clear: eternal life. The music and a Hawaiian translation of the lyrics can be found in NA HIMENI HAIPULE HAWAI'I, a songbook published in the 1970s and widely circulated among traditional Hawaiian congregations.  

  6. Punahele (Ray Kane) - Instrumental – played in the G Wahine Tuning (D-G-D-F#-B-D).  

    Punahele means a favorite or pet. Ray's best-known composition, the one most often recorded by others, Punahele came to him one night in 1938 at Zablan's Beach in Nanakuli. "Back in those days there were no cars, it was pitch black. So I sit there in the dark in the nice cool breeze and I hear the waves bouncing on the sand and see the moonlight flicker on the water. It inspired me, something so nice. So mellow. That's what gave me my inspiration."  

    This song features a variety of beautiful, complex "hammer-ons" and "pull-offs" which occur often in Ray's playing, but are developed to the fullest in this piece. A 'hammer-on' is an ornament produced by plucking a note and immediately fretting above that note to produce a second tone. 'Pull-off' refers to plucking a string and immediately pulling the finger off that note, producing a second note which is either open or fretted by another finger. Ray plays this in the older traditional G Wahine Tuning, and Wahine refers to a tuning with a Major 7th note in it, here the F# note on the third string. This tuning is most associated with Auntie Alice Namakalua (1892-1987), who has recorded the oldest documented Slack Key style of playing.  

  7. Nanea Kou Maka I Ka Le'ale'a (Traditional - arranged and adapted by Ray Kane) – Instrumental  - played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning, tuned down one half step to sound in the key of F#. 

    One of the several translations of the title is "Relaxed is your face in pleasure." This paean to sensual delights relies less on kaona (hidden meaning) than most Hawaiian songs. Ray was attracted by its melody and by the way it feels to play in Slack Key. It was also recorded by Gabby Pahinui under the title Nanea Ko Maka I Ka Le`ale`a with the Maile Serenaders on the recording Slack Key & Steel Guitar Instrumentals, Volume 2 (formerly titled Kani Ka Pila! Volume 2 - Hula Records 531) 

  8. Morning Dew (Eddie Kamae) - Instrumental - played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning, tuned down two half steps to sound in the key of F. 

    This song's theme is "Love that will remain fresh and beautiful as the morning dew." This very popular, beautiful song from the mid-1970s was written by the great 'ukulele player Eddie Kamae.  

  9. Hula O Makee (Traditional, sometimes attributed to John Kalapana) - vocal - played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning, tuned down one half step to sound in the key of F#. 

    This song tells the tale of the ship The Makee striking a reef off Kapa'a on the East Coast of Kaua'i. Another ship, The Malulani, came searching for her. The kaona (hidden meaning) is said to be of a woman whose lover ran away, then came back. Hula means dance, and O translates as "of."  

  10. Nani Ho'omana'o (Ray Kane) – Instrumental - played in the D Wahine Tuning (D-A-D-F#-A-C#) 

    Translated, the title means "Beautiful Memories" or "Sweet Memories." This piece represents an older traditional way of playing, and is played in the old D Wahine Tuning, with the Major 7th C# note on the 1st string.   

  11. Hawai'i Aloha (Lorenzo Lyons & James McGranahan) - vocal - Played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning, tuned down three half steps to sound in the key of E. 

    This is probably the best-known hymn in Hawai'i today. Reintroduced by Loyal Garner at the height of the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970s, the song is most often sung at the end of concerts, graduations, and other events, and it has become traditional to stand and join hands, sway and sing along. The title means "Beloved Hawai'i." In this version, Ray is joined on lead vocals by his wife, Elodia, and is also accompanied by the San Francisco Nahenahe singers. Slack Key guitarist Moses Kahumoku also recorded this song, also in the G Major Tuning, on his album HO’OKUPU [THE GIFT]  (Dancing Cat Records). 

  12. Ua Noho Au A Kupa (attributed to Edward Nainoa & Emma Bush) - vocal - played in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning, tuned down one half step to sound in the key of F#. 

    This title translates to "I've become accustomed to your face," and features Ray's tender vocals, beautiful guitar accompaniment and instrumental verses. This is another song Ray learned from Gabby Pahinui and e specially Gabby's long-time playing partner, the great Slack Key guitarist, Leland "Atta" Isaacs.  

    Notes by Jay W. Junker with technical assistance by George Winston. 

(Ray's middle name means `Voice of love will never be forgotten where it comes from, and like a bird away it flies.') 

Tunings used by Ray on this album:  

  1. G Taro Patch (Major) - (D-G-D-G-B-D from lowest to highest pitched string) - used by Ray for all songs on this recording except the ones indicated below.  

  2. G Wahine (Major 7th) - (D-G-D-F#-B-D) - for the song Punahele. Ray also uses this tuning on Wa'ahila, on his album WA'AHILA  (Dancing Cat Records).  

  3. D Wahine (Major 7th) - (D-A-D-F#-A-C#) - for the song Nani Ho'omana'o

    Other tunings used by Ray:  

  1. C Wahine (C-G-D-G-B-E), which he uses on Hi'ilawe on the album WA’AHILA (Dancing Cat Records) and the Hula Medley: Nani Wale Lehua/Wai’alae/Halona on the album MAI POINA ‘OE LA’U [NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN] (Dancing Cat Records).  

  2. A Mauna Loa (E-A-E-E-F#-C#) - for the songs Kilakila 'O Haleakala & Popoki Slack Key, both on the album WA’AHILA (Dancing Cat Records) and on the song Mai Poina `Oe Ia’u (Not to Be Forgotten) on his album  MAI POINA `OE IAU (NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN] (Dancing Cat Records). 

  3. Ray also sometimes uses Standard Tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E), mainly on songs where he plays strummed chords to back up the vocals such as Ke Kali Nei Au (The Hawaiian Wedding Song) on his album WA’AHILA (Dancing Cat Records).