Kahilu keeps music fest tradition alive

  • Brother Noland. (Steve Roby/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Bittini Paiva. (Steve Roby/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The origins of the Kahilu Theatre’s annual ‘ukulele and slack key guitar festival can be traced back to 1832, when King Kamehameha III recruited Mexican vaqueros to Waimea to control an overabundance of cattle. In addition to their riding and roping skills, the vaqueros shared their Spanish guitar playing style with the paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys). Appreciated but not embraced, it was modified and called ki hoalu, or “Slack Key,” which translates as “loosen the [tuning] key.”