An acoustic guitar isn’t just an acoustic guitar, at least not in the hands of a ki ho’alu
(slack-key) player like Cyril Pahinui. As part of the Third Annual Southern California Slack-Key Festival
on January 24 in Redondo Beach, Pahinui stopped by Amoeba
Hollywood and played a few sweet island songs to a crowd that he would warmly call his “friends.” Little matter that the lyrics of these songs were mostly indecipherable, Cyril couldn’t have been cooler or more emblematic of the island way of life. His slack-key guitar playing was so fluid that it just proves the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Using the fingerpicking technique that his father—the legendary Gabby “Pops” Pahinui—helped preserve as a live tradition in the 1940s, the two-time Grammy winner’s baritone voice is always very full of mood. As each song tells a story, Pahinui paid homage to his father with one number, and to his drinking days in Nanakuli in another, saying that with 17 grandchildren those days are well behind him. He brought out a Japanese Hula dancer for a song, and his wife, Chelle, for another. It was a real treat to catch Pahinui like that on a blue-skied day after the Southern California storms. And it was a bigger treat to watch up close and personal the easy way his thumb and fingers can turn that acoustic guitar into something more...plural. Very cool.
And for those who dig the great Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’
s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World,” it was Pops Pahinui that he dedicates the song to at the beginning—“Kay, this one’s for Gabby.”