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Played from the heart and soul through the fingers, and flowing with vivid tropical images, Hawaiian slack key (ki ho'alu) is truly one of the great acoustic guitar traditions in the world.

In slack key, some of the strings are slacked from the standard tuning, with the thumb playing the bass while the other fingers play the melody and improvisation in a finger-picked style. The roots of slack key can be traced to the 1830s, when the guitar was brought to the Islands by Spanish and Mexican cowboys. The Hawaiians quickly adopted the guitar into their culture, creating many ingenious tunings to suit their music, originally to match the key of the vocals.

Historically, most recordings have included slack key guitar only as accompaniment in a group setting. On Dancing Cat Records' HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY GUITAR MASTERS SERIES, producer George Winston brings the solo guitar to the forefront, showcasing the stylings of some of the best players in the Islands.

In developing an individual style, each of these players draws upon family techniques and those of masters past and present. They invent tunings and use others handed down through the generations, furthering the evolution of solo slack key guitar, and introducing this evocative tradition to the rest of the world.

We invite you to join us in our exploration of ki ho'alu, a unique cultural legacy.

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Dancing Cat Records

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George Winston


From left to right: Barney Isaacs, Leonard Kwan, George Kuo, George Winston, Ben Churchill (upper), Ray Kane (lower), Governor Benjamin Cayetano, Keola Beamer, Ozzie Kotani, Howard Johnston, Bla Pahinui. (1997)
Dancing Cat Records was founded in 1983 by pianist George Winston. His goal was to record both the musicians who have influenced his music and musicians whose music he felt needed to be preserved for future generations.
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