Now 70, after more than thirty albums and ni Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, slack key guitar master Ledward Kaapana is still a down-to-earth kid from Kalapana.
Led puts his rich baritone and piercing falsetto to stunning use on traditional Hawaiian songs. He’s a master of many string instruments but renowned for slack key guitar, the sweet and soulful music that began on Island ranches in the mid-1800s when local paniolo (cowboys) picked up the guitars of Mexican vaqueros and tuned them to suit their voices and tastes. With slack key tunings, the Hawaiian cowboys could replicate traditional rhythms and chanted melodies. Soon slides, slurs, jumps and harmonics, or “chimes,” were added to echo the Hawaiian style of singing, with its yodels, breaks and falsetto.