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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Music » » Ray Kane, master of slack key R.I.P.
Ray Kane, master of slack key R.I.P.
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 24, 2003
Posts: 1207
From: McKinney, TX
Posted: 2008-03-08 06:04 am   Permalink

Ray Kane, an internationally known master of the Hawaiian slack-key guitar, died last Wednesday in Honolulu. He was 82 and lived in Nanakuli, on the island of Oahu.

The cause was respiratory failure, his wife, Elodia, said.

Though Mr. Kane (pronounced KAH-neh) did not consider himself a professional musician until he was in middle age, he is widely credited with helping revive interest in his instrument in Hawaii and around the world. A welder by trade who learned the slack-key guitar as a boy, he was among the first people to bring the instrument into the concert hall.

In the traditional Hawaiian slack-key style, the strings of a standard guitar are tuned down — that is, slackened. This unorthodox tuning lets the guitarist play a full, resonant chord simply by strumming all six open strings at once, without having to use the left hand on the fret board. The resulting music, which is also characterized by traditional rhythms and ornamentation, is often described as liquid, rippling and hypnotic.

Every slack-key player tunes the instrument differently, and the tunings, which were often passed down in families, could be guarded as fiercely as any trade secret. Mr. Kane usually tuned his guitar to match his singing voice, approximately G major.

The slack-key guitar has its roots in the 19th century, when Spanish and Mexican vaqueros came to Hawaii to herd cattle. They brought their guitars with them. In the decades that followed the slack-key style, known in Hawaiian as “ki hoalu,” developed spontaneously in the islands. In the early 20th century, it could still be heard everywhere: at luaus, on the beaches and in family homes. But by the end of World War II, slack-key guitar, like many traditional Hawaiian arts, had begun to wane.

Raymond Kaleoalohapoinaoleohelemanu Kane was born on Oct. 2, 1925, on the island of Kauai and reared on Oahu. (His middle name, quite prophetically, means “the voice of love that comes and goes like a bird and will never be forgotten.”)

At 4, Ray learned the ukulele and the standard guitar from his father. At 9, he became entranced with the slack-key guitar after hearing a local man play it on the beach. A skilled fisherman even as a child, Ray traded fish for guitar lessons. After serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II, Mr. Kane returned to Hawaii, performing mostly for family and friends.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Kane made his first recordings, singing and playing his own compositions as well as traditional songs. In 1973, he gave what is believed to have been the first full-length solo slack-key guitar recital, at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. The concert brought renewed attention to the instrument.

Mr. Kane taught widely for many years and performed in Hawaii, on the United States mainland and in Japan. In 1987, he was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Besides his wife, Elodia, a traditional singer who often performed him, Mr. Kane is survived by a sister; 2 brothers; 7 children; 20 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; and 2 great-great-grandchildren.

Among his albums are “Master of the Slack Key Guitar” (Rounder Records, 1988); “Punahele” (Dancing Cat Records, 1994); and “Wa’ahila” (Dancing Cat, 1998).

In an interview from the mid-1970s quoted on the Web site allmusic.com, Mr. Kane expressed surprise at his celebrated career.

“I don’t know why they picked me,” he said. “I wasn’t famous. I wasn’t playing anywhere. I was just trying to stick to the style I learned back in the 1930s.”


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2008
Posts: 294
From: Ka'a'awa, HI
Posted: 2008-03-24 10:58 pm   Permalink

Thanx for the fine post, Kenike.

Here's a bit of Ray's wife talking about her husband -

Anybody wishing to hear the real Hawaiian feel, just listen to ANYTHING this man played.

What a loss, and having it come 2 day's after losing Genoa, it's pretty much the end of an incredible era. Two real somebody's that never acted like it.
Most people don't realize how diverse and awesome Hawaiian music has been for many many decades, and Raymond Kane was an important portion of it.


[ This Message was edited by: msteeln 2008-03-24 22:59 ]

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