THIS GUITAR STARTED LIFE AS A limited edition, chrome-plated Custom Shop Strat with a hollow metal body. A well-heeled customer in Monaco commissioned Graham Baker from Gold 2U Ltd of Glastonbury to plate the guitar in 24K gold. Assembly and setup were performed by Kim Webber of Kim Webber Guitars in the UK. Please remove your big metal Foghat belt buckle before playing this guitar.
MAKANA WAS ONE OF THE STARS OF GP’s 2008 Guitar Superstar competition. He talked to GP about the slack key guitar tradition and how he applies that to his latest release, Venus and the Sky Turns to Clay: The Instrumental World of Makana [Punahele Productions].
Define slack key guitar.
Slack key playing involves a “slacking” of the strings to make an open chord. That means you don’t have to hold that chord, so your hand is freed up. Then you establish a bass with your thumb and over that a melody. It’s doing multiple parts on an open-tuned guitar.
Who are some of the slack key players who have been an influence on you?
They’re actually my teachers. I was blessed to learn from Sonny Chillingworth—he’s a legend—and his good friend Gabby Pahinui. Also Atta Isaacs, Peter Moon, and one of the living masters, Ledward Kaapana.
Are you going to tour this record or play primarily in the islands?
There’s a showroom called the Monarch Room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, and I had the opportunity to open my own room there, which was a dream come true. We brought back a lot of the old-school Hawaiian music. I’ve been gigging there the entire summer but I’m planning a mainland tour. This record is about expanding the mentality about slack key. The style still isn’t understood, and I really want to see other guitarists pick it up, because it’s not something that’s cultural. In its roots it is, but the approach is universal. You can apply it to any style.