Introducing the Best Hawaiian Folk Music Artists

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


In this blog post, we’ll be introducing some of the best Hawaiian folk music artists that you should definitely check out!

Ledward Kaapana

Ledward Kaapana is one of the most respected and accomplished Hawaiian musicians of our time. As a singer, songwriter, and Slack-key guitar virtuoso, Led has been a pioneer in the advancement of Hawaiian music for over four decades. His unique style and mastery of the Slack-key guitar have earned him the respect of musicians all over the world.


Ledward Kaapana is one of the most influential musicians in the Hawaiian islands. In 2006, National Public Radio called him “one of the 50 Great Voices of Hawaii.” His playing style is unique and has been imitated by many. He is a master of the slide guitar as well as the ukulele, and his music often features both instruments.

Kaapana was born on the island of Maui in 1955. He comes from a musical family; his uncle was 1950s Hawaiian music star Atta Isaacs, and his cousin is George Kuo, another respected musician. Kaapana began playing ukulele at age six and soon began performing with his family. In his teens, he began playing guitar and developed his own style of slide guitar.

Kaapana’s career took off in the 1970s when he joined the group Hui Ohana. The group became popular for its traditional Hawaiian music, and Kaapana’s virtuosic playing was a major part of its sound. The group released several albums and toured internationally. In the 1980s, Kaapana embarked on a solo career, releasing his first album in 1982. He has since released several more albums, both solo and with various collaborators.

In addition to his work as a musician, Kaapana is also an educator. He has taught at the University of Hawaii and has given workshops around the world. His work has helped to keep Hawaiian music alive and thriving in the 21st century.


Ledward Kaapana is a Hawaiian singer, ukulele player, and guitarist who is considered one of the masters of Hawaiian slack-key guitar. His style is characterized by his use of unique tunings, complex fingerpicking, and innovative chord progressions.

Notable Works

In 2001, Ledward Kaapana was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship, the United States’ highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, by the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts. In 2010 he was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame.

Led has released several solo albums, as well as albums with his brothers Ned and Cyril Pahinui and Uncle Richard Ho’opi’i. He has played on numerous other albums by top Hawaiian musicians such as Gabby Pahinui, Peter Moon, George Kahumoku Jr., Dennis Kamakahi, Keola Beamer, and Brother Noland.

Dennis Kamakahi

One of the most influential figures in Hawaiian music, Dennis Kamakahi is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who helped to shape the sound of contemporary Hawaiian music. He was a founding member of the Hawaiian music group Olomana, and his compositions have been recorded by some of the most popular Hawaiian music artists. He is also a highly respected teacher, and has taught many of the younger generation of Hawaiian musicians.


Dennis Kamakahi (born March 26, 1950) is a Hawaiian musician, singer, composer, and recording artist, who is considered one of the pioneers of contemporary Hawaiian music. He is a founding member of the Hawaiian music group Na Leo Pilimehana.

Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Kamakahi began playing the ukulele at age five and the guitar at age thirteen. He was exposed to different genres of music growing up, including Hawaiian music, hapa-haole music, jazz, rock, and country. In high school, he started a band called The Sunday Manoa with fellow students David Kamakahi and Ledward Kaapana. The group eventually became one of the most influential in the history of Hawaiian music.

In addition to his work with Na Leo Pilimehana, Kamakahi has released several solo albums and has collaborated with many other artists over the course of his career. He was inducted into the Hawaii Music Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts Hall of Fame in 2005.


Dennis Kamakahi is one of the most celebrated Hawaiian folk music artists. His style is a unique blend of traditional and contemporary influences, with a focus on storytelling and emotive lyrics. Kamakahi’s music has been praised for its beauty and depth, and he is considered one of the most important voices in Hawaiian music today.

Notable Works

“Dear Grandma” and “I Aloha Oe” are two of the most notable works by Dennis Kamakahi. The former is a heartwarming letter to Kamakahi’s recently deceased grandmother, while the latter is a beautiful love song that has become an unofficial anthem for the Hawaiian people. Both songs showcase Kamakahi’s masterful songwriting ability, and his use of traditional Hawaiian instruments gives his music a unique sound that is instantly recognizable.

George Kahumoku Jr.

George Kahumoku Jr. is a Grammy Award-winning slack-key guitarist, singer, songwriter, and Hawaiian music historian. He has been performing Hawaiian music for over 40 years and has released 20 albums. He is considered one of the best Hawaiian folk music artists.


George Kahumoku Jr. is a Grammy award-winning Hawaiian musician, slack key guitar master, singer, songwriter, storyteller, author and educator. He was born in Kohala on the island of Hawaii and raised in a family of musicians. His parents taught him to play the ukulele and guitar, and he soon began performing with his brothers in a band called The Kahumoku Brothers. George has gone on to release over 20 solo albums, and his music has been featured in films and television shows such as “The Descendants” and “Hawaii Five-0.” In addition to his musical talents, George is also a skilled artisan and carver, and he teaches these skills to others through his work as a cultural ambassador for the State of Hawaii.


George Kahumoku Jr. is a Grammy Award-winning slack-key guitarist, singer, songwriter, author, teacher and rancher from Maui. Slack-key is a style of guitar playing characterized by an open tuning and a unique fingerpicking technique. Kahumoku is considered one of the master slack-key guitarists alive today and has been instrumental in perpetuating the Hawaiian musical traditions through his many albums, concerts, and workshops.

Notable Works

George Kahumoku Jr. is a Grammy Award-winning Hawaiian slack key guitar player, singer, songwriter, and teacher. He has recorded numerous solo albums and has collaborated with many other artists, including Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. Kahumoku has also written several books on Hawaiian culture, music, and history.

Some of Kahumoku’s most notable works include the following:
– Slack Key Guitar Basics (Book)
– Na Mele Aloha (Album)
– Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Vol. 1 (Album)
– My Island Home (Song)
– Kawaipunahele (Song)

Slack Key Guitar Festival

The Slack Key Guitar Festival is a two-day event celebrating the Hawaiian slack key guitar tradition. The festival features performances by some of the best Hawaiian slack key guitarists, as well as workshops, slack key guitar lessons, and opportunities to purchase slack key guitars.


The Slack Key Guitar Festival (also known as the Kaua’i Slack Key Guitar Festival and Ki Ho’alu Fest) is an annual event held on the island of Kaua’i in Hawaii. It is a celebration of Hawaiian music and Culture featuring slack key guitarists from all over the islands. The festival was started in 2002 by George Kahumoku Jr and is now one of the most popular events on Kaua’i.

Slack key guitar is a type of Hawaiian folk music that developed in the early 19th century. It gets its name from the fact that the strings are “slacked” or loosened to create a more relaxed sound. Slack key guitarists often use a similar tuning to open tunings, which makes it easy to play with other instruments.

The Kaua’i Slack Key Guitar Festival features some of the best slack key guitarists in Hawaii. It is a great opportunity to see these artists perform and learn about Hawaiian music and culture.


The Slack Key Guitar Festival will be held at the Hawaii Theatre Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. The event will feature performances by some of the best Slack Key Guitar artists in the state, as well as workshops and panel discussions on the history and culture of Slack Key Guitar.

Event Details

The Slack Key Guitar Festival encompasses two days of concerts on Maui, showcasing the best Hawaiian folk music artists. The event will take place on May 16th and 17th, 2020, at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

On Saturday, the festival will feature four slack key guitar artists: Ledward Kaapana, George Kahumoku Jr., Cyril Pahinui, and Martin Pahinui. Sunday’s lineup will include three slack key guitarists: Jeff Peterson, Keola Beamer, and Kawika Kahiapo.

In addition to the concert performances, the festival will also offer hula dancing and ukulele lessons for those who want to learn more about Hawaiian culture. There will also be food and craft vendors on-site, so you can enjoy a taste of Hawaii while you’re there.

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