As an old-time music aficionado, it is no wonder I am drawn to Hawaiian Slack-Key guitar. Here’s a little bit about both Slack-key guitar and Old-Time music as defined by Wikipedia:
Slack-key guitar is a fingerstyle genre of guitar music that originated in Hawaii. Its name refers to its characteristic open tunings: the English term is a translation of the Hawaiian kī hōʻalu, which means “loosen the [tuning] key”. Most slack-key tunings can be achieved by starting with a guitar in standard tuning and detuning or “slacking” one or more of the strings until the six strings form a single chord, frequently G major.
In the oral-history account, the style originated from Mexican cowboys in the late 19th century. These paniolo (a Hawaiianization of españoles—”Spaniards”) provided guitars, taught the Hawaiians the rudiments of playing, and then left, allowing the Hawaiians to develop the style on their own. Musicologists and historians suggest that the story is more complicated, but this is the version that is most often offered by Hawaiian musicians. Slack key guitar adapted to accompany the rhythms of Hawaiian dancing and the harmonic structures of Hawaiian music. The style of Hawaiian music that was promoted as a matter of national pride under the reign of King David Kalākaua in the late 19th century combined rhythms from traditional dance meters with imported European forms (for example, military marches), and drew its melodies from chant (mele and oli), hula, Christian hymns (hīmeni), and the popular music brought in by the various peoples who came to the Islands: English-speaking North Americans, Mexicans, Portuguese, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Tahitians, and Samoans.
The music did not develop a mainland audience during the Hawaiian music craze of the early 20th century, during which Hawaiian music came to be identified outside of Islands with the steel guitar and the ʻukulele. Slack key remained private and family entertainment, and it was not even recorded until 1946-47, when Gabby Pahinui cut a series of records that brought the tradition into public view. During the 1960s and particularly during the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance of the 1970s, slack key experienced a surge in popularity and came to be seen as one of the most genuine expressions of Hawaiian spirit, principally thanks to Gabby Pahinui, Leonard Kwan, Sonny Chillingworth, Raymond Kāne, and the more modern styles of younger players such as Keola Beamer, his brother Kapono Beamer, Peter Moon, and Haunani Apoliona.
Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music, with roots in the folk music of many countries, including England, Scotland, Ireland and countries in Africa. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dance, buck dance, and clogging. The genre also encompasses ballads and other types of folk songs. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments (most often the guitar and banjo).
Reflecting the cultures that settled North America, the roots of old-time music are in the traditional musics of the British Isles (primarily English and Scottish) and Ireland. In some regions French and German sources are also prominent. While many dance tunes and ballads can be traced to European sources, many others are of purely North American origin.
The term “old-time”
With its origins in traditional music of Europe and Africa, old-time music represents perhaps the oldest form of North American traditional music other than Native American music, and thus the term “old-time” is an appropriate one. As a label, however, it dates back only to 1923.
Fiddlin’ John Carson made some of the first commercial recordings of traditional American country music for the Okeh label. The recordings became hits. Okeh, which had previously coined the terms “hillbilly music” to describe Appalachian and Southern fiddle-based and religious music and “race recording” to describe the music of African American recording artists, began using “old-time music” as a term to describe the music made by artists of Carson’s style. The term, thus, originated as a euphemism, but proved a suitable replacement for other terms that were considered disparaging by many inhabitants of these regions. It remains the term preferred by performers and listeners of the music. It is sometimes referred to as “old-timey” or “mountain music” by long-time practitioners.