Annual Slack Key Festival happening in Redondo Beach

Island music, elegant dancing and soulful food—the 2024 Southern California Slack Key Festival is returning to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Sunday, January 14, 2024.

Slack key guitar conveys the sound of Hawaiian fellowship, protest, and deep love for native land.

One of the most acclaimed Hawaiian concerts to ever leave the islands, the Southern California Slack Key Festival takes fans on a Hawaiian musical journey showcasing GRAMMY-winning slack key guitarists, award-winning Hula Hālau, special guest performers and a free-to-the-public Island Marketplace. Kala Koa Entertainment celebrates 17 years of bringing the biggest and brightest names in Hawaiian music to the mainland.

Since 2008, the Southern California Slack Key Festival has been the biggest Hawaiian music concert event in the mainland U.S. and features the most respected names in Hawaiian guitar music and hula today. Taking its name from a finger-picking style of guitar playing indigenous to Hawaii (as heard on the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for “The Descendants”), the Slack Key Festival brings the art of ki ho’alu guitar to Redondo Beach.

This year’s Southern California Slack Key Festival’s line-up includes: Kula’iwiHi’ikuaJerry SantosJeff PetersonJim “Kimo” WestSean ParksNamaka CosmaLeokane Pryor, and Ken Emerson.

Kulāiwi – Individually, these three artists have a number of Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards among them. Lehua Kalima Alvarez is one-third of Hawai‘i’s beloved Nā Leo PilimehanaShawn Kekoa Pimental is a Grammy nominated producer, and he and Kawika Kahiapo have performed with countless island and national favorites. Kulāiwi received the honors of the 2022 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Album of the Year Award, Hawaiian Album of the Year Award, Group of the Year Award, and Hawaiian Engineering Award of the Year for the debut of their self-titled album Kulāiwi-Native Lands. Together, the synergy they create is both heard and felt by their audiences. Kulāiwi means “land of my ancestors.” With soaring vocals, island harmonies and a folk vibe, along with an easy-going charisma and witty banter, they are committed to telling the stories of Hawai’i – the land and the people – from their Indigenous points-of-view. Their prodigious talents as lyricists and composers create music imbued with Hawaiian values and ways of seeing and living in the world. Both their original songs and their selections of Hawaiian classics are inspired by diverse musical styles and reflect their passionate commitment to their islands.

Hi’ikua – In a culture that honors the legacies of the past, this Hawaiian trio of talented musicians pays homage to their roots while creating a unique and progressive sound that leaves their mark in contemporary Hawaiian music. The group’s name derives from the Hawaiian word that means literally “to carry on one’s back.” Hi‘ikua accepts this responsibility and intends with each song to achieve that goal: to speak of their history in words and music; to enjoy each moment of that expression, and in sharing this with you, to hope that their message will find its way into the future. This Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winning group is comprised of Kalehua KrugBlake Leoiki-Haili and Kamuela Kimokeo who is a Hawaiian music educator in a big way on Oahu. He is on the faculty at Windward Community College and has been instrumental in establishing their programming and curriculum, as well as bringing in the best Hawaiian music artists to become involved. 

Jerry Santos – Best known for his work in the musical group Olomana, and a huge part of the 1970’s revival/ renaissance of Hawaiian music, singer/songwriter Jerry Santos has been a familiar presence on the Hawaii music scene for almost five decades. His work has been recognized by the Hawai’i musical community with numerous awards. Amongst them are awards for male vocalist, for composition, and for both traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music. Honolulu Magazine named Olomana’s first recording, “Like a Seabird in the Wind”, #11 on their list of the Top 50 Albums of all time and Jerry’s signature song “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u” was voted #7 on the top 50 Songs of all time. Olomana was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts for their body of work over the years. Jerry is perhaps most honored by his Moe Keale; Aloha is Award, an award that acknowledges a performer’s contributions to his community.

Jeff Peterson – Born on the Island of Maui and grew up on the slopes of Haleakala where he was introduced to the rich heritage of Hawaiian music by his father, a “paniolo” (Hawaiian cowboy), on the Haleakala Ranch. Recognized as one of Hawaii’s most versatile musicians, Peterson is at the heart of the Hawaiian music scene today, having contributed to two Grammy Award-winning recordings and winner of eight Na Hōkū Hanohano Awards in Hawaii including Slack Key Album of the Year for “Maui on My Mind” in 2010, “Slack Key Travels” in 2014 and “O’ahu” in 2016 which also earned him Instrumental Song of the Year for the song “Old Pali”. His latest release “Wahi Pana” is a full-length performance and documentary film and CD soundtrack.

Jim “Kimo” West – Regarded as one of the world’s foremost “ki ho’alu” or Hawaiian “slack key” guitar artists and his music has garnered over seventy-five million spins on streaming services, Kimo just wrapped up a tour of Europe playing his brand of slack key guitar music. He is a 2021 Grammy Winner for his recent CD, More Guitar Stories and a 2019 Grammy nominee for Moku Maluhia-Peaceful Island. He is also a 2008 winner of the Hawaii Music Awards and four-time Na Hoku Hanohano (the Hawaiian ‘Grammy’) nominee. He is a two-time winner of the LA Treasures Award for his efforts in keeping this important acoustic guitar tradition alive. His numerous CDʻs feature many original compositions as well as inventive arrangements of the genreʻs classic repertoire. His seventh CD, Guitar Stories goes beyond slack key, exploring genres like West African guitar, Middle Eastern Music and Americana. Slackers In Paradise features duets with slack and steel guitar legend, Ken Emerson, and his latest CD, Moku Maluhia-Peaceful Island is a mix of “nahenahe” or very relaxing compositions. For his work as long-time guitarist with “Weird Al”, he has earned four Grammy awards and a Billboard #1 CD debut for 2015’s Mandatory Fun. Kimo’s slack key compositions have been used in a number of features, TV spots, cable, web and in many documentaries. 

Sean Parks – A talented young slack key guitarist and vocalist hailing from the island of Hawaiʻi. His ohana comes from the area of Kaimū in the district of Kalapana. Kalapana is famous for its unique style of Hawaiian music and kī hōʻalu (slack key) reminiscent of the old days of Hawaiʻi.

Namaka Cosma – A Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated rising Hawaiian music star and the daughter of Hana, Maui legend and Hawaiian slack key guitarist Pekelo Cosma. Namaka is a graduate of the Institute of Hawaiian Music program at the University of Hawaii Maui College, one of only a handful of women in the state pursuing the art of slack key guitar. While studying at the Institute of Hawaiian Music, Namaka Cosma recorded two songs with Geri Hewahewa, the daughter of Gilbert Emata, which were released as a single. “Ho’oheno A’o Pi’ilani” is nominated for a 2022 Hoku for Hawaiian Single of the Year.

Leokane Pryor – Born and raised in the mystical Mānoa valley on O’ahu, the singer-songwriter spent his youth gaining a love for the culture and music of the land of his birth. He made his debut in the Hawaiian music world in 1999 with his first CD, Maunahele, receiving wide radio play in Hawai’i, the mainland, and abroad and gaining great popularity delighting audiences with his angelic falsetto vocals. His original songs, telling of his home in heavenly Hana and his life-long love for Hawai’i, have been featured in television and film.

Kenton Robert Lopaka Emerson – A San Francisco Bay area born, and Hawaiian island bred guitarist who covers many musical genres. He has played his special blend of Blues/Jazz Hawaiian guitar for 40 years and running. His original compositions and performances on ‘Slack Key Guitar Vol 2’ (Palm Records) helped bring in the first ever 2005 GRAMMY award for Hawaiian music. ‘KE’ most recently played on Donald Fagen’s 2007 GRAMMY winning “Morph the Cat” album.

What is Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Music?
Played from the heart and soul through the fingers and flowing with vivid tropical images, Hawaiian ki ho’alu (slack key) is truly one of the great acoustic guitar traditions of the world. In slack key, some of the strings are “slacked” from the standard guitar tuning, with the thumb playing the bass notes while the other fingers play the melody and improvise in a finger-picked style.

A brief history of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar can be found here:

In addition to the concert, an Island Marketplace – free and open to the public – takes place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. outside of the venue. Browse a variety of island themed gifts, home décor, accessories, apparel, Hawaiian food, authentic island-style shave ice and outdoor entertainment.

Slack Key Festival and Marketplace

– Sunday, January 14, 2024; Concert 2:00 p.m. 
– Free Island Marketplace 11:00 a.m.–
4:00 p.m.

Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center
1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd (at Aviation Blvd.), Redondo Beach, CA  90278
Free Parking!

More information can be found here.

– $25-$65pp Reserved Festival Seating
– $150pp VIP Premium Festival Seating & Luau Reception on Saturday, January 13; 5-8:30 p.m.; VIP Luau Reception at Torrance Cultural Arts Center includes meet-and-greet with the artists, ‘ono food, and giveaways

– Free Island Marketplace open to the public and ticket holders from 11 a.m.–4 p.m.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.

1 comment

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