Led Kaapana

The sound of the tropics

In Hawaii, the slack-key, or kî hô’alu, acoustic guitar technique is a family style, music you play with your friends sitting around the backyard and at house parties—a less public and “touristy” style, maybe, than slide guitar or ukulele music. In kî hô’alu, some of the guitar strings are tuned down from the standard E-A-D-G-B-E. There are many such re-tunings, some used only by particular players (and kept secret). In the most popular tunings, the strings, strummed by themselves unfingered, make a pure, sweet major chord. Musicians have speculated for centuries about the ways a country’s music reflects its character, and of course it does, if you stick to generalizations: German music is serious and heavy, Italian music is tuneful and not too complicated, etc. But maybe there’s some deeper cause and effect between Hawaii’s famously laid-back island culture and slack-key playing: The de-tightened strings make the instrument sound—like Hawaiians themselves, you might say—softer, mellower, and literally looser. Led Kaapana is one of the masters of this style, a musician who’s played with Alison Krauss, Chet Atkins, and Dolly Parton, among others. He’ll perform, with Mike Kaawa to open, at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., http:kbcs.fm. $12-$15. 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERT

Fri., Feb. 8, 8 p.m., 2008

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