Celebrate the Life of Hawaiian Guitar Virtuoso Cyril Pahinui Via His Music

By Sameer Rao Nov 20, 2018

A spokesperson for the family of Hawaiian guitarist and singer Cyril Pahinui confirmed to The Maui News yesterday (November 19) that he died on Saturday (November 17) at the age of 68. The Maui News did not report a cause of death, but did note that Pahinui survived pneumonia and other afflictions during his nearly two-and-a-half-year hospitalization for a collapsed lung. Chelle Pahinui told NPR that she believes her late husband’s complications stemmed from his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in the Vietnam War.

Pahinui, who the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation identifies as Native Hawaiian, was best known during his lifetime as a virtuosic practitioner of Kī Hōalu, or slack key guitar. The tradition developed in Hawaii and is characterized by finger-picking an open-tuned guitar. Pahinui learned his craft from his father, renowned slack key guitarist Gabby Pahinui. The younger Pahinui turned his gift into a prolific half-century career that included two Grammy nominations, a festival and an enduring influence on later generations of Hawaiian musicians.

"One of our legends of Hawaiian music has transitioned over into Akua’s arms," one such musician, Amy Hānaialii‘ Gilliom, wrote on Facebook. “Love you."

Celebrate the late musician through these songs and performances: