Cyril Pahinui, a renowned Hawaiian lack-key guitar player who was drafted into the Army and served in the Vietnam War, died November 17 at age 68 of an Agent Orange-related lung disorder and pneumonia. Pahinui grew up in a rural village on Oahu, the son of Philip “Gabby” Kunia Pahinui, a guitarist and singer who pioneered modern slack-key guitar in the late 1940s.
Cyril Pahinui began playing ukulele at age three and at seven picked up the slack-key guitar, a style of guitar in which the strings are loosened, or “slacked.” As a teenager, he played in his father’s band. A few years later he and Peter Moon founded the Hawaii-rock-fusion band, Sunday Manoa. He was drafted into the Army in 1968 and served with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.
“I saw him live a couple of times and own many of his fine albums,” said the writer David Willson. “He was a great Hawaiian musician who was a disciple of his father Gabby Pahinui, who I also saw a few times. Just like the old blues singers, the traditional Hawaiian musicians are dying off. Cyril performed on at least thirty-five Hawaiian musical releases and was on three albums which were Grammy award winners. Cyril also formed the Sandwich Isle Band, which revived and performed jazz inflected songs of the 20’s and the 30’s.”