Ki-ho’alu Foundation’s 28th annual Slack concert goes virtual

  • Courtesy of Ian O’Sullivan

    Ian O’Sullivan is one of the headlining artists featured in the virtual 28th annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival broadcasted on streaming platforms including and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

  • Courtesy of Kawika Kahiapo

    Kawika Kahiapo is one of the headlining artists featured in the virtual 28th annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival that will broadcasted on streaming platforms including and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

HONOLULU — In the 38 years of promoting the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival on O‘ahu and 28 years of promoting the concert on the neighboring islands, promoter Milton Lau can’t recall dealing with any setback like COVID-19.

Traditionally, the Ki-Ho‘alu Foundation hosts an annual live event on Kaua‘i, but this year, using technology, they’ve opted to do the music devoted to the genre of the unique Hawaiian guitar tunings virtually.

“We never anticipated and even imagined this kind of thing would happen after 27 years,” Lau said. “No one saw anything like this coming.”

This Sunday, the slack show goes on. The festival will stream live from 1 to 5 p.m. on various websites. There will still be some big-name performers on the bill, including Kawika Kahiapo, George Kuo, Bobby Moderow, Ian O’Sullivan and Kamuela Kahoano.

“We had many people who still wanted to enjoy the music festival and make it available to every one of the fans on Kaua‘i and fans everywhere by posting it on the Facebook page and YouTube channel,” Lau said.

“Now we have another entity, Hawai‘i News Now, and they are cross-promoting the concert on their website to view the festival and various sights.”

Maintaining quality

Utilizing new technology to maintain the quality and the cultural integrity the concert has become known for nearly 40 years, they didn’t want to do a typical Facebook Live event.

Using technology called NewTech, which can create a television-quality broadcast in a home studio, will allow the public to gain a higher-quality experience from the four-hour set.

“We tried to do this as professionally as possible when we were doing this,” Lau said. “We set up things like 16-to-20-feet ceilings, which have large backdrops for the festival, and utilized high-grade equipment. All of this stuff makes it look more like the level of a television show.”

No pressure

In this event, which is free to stream virtually, patrons will be able to make donations to the Ki-Ho‘alu Foundation.

“This is not a pressurized thing, and people are free to view if they want, but if they felt compelled to donate, we are pretty excited if they do that. But that isn’t the primary thing for us,” Lau said.

“Our main mission is to get the product out there so people can view it. Hopefully, during this pandemic season, it gives people a little more sunshine to listen to wonderful music and watch it with their friends and family.”

If someone intends to donate money to the concert, they are paying for all of the artists on the venue, who are compensated for their effort, their services and associated costs of social-media advertising.

“This is just part of what we do, and we anticipate all of those costs beforehand,” Lau said. “Not traveling to Kaua‘i helped cut our costs. There are no travel expenses for any of us with the hotels and transportations fees that were normally associated with this. We cut costs and did this digitally.”

A cultural experience

The virtual concert is two hours shorter than the live festival. It should provide Kaua‘i with a bill of top-caliber artists, he said.

“Kaua‘i is one of those special places, and we normally go to Kaua‘i to finish the festival series there,” Lau said. “It’s a beautiful island, and it’s friendly. I can’t say enough about the hospitality, and they’ve always given back to us. It’s a win-win situation. We are hoping for everyone there will be a better tomorrow, and we can do it live for the people of Kaua‘i.”

To tune in

Event: Ki-Ho‘alu Foundation, Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club, HawaiiNewsNow presents the 28th Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival

Time: Sunday, Nov. 22, 1 to 5 p.m.

Live streaming:,,


Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or


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