Played on an acoustic steel-string guitar with open tunings and a finger-picking technique, Hawaiian slack key guitar music emerged in the mid-nineteenth century. Though played on a non-Hawaiian instrument and influenced by Mexican cowboy culture, it is widely considered to be a truly Hawaiian tradition grounded in Hawaiian aesthetics and cultural values. In Listen but Don't Ask Question Kevin Fellezs examines Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) and non-Hawaiian slack key guitar in Hawai‘i, California, and Japan, tracing how notions of belonging and authenticity become contested depending on who plays the music and where. In Hawai‘i slack key guitar functions as a sign of Kanaka Maoli cultural renewal, resilience, and resistance in the face of appropriation and occupation, while in Japan it becomes the means through which to create a merged Japanese-Hawaiian artistic and cultural sensibility. For diasporic Hawaiians in California, it provides a way to claim Hawaiian identity. By demonstrating how slack key guitar is a site for the articulation of Hawaiian-ness, Fellezs illuminates how slack key guitarists are reconfiguring notions of Hawaiian belonging throughout the transpacific.
“In addition to telling Hawaiian slack key guitar's remarkable history, Kevin Fellezs provides an excellent introduction to the political, social, and economic challenges endured by Hawaiians who live in a homeland dominated by people who have even appropriated the word ‘aloha’ to expedite material and cultural plunder. This book is a wonderful achievement and a significant intellectual feat.”
John W. Troutman, author of
Kika Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music
“Listen But Don't Ask Question theorizes a ‘polycultural transPacific’ to highlight Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) as central participants in the cultural production of slack key guitar music while attending to the multiple lineages tradition. Kevin Fellezs illuminates the complications of cultural and material stewardship as they are bound up in the performance and perpetuation of the musical form, Hawaiian principles of reciprocity, cultural revival and the music industry, community and belonging, and aesthetics. This is bold, rich, and important work that is well-researched, robustly conceptualized, and finely written.”
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, author of
Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty