What happens when you tune guitar strings down, so they’re slacker—which is how the Hawaiian slack-key style got its name? Well, you get a chimier sound, mellower, more sonorous, less twangy—edging a little closer to that of an autoharp or a hammered dulcimer. Matching the lower tension in the strings, it’s also a more laid-back playing style, finger picking (à la banjo) rather than assertive rhythmic strumming. Most striking is the mood. In contrast to the happy-go-lucky ukulele, slack-key music is shot through with a peculiar heartfelt wistfulness; it’ll make you miss Hawaii even if you’re listening to it in Hawaii. Cyril Pahinui, a scion of the instrument’s first family (his father, Gabby, is generally considered the greatest slack-key guitarist of them all), has gathered a dozen or so musicians for this festival, now in its 10th year—mostly from the isles, plus a performance by local hula dance troupe Hula Halau Pulamahiaikalikolehua, food and crafts, and, over at Dusty Strings Music School in Fremont, companion Saturday-morning slack-key and ukulele workshops.
11/11. 1–6 p.m. Prices vary. Highline Performing Arts Center, Burien, 401 S 152nd St.; 206.631.6795;seattleslackkeyfestival.com