Photo: Statue of Gabby Pahinui’s draped with Lei
Gabby Pahinui’s statue stands near the stage at Waikīkī Beachwalk. - Photo: Courtesy Outrigger Enterprises Group

A new statue in Waikīkī honors the legendary Gabby “Pops” Pahinui and stands to introduce him to thousands of residents and visitors who may not have grown up listening to the gravel-voiced, slack key guitar strumming master.

Pahinui’s music and legend are larger than life, as is his statue, unveiled on May 26th at Waikīkī Beachwalk. Commissioned by Outrigger Enterprises Group and sculpted by Hawaiʻi artist Kim Duffett, Pahinui will stand beside the Waikīkī Beachwalk performance stage, which is often filled with music and hula. The plaque that accompanies the sculpture reads:

Gabby “Pops” Pahinui
1921 – 1980

Gabby “Pops” Pahinui, a working class hero and a self-taught musician, was one of the great masters of Hawaiʻi’s unique slack-key guitar sound.

Raised on blues and jazz, his first professional gig was in 1933, followed by years of performing. In 1946, he recorded Hiʻilawe, the first-ever recording of Hawaiian slack-key and a song that still brings tears to the eyes of all who listen.

Considered the father of slack key, Gabby had weekend jam-sessions or Kanikapila, in his backyard in Waimānalo, Oʻahu, that drew musicians from throughout Hawaiʻi. They just wanted to play with the master, making music with a sound that has spread around the globe.

Three of Gabby’s sons, Bla, Cyril and Martin, have followed in their father’s footsteps, making music and carrying his legacy forward. – Sculpture by Kim Duffett.

Lynn Cook is a local freelance journalist sharing the arts and culture of Hawaiʻi with a global guidance.

Gabby Pahinui’s statue stands near the stage at Waikīkī Beachwalk. – Photo: Courtesy Outrigger Enterprises Group