How ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic guitarist Jim West fell in love with Hawaiian music – Press Enterprise

The lineup for the 16th annual Southern California Slack Key Festival, which celebrates Hawaiian culture through the musical tradition known as ki ho’alu (or slack key), is stacked with some of the island’s top players.

However, one of the most accomplished artists on the bill isn’t a Hawaiian native, but a current Van Nuys resident whose talent has earned him a Grammy award and led to him being recognized as one of the top names in the genre.

And Jim “Kimo” West didn’t even start out playing this traditional style of music.

Early on, he was in a few rock bands before landing a gig playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and keys with singer-songwriter, accordion player and parody artist “Weird Al” Yankovic.

“With ‘Weird Al’ I get to play in front of thousands of people every night and in slack key, we do get to perform at festivals, but it’s very different and I love both. It’s just so much fun for me,” said West, who will be joined by dozens of other artists at the annual Slack Key Festival, which returns to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Jan. 15.

Jim “Kimo” West is the longtime guitarist for “Weird Al” Yankovic West will be performing at the annual Southern California Slack Key Festival Jan. 15. (Photo by Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz)

The daylong event will include hula dancers, a Hawaiian marketplace and performances by artists including George Kuo, Makaha Sons, Sonny Lim and more.

“The set is always incredible. It’s just beautiful music, a beautiful stage. I think it’s the best Hawaiian show on the mainland,” said West, who has performed at the festival just about every year since its inception in 2008.

West, who was born in Toronto, Canada and also lived in the South Bay before more recently moving to the San Fernando Valley, is a self taught guitarist who first met Yankovic just as the Southern California native became a music video and radio sensation in the early ’80s.

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