The first annual Kaua'i Steel Guitar Festival was held at the Courtyard by Marriott Kaua'i at Coconut Beach on February 5-6, 2016. The first-of-it's kind festival on Kaua'i was scheduled to coordinate with and immediately precede Keola Beamer's annual Aloha Music Camp and provide Kaua'i residents and music campers an enhanced experience with the Hawaiian steel guitar. As with other steel guitar festivals organized by the non-profit HIMELE, this festival was free and open to the public.
The festival kicked off Friday evening with two introductory steel guitar workshops. The first was offered to Kauai school students as an alternative to normally-scheduled school visitations and presentations which could not be made due to a teacher in-service day. The second workshop was open to everyone else. Both workshops were well attended and provided participants with the history and background of the Hawaiian steel guitar. Music featuring the Hawaiian steel guitar was also performed by workshop instructors Alan Akaka and Greg Sardinha, along with the Ke Kula Mele players. A general kanikapila was held after the workshops with participants playing and enjoying traditional Hawaiian music and giving some open stage performers additional opportunities for practice and confidence building.
Some really great steel guitar performances graced the open stage beginning at 9:00 AM Saturday under bright sunshine and clear skies, and featured steel guitarists from California, Canada, Washington D.C., and Illinois, as well as local Kaua'i and Kona (Hawai'i) performers. Weissenborn-type acoustic steel guitars, as well as electric lap steels, were featured in the performances. Some performers chose to perform individually, while others included a complete ensemble with guitars, 'ukuleles, and a bass. The last open stage performance featured Ke Kula Mele Players Alan Akaka, Larry Holu and Addison Ching, with keiki steel guitarists Malie Lyman and Alexis Tolentino performing individually and together on Akaka's dual steel guitar arrangement of the Mauna Kea/Mauna Loa medley. Gale Warshawsky also sang Akaka's arrangement of Ka Wailele o 'Akaka ('Akaka Falls.)
The prediction of inclement weather didn't materialize until the evening and all open stage programs and the first few evening ho'olaule'a performances were held on the outdoor stage. Kicking off the evening's program was a surprise appearance and message from Kaua'i Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr. Celebrity emcee Mele Apana presided over the evening program, beginning with Kaua'i's Kilipaki Vaughan and the Waipa Serenaders, with hula by his wife Meleana. Kaua'i steel guitarist Kirk Smart, accompanied by his son Eli, presented a program of contemporary steel guitar selections. Under threatening skies, Jeff Au Hoy gave the audience samples of both his steel guitar prowess and his vocal skills. After Jeff's performance and under the threat of rain, the program was moved to the alternate indoor venue, with sound technician Kent Tanigawa and his crew working feverishly to disassemble, move to, and reconfigure the sound system and lighting.
Once indoors, the program resumed with Greg Sardinha's selections including, as Greg described it, "Something by the Beatles" which was actually "Something" by the Beatles. This was followed by a performance by Bobby Ingano that included his signature "Sleepwalk." Ed Punua from Kaua'i showcased his and the Punua family talent, with dad Victor and steel guitarist sons Lilikalani and Kawa'iki lending support during the segment. Alan Akaka finished out the evening program with his steel guitar stylings. Alan invited Next Generation steel guitarist Alexis Tolentino to play "Wai o Minehaha" then called on program emcee Mele Apana to sing "Aloha Kaua'i" accompanied by Alexis dancing hula. Akaka then called on Next Generation steel guitarist Malie Lyman to perform then introduced special guest vocalist Pomaika'i Lyman who sang "Kane'ohe" while daughter Malie danced the hula.
The finale was a steel guitar jam session with the evening's featured steel guitarists playing "Hanohano Hanalei" in round-robin fashion (Kirk Smart chose to play 'ukulele.) Aloha 'Oe and the traditional Hawaii Aloha finished off the program. An estimated 300 standing-room only audience enjoyed the different styles and stylings of the featured steel guitar players.
Comments received from festival attendees indicated that this festival was long overdue and welcomed by many, especially Kaua'i residents who embrace Hawaiian music, culture, and the Hawaiian steel guitar. A polling of the audience indicated a large number of local (Kaua'i) attendees, as well as a good number from other Hawaii islands and the continental US. Attendees also originated from Canada, Germany, and Japan. The event's popularity, success, and how it was embraced by the Kaua'i music community ensures that it will indeed become an annual event on the island of Kaua'i.KSGF
July 9-14, 2018
Monday-Thursday - Nightly Evening Performances
Friday-Saturday - Festival Ho'olaule'a Performances
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki
Hawai'i Island Steel Guitar Festival
September 7-9, 2018 - Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, Kohala Coast, Hawai'i
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Ka Makana Ali'i
February 16, 2019 (tentative) - Ka Makana Ali'i Shopping Center, Kapolei
Kaua'i Steel Guitar Festival
March 1-2, 2019 - Courtyard Kaua'i at Coconut Beach, Kapa'a, Kaua'i
Maui Steel Guitar Camp
TBD (tentative) - Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina, Maui
Maui Steel Guitar Festival
TBD - Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina, Maui
TBD - Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, Kahului, Maui
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
June 8, 2019 (tentative) - Windward Mall, Kaneohe
HIMELE is a Hawai'i non-profit corporation that supports music enrichment and education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to educate, promote, and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments.