Steel Trappings

Tadashi Arakawa at the 2017 Maui Steel Guitar Festival

The 2017 Maui Steel Guitar Festival: Wet and Wild

May 7, 2017 • Addison ChingFestivals and Conventions

Several hundred steel guitarists and guests converged on Lahaina, Maui's Ka'anapali Beach Hotel for the 9th Annual Maui Steel Guitar Festival held on April 28-30, 2017. Festival guests were also greeted by some unexpected events including a kickoff kanikapila in the hotel's lobby on Thursday night, a surprise solo interlude in the lobby by steel guitarist Bobby Ingano, and an impromptu lobby kanikapila on Saturday afternoon.

Festival guests were treated to Open Stage performances by steel guitarists from Hawaii, all parts of the United States and Japan on Friday and Saturday from late morning to mid-afternoon.

Open Stage Performances

The evening ho'olaule'a pageants featured some of the world's greatest Hawaiian steel guitar players and ensembles including Alan Akaka, Greg Sardinha, Bobby Ingano, Duke Ching, Patti Maxine, Geri Valdriz, Joel Katz, and Japan's Tadashi Arakawa, Kiyoshi "Lion" Kobayashi, Tetsuya Ishiyama and Makana featuring Masami Sato. Nightly public kanikapila sessions followed the nightly programs, where festival guests with their instruments and amplifiers joined in with featured festival players in round-robin style jamming to familiar Hawaiian songs. Graduates of the 2017 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Camp, held in the days preceding the festival, also joined in.

Duke Kaleiolani Ching and Kapua Highlands

A predicted rainstorm invaded the festival early Saturday afternoon, forcing the outdoor open stage performances to be postponed while the performance venue was relocated indoors. Due to heroic efforts by hotel staff, sound engineer David Nakamura, and the broadcast and engineering staff of steelradio.com, all production equipment was relocated, hooked up, and functioning in less than two hours. While the reconfiguration was taking placed, festival artists took up positions in the hotel's lobby for an impromptu kanikapila featuring Bobby Ingano on steel guitar, accompanied by steel guitarists Greg Sardinha on bass, Alan Akaka on 'ukulele, Tadashi Arakawa on guitar, Addison Ching on guitar, and Gary Aiko on 'ukulele. Duke Ching was also seen playing a 'ukulele. Guests enjoyed Bobby Ingano favorites such as "To Make Me Love You, Ku'uipo," "Ua Like No A Like," and "Sleepwalk." Kanikapila guests included Gale Warshawsky singing "Ka Makani Ka 'Ili Aloha" and Next Generation steel guitarist Joey Misailidis, 12, singing and playing "Kealoha." Sister Tai, 9, joined in on her U-bass and kept right up with the group, even as Gary Aiko sang a song that changed keys twice.

The open stage performances resumed indoors, with some open stage artists sacrificing their performance sessions and others abbreviating their performances to get the festival back on schedule. The evening ho'olaule'a was also held indoors immediately following the open stage. The Sunday Brunch entertainment, usually held on the outdoor stage, was moved indoors to the Kanahele Room's newly-refurbished stage, where Sunday brunch guests heard Japanese groups Yokohama Bay Breeze and Makana, an all-female group headed by Masami Sato, proprietor of Japan's Tokyo Station. A jam session followed, led by Alan Akaka with Greg Sardinha, Bobby Ingano, Patti Maxine and Dave Kolars, Alexis Tolentino and Joey Misailidis on steel guitars, Larry Holu and Tai Misailidis on bass, Gary Aiko on 'ukulele, and Alan, Kaipo Asing and Addison Ching on guitars. The jam session also featured hula by Alexis Tolentino, Kathy Collins, and Leilani Kahoano. Shirley Holu sang "My Yellow Ginger Lei" and Kimo Kahoano sang his signature song "Aloha Friday, No Work Til Monday."

Maui County Mayor Alan M. Arakawa issued a proclamation declaring April 24-30, 2017, as Maui Steel Guitar Appreciation Week. The proclamation was to have been presented at a public ceremony scheduled for the "Hana Hou" part of the festival at Kahului's Queen Ka'ahamanu Center but the festival received word late Saturday that the outdoor center would be closed on Sunday because of the rain, thereby forcing cancellation of the Kahului event.

While festival guests enjoyed the musical performances at the hotel, they did not experience the visitations on Thursday and Friday to Maui schools that were conducted by teams of featured festival musicians and Next Generation steel guitarists. These visitations were done to promote and educate area students about the Hawaiian steel guitar and encourage interest in the instrument. Schools visited included Maui's Seabury Hall, Kalama Intermediate School, Kamehameha Schools, and King Kekaulike High School.

The annual Maui Steel Guitar Festival is presented free to the public by Maui's Arts Education and Children Group, Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences (HIMELE) and the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel. Next year's festival is tentatively scheduled for April 13-15, 2018.

Photo Credits: All photos pc-Don Touchi except where noted.
Photo 1 - Featured steel guitarist Tadashi Arakawa from Yokohama, Japan, with Gary Aiko, Alan Akaka, Greg Sardinha, and Kaipo Asing.
Photo 2 - Open Stage performers Chuck Hughes, Hideko Kobayashi, and Dave "DK" Kolars. Dave Kolars pc-Addison Ching.
Photo 3 - Steel Guitar master Duke Kaleolani Ching marked his return to the festival with daughter and Kumu Hula Kapua Hollands. Video Courtesy of Carmel Lay.

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