Steel Trappings

Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week

Steel Guitar Showcased in Weeklong Waikīkī Event

July 22, 2019 • Addison ChingFestivals and Conventions

Beautiful weather, a wide variety of steel guitarists, and steel guitar fans in person and viewing the live-stream over the Internet, helped to make the 3rd annual Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week the most successful in the ten-year history of the Waikīkī event. Four years ago the Royal Hawaiian Center embraced the festival as one of its annual activities, and made the festival a weeklong event in 2017.

Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell kicked off the weeklong festivities by proclaiming July 15-20 as Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week. Nightly hour long concerts were offered on Monday through Thursday, featuring Ke Kula Mele Hawai‘i NextGen (keiki) steel guitarists, Greg Sardinha and Po‘okela, Lion Lady Steel Guitar Ensemble, and Alan Akaka and The Islanders. The Lion Lady group made their Waikīkī debut with four female steel guitarists—Masako Wakamatsu, Sakae Machida, Yoko Tanaka, and Akiko Watanabe—playing individually and collectively under the direction of Kiyoshi "Lion" Kobayashi.

Lion Lady Steel Guitar Ensemble
Lion Lady Steel Guitar Ensemble. pc-Don Touchi

Several celebrity emcees presented the daily steel guitar programs. The emcee for Monday and Tuesday was Hawaiian culture specialist and historian Hau‘oli Akaka, while Wednesday through Friday programs were hosted by Maui comedienne, radio personality, and news columnist Kathy Collins. Collins is the emcee for the annual Maui Steel Guitar Festival.

Saturday's program was presented by Alan Akaka and Reiko Tokushige Rogers. Rogers, president of Studio Rim Hawaii and the host of weekly satellite broadcasts that promote Hawaiian music and culture to Japanese audiences, provided Japanese language commentary to festival guests. The Lion Lady group had their own announcer Haruko Ozeki who introduced the group's selections and provided commentary about the group's music.

Friday's evening ho‘olaule‘a featured Greg Sardinha and Po‘okela and steel guitarists Kapono Lopes, Scott Furushima, and Paul Kim and the Waimānalo Sunset Band singing and playing in the style of the Sons of Hawaii.

Paul Kim & the Waimānalo Sunset Band
Paul Kim & the Waimānalo Sunset Band. pc-Don Touchi

An Open Stage program was offered for the first time in Waikīkī, with participants from Hawai‘i, California, and Japan showcasing their talent. Northern California was represented by Kris Oka and Hawaiian group Haopinaka. Groups from Japan included Shinichi and Kumiko Kakiuchi, Noriko and Shuji Tomita, and the Lion Lady Steel Guitar Ensemble. NextGen and Makua students of Alan Akaka's Ke Kula Mele Hawaiīi School of Hawaiian Music and Hawaiīi steel guitarist Kamaka Tom and Ka Moaīe represented Hawaiīi on the open stage.

Haopinaka from the San Francisco Bay Area
Haopinaka from the San Francisco Bay Area. pc-Don Touchi

The Saturday entertainment was continuous from noon, starting with the Open Stage leading into the Saturday evening hoīolauleīa. Australian steel guitarist Paul Agar from the group Aloha Baby kicked off the program, followed by Polynesian Cultural Center steel guitarist Steve Cheney, Japan steel guitarist Tetsuya Ishiyama, and Alan Akaka and The Islanders. The evening program concluded with Kiyoshi "Lion" Kobayashi and the Lion Lady Steel Guitar Ensemble and musicians.

A vintage steel guitar exhibit and hands-on opportunities for festival guests to explore the Hawaiian steel guitar were offered in the center's Helumoa Hale guest services desk and meeting room.

For those steel guitar fans unable to be at the Waikīkī event in person, both evening programs and Saturday's Open Stage program were live-streamed on the event's Facebook page, with Friday's program reaching 846 viewers and Saturday's marathon broadcast attracting 1.7k viewers.

The annual Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week is presented free to the public by the Royal Hawaiian Center and supported in part by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts through appropriations from the Legislature of the State of Hawaii and by the National Endowment for the Arts. Event photographs and video clips of select performances will be posted online at the event's website when they are available.

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