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Festival celebrates the unique sound of Hawaii

By Staff | Apr 22, 2010

Henry Allen will teach students how to play steel guitar at the festival.

KAANAPALI — Henry Kaleialoha Allen and friends this weekend will celebrate "the sound that made Hawaii famous, worldwide," he said.

Named after Allen, the second annual Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival will be held Friday, April 23, through Sunday, April 25, at Kaanapali Beach Hotel.

He emphasized that the steel guitar "is the only true Hawaiian instrument — stringed instrument. The others, ukulele and guitar, were brought in."

Joseph Kekuku invented the steel guitar at Kamehameha Schools in the late 1800s. To Allen, it’s Hawaii’s signature sound.

"Our guests expect to hear this played when they come to Hawaii," he commented.

For this year’s concerts and workshops, Allen will be joined by Alan Akaka and The Islanders, Danny Akaka Jr., Duke Keolani Ching with Greg Sardinha and Gordon Freitas, State Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, Aloha Kekoolani, Kiyoshi “Lion” Kobayashi, Bill Noble and special guest Dr. Neil Scott.

Alan Akaka (U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s son), Ching, Kobayashi and other festival artists all go way back with Allen.

"Because they are all my friends today, the best, and also teachers of this fine and unique instrument," said Allen, when asked how the 2010 lineup was decided.

"All my guest artists/players here will show their own way of playing and teaching."

The festival will begin with an exclusive opportunity to meet and talk story with Allen today, Thursday, April 22, at 6 p.m. Allen will delve into all aspects of the Hawaiian steel guitar, his life and his music career.

This reception is the only ticketed event offered during the weekend. The price is $150 per person for food, wine and champagne, a gift bag and photos. Contact Sherron Allen at 669-6189 for reservations.

On Friday, April 22, at 2 p.m. in Kaanapali Beach Hotel’s Kanahele Room, Allen will lead “Teaching the Hawaiian Steel Guitar,” and Scott will offer a hands-on class on making a steel guitar. Building kits will be provided.

The workshops on playing and building the instrument are meant to educate young artists.

Allen said "Scott is working with me to build my own model of steel guitar, both for the teachers and the students, that will be reasonably priced and within reach of all."

The art form started as a "lap steel" held on the guitarist’s lap. Players hold a steel bar in their left hand and the finer pick in the right.

"Then, with two fingers, you slide the ‘steel bar’ across the strings to get a ‘slur,’ " said Allen, recognized as “The Master Artist” of Hawaiian steel guitar and Hawaiian music by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and the Hawaii Academy of Recording Artists.

"That’s that sound of the Hawaiian steel guitar!"

At 3 p.m. Friday in the lobby, Danny Akaka Jr. and Kekoolani will give Hawaiian culture enrichment presentations. At 5:30 p.m., the duo will participate in the opening ceremony and Hawaiian blessing, and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona will give a welcome address.

From 6:15 to 9 p.m. in the Tiki Terrace Restaurant, Alan Akaka and The Islanders, the Duke Kaleiolani Ching Trio, Kobayashi and hula dancers will perform, followed by a Jam Session with festival artists in the Kanahele Room.

Saturday’s events will begin with presentations by Danny Akaka Jr. and Kekoolani at 9:15 a.m. in the lobby.

At 10 a.m. in the Kanahele Room, Allen will discuss “Kila Kila” and legendary composer Lani Sang, whose daughter, Mamo, will be present. Breakout sessions are slated, round robin-style, with Alan Akaka, Ching and Kobayashi.

At 12:30 p.m. in the Tiki Courtyard, Kekoolani will lead a Na‘au Poi Seminar, and at 1:30 p.m., festival artists, participants and special guests will begin playing all day.

At 5:30 p.m. in the Tiki Courtyard, the opening blessing and chant will be offered by Kekoolani. Galuteria will serve as emcee, and West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker will be the guest of honor. At 6 p.m., Hawaiian steel guitar trios and hula dancers will take the stage.

At 7:30 p.m., a concert featuring Allen and Tropical Swing, Hawaiian steel guitar players, hula dancers and saxophonist Noble will begin.

There will be dancing under the stars until 10 p.m. with music by Noble and Tropical Swing, then the action will move to the Kanahele Room for a Jam Session.

On Sunday, some of the festival’s special guests will entertain at Kaanapali Beach Hotel’s Sunday Champagne Brunch beginning at 9:30 a.m. The program will feature Hawaiian steel guitar players and hula dancers with host Galuteria.

The festival arrives during another busy year for Allen. His CD, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" recorded live at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, is nominated for a Na Hoku Hanohano Award in the jazz category.

He will head to Honolulu for the Na Hoku O Hawaii Music Festival from May 27-30, lead workshops on Hawaiian steel guitar and music composition at the Hawaii Convention Center on May 28 and star in a concert at the Moana Surfrider Hotel as part of the music festival.

His schedule also includes performing at the Ulupalakua Upcountry Winery Jazz Festival on June 6 and a jazz tour in Japan with singing star Masami Satau in September.

Allen is pleased that this weekend’s festival will be produced, managed and staffed by Native Hawaiians.

"I have tried to bring the persons from all categories each time, and from different walks of life and elements, together for this event… we need their help and support to have a musical extravaganza such as this," Allen explained.

"Last and not least, the full support of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, the ‘Most Hawaiian Hotel,’ who, without their backing and blessings, this never could happen… The value of our culture is perpetuated in this hotel’s dedication to my art form, the Hawaiian steel guitar," he concluded.

During the festival, the hotel is offering a $109 kama‘aina rate. For hotel reservations and information, call 661-0011 or visit www.kbhmaui.com.

The 2010 Maui Music Festival is sponsored by the County of Maui, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Kaanapali Beach Hotel and Arts Education for Children Group (AECG).

For a complete schedule and more information, visit www.aecg.org or call 669-6189.