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Steel guitar legends to play at free festival

By Staff | Apr 28, 2011


KAANAPALI — West Maui musician Henry Kaleialoha Allen has spent more than 50 years of his life perpetuating the art of the Hawaiian steel guitar.

His efforts continue this week with the third annual Henry Kaleialoha Allen Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel (KBH).

Presented by the 2011 Maui Invitational Music Festival and KBH, the festival will feature free concerts, presentations and hands-on workshops on April 29-30 and May 1. The full event schedule is posted at www.aecg.org.

Not only will students learn from masters, some will make Hawaiian steel guitars to take home.

Sherron Allen, coordinator of the festival named in honor of her husband, said, “One of the reasons the art is dying out is because the instruments are so expensive. These workshops make it possible for students to have one to play.”


Recognized as one of “Hawaii’s Living Legends of Hawaiian Music,” Allen will be joined by Hawaiian steel guitar players, cultural enrichment specialists and special guests at the festival.

The 2011 lineup includes steel guitarists Duke Kaleolani Ching, Greg Sardinha and Japan’s Kiyoshi “Lion” Kobayashi. Alan Akaka and The Islanders, Japanese singer Masami Sato and the Kani Ka Pila steel guitar trio from Yokohama, Japan, are also slated to perform.

“Japan singing star Masami, a singer of Hawaiian songs, is one of my special guest artists,” said Henry .

“She has a well-known nightclub in Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan, called Aloha Station. She has been a major backer of Hawaiian music in Japan and brings in artists from Hawaii to her club throughout the years.”

Students from Connections Charter School in Hilo are flying to Maui to attend free workshops and perform at the steel guitar festival.

Performances on Friday, April 29, will begin with an Opening Ceremony on the main stage at 5:30 p.m. Danny Akaka Jr. and Aloha Keko’olani will offer pule and chants, and Mayor Alan Arakawa and Jo Anne Johnson Winer, director of transportation for Maui County, will speak.

From 6 to 6:45 p.m., the Kani Ka Pila Steel Guitar Trio will play with cameo appearances by Henry Kaleialoha Allen and Archie Grant. From 7 to 8:30 p.m., Alan Akaka and The Islanders will play accompanied by hula dancers, including hula class students from the festival.

Friday’s lineup will conclude with an Open Jam Session in the Kanahele Room from 8:45 to 11:30 p.m. All are welcome to bring their instruments and join in. Henry will share steel guitar techniques at this jam session.

On Saturday, April 30, from 1 to 4 p.m. on the main stage, a kanikapila (Hawaiian-style musical get together) will feature festival players and guest dancers from a festival hula class.

At 5:30 p.m., Akaka and Keko’olani will set the stage for the evening with pule and chants. Hosted by Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, the ceremony will feature guest speakers Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO; and Maui Visitors Bureau Executive Director Teryl Vencl.

First up will be Greg Sardinha and Duke Ching with hula dancers from 6 to 6:45 p.m., followed by the “Concert Under the Stars” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Galuteria will emcee this evening of music starring Henry Kaleialoha Allen and Tropical Swing and Sato.

Another Open Jam Session in the Kanahele Room will close the night from 8:45 to 11:30 p.m. All are welcome to bring their instruments and play along.

Festival artists will play at Kaanapali Beach Hotel’s Sunday Champagne Brunch on May 1 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (for reservations, call 661-0011).

Sunday’s free performances on the main stage include Kani Ka Pila from Japan from 9 to 10 a.m., Greg Sardinha and Duke Ching from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. and Alan Akaka and The Islanders, Lion Kobayashi and hula by guest artists from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Henry emphasized that the festival has a major educational component. Recognized as “The Master Artist” of the Hawaiian steel guitar and Hawaiian music by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and Hawaii Academy of Recording Artists, Henry has created an event where students can learn to play and actually make Hawaiian steel guitars.

Dr. Neil Scott, director of the Archimedes Project at the University of Hawaii, will conduct free guitar-building workshops with his assistant, Bill Weichert, and musician Colin John from 2 to 5 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday. Building kits will be provided.

Sherron explained, “You cannot buy a Hawaiian steel guitar anywhere in the nation that is produced and made for Hawaiian players. There is no outlet.

“Henry went to Fender company, the biggest who made steels — his was the last one produced in the 1970s — to see if they were interested in making his model for him. They phased out of the business of steels, which once was really big business. There are some persons who are making one here and there, but the prices are out of reach. Henry’s desire was to find a builder here in Hawaii that could work with him to do this program,” and he found Dr. Scott.

As a young man, Dr. Scott developed a love for the steel guitar and played it in his high school band. He is an electrical engineer with almost 40 years of experience in rehabilitation engineering and user interfaces for people with special needs.

Through this work, Scott has developed a way of using computer technology to build Hawaiian steel guitars, thus making them accessible and affordable for players. Students will learn what makes the instrument work and how to play them.

The author of “How To Play The Hawaiian Steel Guitar,” Henry looks forward to telling the instrument’s story in a powerpoint presentation, “Joseph Kekuku, Hawaii Calls and Don McDiarmid Jr.,” on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m., followed by conversation.

“Joseph Kekuku, who is recognized as founder and inventor of the Hawaiian steel guitar, is from Kamehameha Schools. No pedals on it — first known as a ‘lap steel’ — and the only true Hawaiian stringed instrument! He took it throughout the world, played before kings and queens and opened a music school on the East Coast in the early 1900s,” said Henry, who will be joined by Kekuku’s niece, Ka’iwa Meyers, in the presentation.

“It was also the featured instrument of the famous ‘Hawaii Calls’ radio show that ran from 1936 to 1976 worldwide! I have some wonderful photos that Kamehameha Schools is loaning to me for this program!

All three days, island arts and crafts, educational displays and exhibits, and Hawaiian cultural activities will be presented throughout the hotel.

Henry praised KBH for hosting the event, Hawaiian-style.

“Kaanapali Beach Hotel management and staff work very hard, and they are the only hotel on Maui — and has to be in our whole state — that are totally into giving the true Hawaiian experience for their guests and do ‘Keep it Hawaiian.’

The festival is supported by Arts Education for Children Group, the County of Maui, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, West Maui Health Alliance, Jazz Alley TV and HawaiiOnTV.com. It is part of the 2011 Maui Invitational Music Festival created by the nonprofit AECG to provide opportunities for students to study and play alongside accomplished instructors. For more information, visit www.aecg.org.