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Kaua‘i ‘Ukulele Festival draw wide range of players

LIHU‘E — The small instrument with four strings and a carved box is everywhere, and its popularity that led it to becoming an icon of Hawai‘i, aloha and Hawaiian lifestyle meant the two-day weekend at Kukui Grove Center should have been melded into one big ‘ukulele festival.

“We’re not quite set up, yet,” said Tara Smart of Hanalei Strings. which brought an assortment of Kala ‘Ukulele through the threat and downpour of the Sunday morning weather to the Kaua‘i ‘Ukulele Festival. “We have more instruments to unpack.”

Her husband Kirk said Hanalei Strings now feature live entertainment on several nights during the week.

“I ran into a young person who remembers us from when Tora was part of a movement during the COVID-19 when they raised several hundred quality ‘ukulele to present to graduating seniors on Kaua‘i because the students were not allowed to have graduation,” Kirk said. “Imagine that they still remember that instrument that substituted for graduation.”

‘Ukulele maker Kalei Gamiao, of Honolulu, said a local television station did a recent story about a guy from Wahiawa that makes ‘ukulele — he doesn’t even know how to play the instrument — and presents them free to students graduating from the University of Hawai‘i.

Another maker, Deo Ha‘oha‘o and Hector Bernaldo, of Manea Ukulele.com, said they create Tahitian ‘ukulele and started because they realized how groups participating in Tahitian dance competition had a hard time getting instruments that produce the unique sounds of Tahitian dance.

Aldrinne Guerrero took care of that as an early part of the one-day festival where the entertainment lineup included a variety of ‘ukulele players of all ages.

The combination of makers, including Paul Arrington of Pololu ‘Ukulele, Tomas Braverman and distributers offered potental ‘ukulele buyers an opportunity to shop with some of the finest high quality sources.

The entertainment lineup included well-known artists like the Kapa‘a Middle School Choir and ‘Ukulele Band, which recently earned two gold rankings at a California music festival, to the range of kupuna groups like those being led by Queenie Pezario and the Thursday class at the Kaua‘i Museum, as well as Kyle Furusho, Kimo Hessey and Ned Dana.

The Kaua‘i ‘Ukulele Festival is presented through the sponsorships of the Koa Kea Resort, The Kanikapila Project, Kala Brand Music, the AG ‘Ukulele Academy, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Special Events Hawai‘i, Kala Foundation and Kukui Grove Center.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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