Hawaii Music Festivals

Hawaii music festivals play a meaningful soundtrack to the visitor experience By: Marty Wentzel
At the Ukulele Festival Hawaii in Oahu, a ukulele orchestra of students performs. // © 2012 Oahu Visitors Bureau
At the Ukulele Festival Hawaii in Oahu, a ukulele orchestra of students performs. // © 2012 Oahu Visitors Bureau

A huge part of Hawaii’s distinctive spirit springs from its music, and visitors who attend Hawaii music festivals are likely to come away with deeper, more meaningful insights into the culture of the islands.

While the foundation of Hawaii’s melodies, chants and rhythms reaches back thousands of years, today’s island music combines those age-old traditions with modern influences, from rock and rap to jazz and Jawaiian (Hawaiian reggae).

Every year, the tuneful traditions of the islands are celebrated during a full calendar of annual events honoring the uniqueness of Hawaii instruments, musicians and songs. The following five upcoming festivals are surefire recommendations for music-loving clients.

Ki Hoalu Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival
Maui, June 24

This 21st annual festival features some of Hawaii's finest practitioners of slack key guitar, where a loosening of the guitar strings creates a decidedly local sound. Visitors share in the spirit of aloha through the music of some of the best slack key artists in the world. Also on hand: local food, island crafters and a guitar exhibit (Maui Arts and Cultural Center Amphitheater, Kahului).

Big Island Hawaiian Music Festival
Hawaii Island), July 14-15

Master and rising musicians entertain the crowds with performances of slack key and steel guitar, ukulele, falsetto singing and hula. Visitors can check out a variety of food, arts and crafts and take part in workshops and educational discussions on Hawaiian music and its cultural significance (Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium, Hilo).

Big Island Hawaiian Music Festival
www.ehcc.org

Ukulele Festival Hawaii
Oahu, July 22

For 42 years, families have assembled in Waikiki as happy ukulele music swirls over the tops of ironwood and monkeypod trees. The summer tradition has grown over time to become the largest ukulele festival in the world. High-profile guest artists take part, and a ukulele orchestra of over 800 students — mostly children — delights the crowd with music and merriment (Kapiolani Park, Waikiki, Oahu).

Ukulele Festival Hawaii
www.ukulelefestivalhawaii.org

Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival
Oahu, August 19

Now in its 30th year, this festival showcases some of the world’s greatest artists in the slack key guitar genre. Up to 18 artists are featured in the festival, which also showcases local cuisine, island crafters, community group booths, a guitar exhibit, festival merchandise and an abundance of good cheer. Attendees can enter to win free artist CDs, a new guitar and other prizes (Kapiolani Park).

Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival
www.slackkeyfestival.com

Kauai Mokihana Festival
Kauai, Sept. 16-22

What’s great about this celebration of Hawaiian culture is that it includes educational components, so visitors can learn while listening. Activities include a church service in both English and Hawaiian languages; a composer’s contest and concert; children’s and youth music competitions; hula competitions; an evening of hula, music, arts and crafts at Aloha Beach Hotel; and an awards luau at Smith’s Tropical Paradise.

Kauai Mokihana Festival
www.maliefoundation.org

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