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The Hawaiian steel guitar was originally invented and popularized in Hawaii, so it’s only fitting that it has earned its own celebration in Waikiki.
Each Sunday throughout July, some of the state’s top pickers, sliders and strummers are taking to the stage as part of the second annual Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival in the outdoor entertainment plaza called Waikiki Beach Walk.
“There was such tremendous interest in the steel guitar festival last year that we had to expand it to a full month this year, so more people could participate,” said Alan Akaka, renowned Hawaiian steel guitarist and revered teacher.
The festival kicks off on July 3 with an expanded program featuring Akaka and the Islanders with Bobby Ingano, Casey Olsen and the Hiram Olsen Trio, Greg Sardinha and special guest Kiyoshi “Lion” Kobayashi from Japan.
July 10 brings Henry Kaleialoha Allen, with Eddie Palama on July 17. The July 24 performance features Sardinha, and July 21 showcases the combined steel guitar students of Akaka and Sardinha. All shows start at 5 p.m.
Although the popularity of steel guitar was established in Hawaii by the early 1900s and in the country music field soon after, it had few teachers. In the 1960s, however, the art and technique of playing Hawaiian steel guitar was almost lost. Happily, legendary country guitarist Jerry Byrd advanced the current Hawaiian steel guitar renaissance by moving to Hawaii in 1972 and teaching new generations — including Akaka, Olsen and Sardinha — how to create that special island sound.