I just returned from Honolulu where I visited family, played music, attended to business, and went to Nā Hōkū O Hawaiʻi Music Festival and Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards. If you’re a fan of Hawaiian music, you’d have loved the last 72 hour music whirlwind that I just experienced.

This year marked the first time that a 4-day Hawaiian music festival preceded the annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards ceremony. A roster of notable local and national musicians, such as ʻukulele master Jake Shimabukuro, Hawaiian music producer Kenneth Makuakāne, Nashville based songwriter Jeff Dayton, guitarist and 17-time Grammy Award nominee Lee Ritenour, Grammy Award winning artist and producer David Pack, hosted workshops, and more than 40 musicians performed on 25 stages in Waikīkī.  Here are some highlights:

  • Haku mele (song composition) workshops and seminars led by musicians including Moon Kauakahi of the Mākāha Sons, Dennis Kamakahi, Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewitt, Henry Kapono, John Cruz and others.
  • Slack key guitar workshops and seminars led by Cyril Pahinui, John Keawe, Kāwika Kahiapo and Dennis Kamakahi
  • Meet-the-artist sessions with Jake Shimabukuro, Eddie Kamae, John Cruz, Barry Flanagan of HAPA, Grammy winner Kenny Loggins and others.
  • Hula exhibitions led by Natalie Ai Kamauu, Na Palapalai, Hōkū Zuttermeister and Uluwehi Guerrero.
  • A seminar on Hawaiian chant and song led by Kealiʻi Reichel

The weekend culminated at the 33rd Annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards. What fun to see friends among Hawaii’s best performers honored and featured in live performances. For a list of winners, photos and John Berger’s write up, click here. It was an inspiring weekend and an event that I wish to return to in the future.

Hawaiian music New York

Hoʻokena and Mākāha Sons take the stage (photo: Bryan Tolentino)

Hawaiian music New Jersey

Bryan Tolentino, Darin Leong, Kāwika Kahiapo, Jeff Peterson, Andy Wang