Steel Guitar masters unite for annual Maui festival

The eighth annual Maui Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival is Friday through Sunday at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. This free event will feature master Hawaiian steel guitar players from around the world performing the only string instrument thought to be indigenous to Hawaii.

Headliners this year include Alan Akaka, Jeff Au Hoy, Bobby Ingano, Japan’s Kiyoshi “Lion” Kobayashi, Patti Maxine from California, Owana Salazar, Greg Sardinha, Dwight Tokumoto, and Maui steel guitarists Sam Ako, Joel Katz and Geri Valdriz.

“I’m glad we can help perpetuate the Hawaiian steel guitar,” says Akaka, the son of former U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka. “The sound of the steel guitar sounds to me like Hawaii. People over the years have told me it’s not Hawaiian music without the sound of the steel guitar.”

For many years, the signature sound of the steel guitar was synonymous with Hawaiian music. Popularized by pioneering musicians like Joseph Kekuku and Sol Ho’opi’i, by the 1960s the art and technique of playing Hawaiian steel was almost lost. Its renaissance was pioneered by steel masters such as David Rogers of the Sons of Hawaii, Jerry Byrd, Jules Ah See and David Keli’i.

The festival headliners may be heard Friday and Saturday evening at hoolaulea programs. Each program will feature a different lineup of musicians. Kimo Kaho’ano and Kathy Collins will co-emcee. Kanikapila (jam sessions) will follow, with the public welcome to participate. This year’s kanikapila sessions will be unplugged, so participants need to bring their own portable amplifiers if they require amplification.

Open stage performances will take place during both days with music performed by Hawaiian steel guitar bands from Hawaii, the Mainland, Japan, New Zealand and Italy. These 30-minute playing sessions will showcase guitarists including Jack Aldrich (Seattle, Wash.), Dave Kolars (DeKalb, Ill.), Chuck Hughes (Denver, Colo.), Shinichi Kakiuchi (Saitama, Japan), Ron Carter (Auckland, New Zealand), Jim McKay (Hawera, New Zealand) and Ralph Czitrom (Ringwood, N.J.).

Three “Next Generation” steel guitar students of the Ke Kula Mele Hawaii School of Hawaiian Music will also perform. Ranging in ages from 10 to 15 years old, these guitarists will play individually during the open stage entertainment and may also appear during Sunday’s brunch.

Maui steel guitarist Katz will perform in the hotel’s lobby Friday afternoon. Anyone is welcome to sit in on his session. He will also appear on Saturday’s open stage program, individually, and with his steel guitar students from the University of Hawaii-Maui College.

Free workshops will be offered Saturday, including instruction for playing steel guitar, ukulele, slack key, and Hawaiian singing and recording methods. Also Saturday, cultural activities, such as hula, lei-making and carving, will be available.

An exhibit featuring vintage lap steel guitars circa mid-1930s will be presented at the festival. This exhibit will feature vintage Richenbacher and Gibson lap steel guitars and also include a 1950s Magnatone lap steel guitar.

On Sunday, some of the musicians will entertain from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the hotel’s champagne brunch. This is the only event during the festival that has a fee. For reservations, call the hotel at 667-0124.

The festival is presented by Arts Education for Children Group and produced by the Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences. AECG is dedicated to providing opportunities for artistic and cultural enrichment and is committed to improving the quality of education in schools by restoring music programs and restoring public awareness about the importance of participation in music and the arts.

The Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences supports music education and enrichment for people of all ages. It is dedicated to promoting and perpetuating Hawaiian music, culture and musical instruments.


Congratulations to all the Maui musicians nominated for a 2016 Na Hoku Hanohano Award. Amy Hanaiali’i is the top contender with nominations in five categories: Female Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Contemporary Album and Favorite Entertainer. Lily Meola received three nominations: Female Vocalist of the Year, Contemporary Album and Most Promising Artist.

In the Compilation category, the Institute of Hawaiian Music’s “Aloha’Ia No ‘O Maui,” produced by Keola Donaghy, and “The Reflections Project – Maui Jazz 2015,” produced by Steven and Lauren Burgess, were nominated. The institute’s album was also nominated for Hawaiian Language Performance.

Henry Allen and Jimmy C were nominated for Jazz Album; and George Kahumoku Jr. and Jeff Peterson are vying for Slack Key Album of the Year.

In the Rock Album category, Maui is represented by Jamie Gallo, and Da Ukulele Boyz are up for Ukulele Album. Ka’imi Hanano’eau is nominated for Extended Play, and former Maui resident Erin Smith was nominated for Alternative Album of the Year.


The Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan, returns to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater on April 30 after a sold-out show in 2015.

A remarkably versatile artist, she has collaborated with a range of leading musicians including Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Prince, George Benson, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Joni Mitchell.

* Tickets are $35, $55, $85 and $125 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at


After touring in Australia and New Zealand, the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band returns to Fleetwood’s on Front St. in Lahaina to play the new Club Keller basement venue Tuesday and April 21.

“Getting back into the trenches to play the blues is always a pleasure,” Fleetwood told Rolling Stone Australia before performing at the Byron Bay Bluesfest. “People love (the classic music), and that’s what this is all about.”

* Ticket prices range from $50 to $125 for front-row seating and are available at


A Kickstarter campaign is progressing for the creation of two new documentaries in the acclaimed “Masters of Hawaiian Music Film Series.” Previous docs have focused on Richard Ho’opi’i, Dennis Kamakahi, Martin Pahinui and Brother Noland. Now funds are being raised for films on Jeff Peterson and Kawika Kahiapo.

“Since the series inception we have successfully crowd-funded four films and along the way we have built relationships with individuals and companies that wish to match the funds we can raise through Kickstarter,” says director David Barry. “Our budget for 2016 includes adding our entire film series to Netflix and increasing our production quality by filming and editing the films in 4K.”

At least $51,000 needs to be pledged by May 2. Rewards for various levels of contribution include the new DVDs, autographed posters and art work.


The classic rock legends in Steppenwolf were famous for such hits as “Born To Be Wild,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “The Pusher,” “Sookie Sookie” and “Ride with Me.” Their iconic songs will be performed Saturday in Lahaina during “The Born To Be Wild Tour,” which features original Steppenwolf keyboardist Goldy McJohn, frontman John Kay and Steppenwolf member Danny Ironstone, and former Pegasus guitarist Glen Bui.

Formed in Toronto in the 1960s, Steppenwolf sold more than 25 million records worldwide and earned eight gold albums.

Originally a classically trained pianist, McJohn was a pioneer in the early use of the Hammond B3 electronic organ in heavy rock. Best known as Steppenwolf’s founding keyboardist, he also was a member of the Mynah Birds, which included Rick James, Bruce Palmer and (after McJohn left) Neil Young. McJohn performed with Steppenwolf from 1967 to early 1975. He later helped reform the band in 1977, and also played with Steve Marriott in a reconstituted version of Humble Pie.

Bui was a founding member of the California band Pegasus and was signed by Epic Records. While there, he also worked with Eddie Money and Tower of Power. In the 1980s, he performed with country artists Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr. and Kathy Mattea.

“The guitar work that Glen does makes me feel so at home and so comfortable that he compares to anyone who has ever been in Steppenwolf,” says McJohn.

“We are looking forward to taking Maui on a magical carpet ride back in time through the 1970s,” says Bui.

Staying true to the Steppenwolf songs they perform, Bui adds that they “let it all go in the middle and improvise. Our songs can go 15 minutes and the crowds go wild.”

* The “Born To Be Wild Tour” show will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Maui Theatre in Lahaina. Tickets range from $49 to $99 for VIP packages that include a meet-and-greet with the band. For more information, call 856-7900 or visit