Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Starbuck's 38th Annual Ukulele Festival, Waikiki

I had the unbelievable opportunity to be invited to play in this 'ukulele festival, as my teacher, Hiram Bell, brings a group of his students, the HUI or Hailama 'Ukulele Institute, every other year to represent players from California. The world's largest uke festival attracts thousands and takes place in Kapiolani Park Bandshell, Waikiki. According to festival founder, Roy Sakuma, the event brings together "professionals and amateurs, young and old, performers and fans, all for the love of the instrument and the melodious sounds that emanate from it."

The photo to the left shows just how many turned out on this balmy Hawaiian morning, braving an earlier threatening drizzle which turned sunny!

Coming from as far away as Guam and Japan, the performers included reknowned names such as Bryan Tolentino, Herb "Ohta-San" and James Hill, as well as the 700-piece band composed of Roy Sakuma's students. It was a rare opportunity to hear Sakuma and Ohta-San play a piece together (see below). They regaled the audience with some stories of their times going way back to their youth together.
Seeing James Hill was a real treat. Like Jake Shimabukuro, James utilizes novel techniques that you would never think to try with this instrument of traditional Hawaiian music. Besides recording and performing, James has also developed a school curriculum for the ukulele: he grew up in Langley, British Columbia where the kids learn uke instead of the recorder. So as his opening number, James taught the 700 student band a song to play on the spot. Next, from the bento box lunch he used the wooden chopsticks, drawing them across and hammering the strings of his uke and producing innovative and musical sounds with an East Asian influence. James rounded out his set with his "Ode to a Frozen Boot," reflecting his Canadian roots.

I was particularly fortunate to get to speak to him backstage about his ukulele and education ideas, particularly since I have an interest in developing a kids' class locally.

...AND for the actual performance was almost indescribable. Just beforehand I had the realization that this is what I'd been working toward and looking forward to for the last several months, so it was almost surreal that it was actually happening. Turns out that I felt very relaxed onstage, more that I'd been at some open mic events! Here's a photo of Hiram and the HUI rehearsing in the park beforehand and one of us onstage.

Enjoy the following movie I put together with some of the video clips of our group practicing and performing...(BTW, Rachel served as the excellent photographer and videographer, so many thanks to her skill and patience through all my practicing and the day of the event. Also I am grateful to my husband for his seemingly boundless support to make this all become a reality!)

I think we can all thank Roy Sakuma who has organized this wonderful event for 38 years and continues to bring the joy of 'ukulele playing to countless children through his premiere ukulele school. I was lucky enough to meet him backstage:

Since we went over for a few extra days, we had the chance to do some other things as well. Among them were surfing, outrigger canoeing, a submarine ride to 120 feet in depth (!), seeing Cirque de Hawaii, and experiencing a Puka Dog (say what?!) OK, we heard of Puka Dog from the Anthony Bourdain show, "No Reservations" on Travel Channel. It's a little hot dog stand in the International Marketplace serving hot dogs in yummy tubular buns (Swiss recipe) that they squirt full of a garlicky mayo (think aoli), tropical fruit flavored relish (lilikoi, mango, guava) and special mustard. There's actually about twenty different condiment choices. Then they slide in the dog. Mmmm. They also have shaved ice to rival Matsumoto's on the North Shore! I had mine with ice cream on the bottom and coconut creme and azuki beans on top. I better start exercising soon!!

Below is a Honu we saw from the submarine and the close-up of a Puka Dog! Hopefully you will know which is which!!



cynthia said...

Carol- I finally viewed your blog. It is great and tons of fun. You rock. Cynthia

Ukulele Bartt said...

Carol -
Waikiki looks like it was fun. Too bad I was on Kaua'i at the time - woulda loved to see your gang play.