From 'ukulele strums, 'ohana comes
By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer
"It is really a part of our Hawaiian culture," said Sakuma, owner and founder of Roy Sakuma 'Ukulele Studio. "It takes one person to take out an 'ukulele, and it brings people together 'ohana style, family style."
Which is why, for the past 33 years, Sakuma has staged his annual 'Ukulele Festival, a showcase of professional and amateur performers from around the world who come together to pay tribute to the four-stringed instrument.
"Thirty-three years ago, the 'ukulele was thought of as a secondary instrument because the guitar was so popular," Sakuma said, "and through the 'Ukulele Festival, my goal was to show the people that this instrument really was a lead instrument, and I think we definitely have accomplished that."
Master of ceremony Danny Kaleikini will present more than a dozen professional entertainers, including Ernie Cruz Jr. and Troy Fernandez.
But Sakuma said the real stars of the show will be his 800-piece 'Ukulele Band, featuring amateur 'ukulele players ranging from 5 to 90 years old from throughout the island.
"The kids just love it, even all the amateurs, and that's what makes this special," Sakuma said. "This is their day, and that's the great thing about it, to have all these entertainers come out and support it. I think that's the beauty of it."
Among the supporters will be Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner Raiatea Helm, a first-time festival performer who will lend her sweet falsetto sounds and pick-and-strum stylings to the event.
"I'm happy to be a part of this and it's an honor," Helm said. "There's going to be a lot of kids, so it's going to be fun."
Playing among such professionals is a big deal for newcomer Brittni Paiva, 14, of Hilo.
Paiva, introduced to Sakuma by her slack-key guitar teacher Keoki Kahumoku, has been playing the 'ukulele for three years.
"I'm really excited," Paiva said. "It's good 'cause that way I could get exposure and maybe cut a CD some day."
Other musical highlights include Hiram Bell and Bill Tapia from California and Yuji Igarashi and George Matsushita of Japan. Yasuhiko Ariga, whom Sakuma described as a Japanese ambassador and "promoter of Hawaiian music," also will make an appearance.
Adding to the musical festivities will be a "how to make an 'ukulele" booth, food and a Starbucks booth offering free 4-ounce Frappucinos from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Reach Zenaida Serrano Espanol at firstname.lastname@example.org or 535-8174.