The free annual Maui 'Ukulele Festival on Sunday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center gathers together a host of celebrated and budding artists ranging from Ohta-san with guitarist Nando Suan, Kamakakehau Fernandez, The Hula Honeys, to Aidan James, J Town Hui, Honey Bun & The Coconuts, the Seabury Hall Hawaiian Ensemble and the Kalama Intermediate School 'Ukulele Band.
When legendary musician, Herb Ohta Sr., was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame in 2006, a proclamation declared, "No one in the last half of the 20th century has done more to explore the musical possibilities of the ukulele - or expanded our vision of what those possibilities are - than Ohta-san. In a performing, recording and teaching career spanning five decades, he has created an unprecedented body of work and has arguably inspired and influenced more players than any other living ukulele virtuoso."
The most prolific ukulele recording artist of the 20th century, Ohta-san has recorded more ukulele music than any other person in history, embracing various styles from Hawaiian to classical, jazz, rock, pop, and Latin music. Over the years, he has amassed a stunning repertoire of more than 6,000 songs performed in concert. Today, at age 78, he continues to perform and release new music.
Ukulele virtuoso Herb Ohta Sr. will one of the headliners at the Maui ‘Ukulele Festival on Sunday.
Photo courtesy THE MACC
On Friday Shanghai-born classical musician Haochen Zhang will make his Maui debut in the Castle Theater.
Photo courtesy THE MACC
Born on Oahu in 1934, the renowned musician began playing the ukulele at the age of 4, taught by his mother. By 1944, he had won a KGMB radio contest. "I won $10 and they threw in toothpaste and toothbrush," Ohta-san recalls.
At the time, Eddie Kamae had a duo called the Ukulele Rascals, which helped popularize the ukulele. "I was 12 when I met Eddie Kamae and he took me under his wing and taught me a lot of things, not so much the technique, but to play the music from the heart," he continues.
After serving in the Marines for 11 years, he attempted to gain employment with Pan American Airlines, but was thwarted by hearing problems.
"They wanted me to work for them at the airport because I was bilingual," he explains. "I learned the language while I was stationed in Japan, but I failed an audiogram test. I lost my high frequency hearing in the military from gunfire."
An old friend helped steer him towards a career in music, securing an album deal in 1963 with Decca Records. "That first record had a song called 'Sushi,' and in about two weeks it jumped to number one," he notes.
Was it a big surprise?
"Yes, but at the time I didn't have a job," he says. "It was hard to be a musician in Hawaii. If you worked in Waikiki they demanded you only play Hawaiian music. I started at the Moana Hotel."
Having established a popular presence in Hawaii, he gained international attention a decade later, when he released his most famous record, 'Song For Anna,' by French composer Andre Popp. It went on to sell more than six million copies world-wide.
"It was written for me," he recalls. "He told me to come to Paris to make a record. It was a sleeper. No one wanted to release a classical type song in the rock 'n roll market. Most everyone turned me down until it became number one here, then A&M (Records) wanted to see me. That's how it started. It sold two million copies in Brazil alone and was the theme for a famous soap opera there."
Over the years, he's released more than 60 albums, including a beautiful solo Bach recording, which he transcribed for ukulele (many years before Jake), the "Ukulele Bossa Nova" compilation of Brazilian songs, and "Ohta-San Plays the Beatles," including jazzy takes on "Get Back" and "Day Tripper," and a surprisingly rocking "Eleanor Rigby."
Ohta-san's most recent recording, "Stardust - 4 Strings," features a collaboration with Lionel Hampton Band bassist Christian Fabian, on a bunch of jazz standards from "On Green Dolphin Street" to "Satin Doll."
* The free Maui 'Ukulele Festival will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the MACC's Pavilion/Amphitheater. Renowned ukulele teacher Roy Sakuma will emcee and host his annual free ukulele workshop on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the McCoy Studio Theater. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
It's not often we get to experience a young virtuoso pianist from China. On Friday, Shanghai-born classical musician Haochen Zhang will make his Maui debut in the Castle Theater.
In 2009, Zhang became the youngest and the first Chinese competitor to win the prestigious Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
This remarkable pianist made his debut recital at the Shanghai Music Hall at the age of five, performing all of Bach's two-part inventions, as well as sonatas by Haydn and Mozart. At six, he made his orchestral debut and was awarded first prize at the Shanghai Piano Competition. At 12, he won the Fourth International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in China.
In 2004, Zhang performed a recital featuring Chopin's complete Op. 25 etudes at the 49th International Chopin Festival in Duzniki, Poland. The following year he moved to the United States to attend the Curtis Institute of Music. And in 2007, at the age of 17, he became the youngest winner ever of the China International Piano Competition.
In recent years he has performed with the China National, New Jersey, and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Krakow State Philharmonic, and Philadelphia Orchestra.
Among the glowing reviews Zhang has received, Cliburn International Piano Competition juror Richard Dyer noted, "He is talented beyond his years. That is astonishing, that a person of 19 is telling me things I didn't know about pieces I knew my whole life. He's amazing."
And The Dallas Morning News praised: "Zhang impressed with depth of musical understanding and subtle expressive nuance he radiates a kind of Zen calm at the competition's end, he was the musician I'd walk across town to hear."
Haochen Zhang performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Castle Theater. Tickets are $12, $30 and $40 (plus applicable fees). Here's a link to a YouTube clip of his astonishing playing - the third movement of Ravel's "Gaspard de La Nuit" - at the 2009 competition: www.youtube.comwatch?v=b2Rwxe7FJwk
The upcoming fourth annual Lahaina Plantation Days features three days of music, food and fun Oct. 18 to 20, at the old Pioneer Mill site surrounding the historic smokestack on Lahainaluna Road.
Presented by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, the festivities begin on Oct. 18, with a screening of director Kayo Hatta's film "Picture Bride," about the trials and tribulations of a Japanese mail bride living in Hawaii in the early 1900s.
A live performance by Maui Taiko precedes the film. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the film will begin when it gets dark.
Entertainment on Oct. 19 and 20 will include Brothers Cazimero, Nuff Sedd, Da Braddahs, Kory Kukahiko, Maui Taiko, Na Kupuna Ohana Serenaders and Kamehameha Schools Maui-Hawaiian Ensemble.
Along with music there will be keiki carnival games, horse rides, a Portuguese cultural tent, historical displays, plantation exhibits and restaurant food booths.
Admission to Lahaina Plantation Days is $3 per night or $5 for a three-day pass. For tickets and for more information, call the Lahaina Restoration Foundation at 661-3262 or visit LahainaRestoration.org. Tickets will be available at the gate. There is free event parking. Event hours are 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 18, and 5 to 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 and 20.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua will celebrate its 20th anniversary with series of "Legacy of Aloha" events Oct. 18 through 21. The four-day cultural event kicks off on the 18th with a special "Ho'olaule'a," hosted by TV and radio personalities Billy V and Bruddah Wade, followed by an Aloha Friday luncheon show on Oct. 19, featuring Willie K and Napua Makua.
The Hawaiian105 KINE Radio will broadcast its Aloha Friday morning show live with interviews with Keali'i Reichel and Clifford Nae'ole.
A portion of the proceeds from the weekend events will benefit the Lahaina Complex After School Tutor Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free after school math, reading and history instruction for local students.
Stella Blues Cafe continues its excellent series of Supper Club dinner shows with the return of Paula Fuga joined by Mike Love and Sam Ites on Saturday evening. And HAPA will perform Oct. 19, followed by John Cruz on the 20th.
As usual, the dinner and the show costs $60, and admission for show only is $30. For reservations, call 874-3779.
And coming up at the MACC, Martin Pahinui makes a rare appearance at a special edition of the Slack Key Masters series on Oct. 18 in the McCoy Studio Theater. The former member of his father's legendary Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band and the Peter Moon Band will join host George Kahumoku, Jr. for an evening of music and storytelling. Tickets are $25 standard, and $45 for VIP with a talk-story session at 6:30 p.m. (plus applicable fees).