Experience the Magic of the Ukulele at the Annual Ukulele Festival in Waikiki

By Brandi-Ann Uyemura

ukulele festival

The Annual Ukulele Festival is held at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand in Waikiki. Photo courtesy of Michele Meyer via flickr.

Thousands of people have been enticed to the Kapiolani Park Bandstand in Waikiki by the sweet sounds of the ukulele since the first Ukulele Festival in 1970. The festival is the brainchild of Roy Sakuma who is often credited for the proliferation of the ukulele and its national and international acclaim, and his wife Kathy Sakuma. “It started off as a dream to showcase the ukulele as more than an accompaniment, but a solo instrument. It’s definitely received the recognition deserving of it. It’s been a blessing that it’s happened…my dream of having the ukulele recognized and become internationally known has come true,” says Roy Sakuma.

Teens Take to the Ukulele, Too

When the Sakumas first started the festival, the ukulele, which was originally introduced to Hawaii by the Portuguese in the late 19th century, wasn’t well known. Sakuma says, “There was a major breakthrough in the late eighties to early nineties when I look back on my career of teaching. We taught many young children. And we taught some senior citizens. But during that time, local artists like the Ka’au Crater Boys, Kapena, and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, the way they incorporated the ukulele on their CDs were very catchy to teenagers and all of sudden we’d be swamped by teenagers who wanted to play the ukulele…Many of these young kids became the stars of Hawaii.”

The Sound of Ukulele

ukulele festival

A Kamaka ukulele. Photo courtesy of Carlton Chong via flickr.

Today the annual Ukulele Festival attracts performers and visitors from all over the world. Some come purely for the music. Others venture from Waikiki out of curiosity. Repeat festivalgoers look forward to the comfortable, family feeling they experience from being there. But Sakuma says everyone is fascinated by the sound. “I would describe it like you’re going to experience something you’ve never experienced in your life, that has brought joy to so many people around the world,” he says.

Celebrate the 47th Ukulele Festival

If you want to experience the magic of the ukulele yourself, you can celebrate the Ukulele Festival’s 47th anniversary at Kapiolani Park on Sunday, July 16, 2017 from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. There will be about 22 to 25 different performances. In addition to the entertainment, there will be food booths, ukulele displays, complimentary ukulele lessons, and souvenirs to purchase. Admission is free and so is the parking and shuttle service from Kapiolani Community College.

Click here for more event details.

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