The Happy Enchalata, Kaua‘i’s own bluegrass band, is hosting their quarterly “Pickin’ in the Park” jam session Sunday at the Big Pavilion in Lydgate Park. The band hosts regular quarterly events on Kaua‘i, welcoming all acoustic musicians to join in and jam. “In December we had a get-together at Salt Pond Park in Hanapepe, and we had bluegrass, rock, reggae and Hawaiian musicians, all playing at the same time. The music was heavenly. With only ‘word of mouth’ and some radio notices by KKCR, we attracted people from all over the island, we had about 50 folks there,” said Denice Sheffer, singer for The Happy Enchalata. Her husband, Marty Sheffer, and Mark Keyser originally put the band together in 1985 in Michigan. Moving to the island shortly before the Hurricane ‘Iniki, they were determined to keep the music going and have kept performing ever since. The band plays at Tradewinds and Waimea Brewing Company, but feels the Pickin’ in The Park jam sessions have been the highlight of recent appearances.
Sheffer is a chef for Hyatt, Keyser works for an air-conditioning outfit in Lihu‘e and Denice Sheffer teaches robotics at Chiefess Kamakaheilei Middle School. Yet despite the hectic pace of their “day jobs” they all are dedicated to bringing this “soul-full music of the people to Kaua‘i,” said Sheffer.
Bluegrass Hawai‘i, the traditional and bluegrass music society for the islands, is where the Sheffers’ got the idea to bring Pickin’ In the Park events to Kaua‘i. After attending a few sessions on O‘ahu, Denice Sheffer said, “Why not bring Kaua‘i’s musicians together to jam at one of our great beach venues, have a barbecue and a good time.”
Attendance at the jams is free, and open to all participants and spectators. The full band includes Michael Barretto on guitar, Jim Trujillo on dobro guitar, Larry Heller on bass, Bill Dick on violin, Marty Sheffer on mandolin and Denice Sheffer on percussion and vocals. Friends of the band include musicians Steven Meredith on harmonica and washboard and Scot Kaduce on saw and juice harp.
“Bluegrass music is music for the people — it’s really music that goes back to the source. It’s a true, clear, sound. Not computerized or manufactured. This is why it speaks to all ages and backgrounds,” Sheffer said. “This promotes bluegrass music while promoting the island spirit of sharing and community — everyone is welcome to just come and listen or play with us.”