EKK continues 30-year tradition with stellar 2013 lineup

LIHU‘E — E Kanikapila Kakou — meaning “let’s strike up the music” — is in the midst of celebrating 30 years of bringing the best Hawaiian music to Kaua‘i.

Last week, the EKK program kicked off its star-studded 2013 season with a performance Jan. 21 by Keale, LT Smooth and Donald Kaulia, followed by a special Friday show with Keali‘i Reichel, the best-selling singer, songwriter from Maui.

But don’t be fooled. The tunes are just getting started.

Sponsored by the Garden Island Arts Council, this informal party features Hawaiian music every Monday evening from now through March 25.

“Every year it’s been kind of outstanding,” Carol Yotsuda, executive director of the Garden Island Arts Council, said of the program. “This year is as good as it’s ever been.”

EKK continues this week with a performance by Aunty Bev Muraoka and Her Gang, from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort. Yotsuda said she is excited to have Muraoka — the “Queen of Chalangalang” — back after her scheduled performance last year was “rained out because of the big storm.”

“Her personality is very outgoing,” Yotsuda said. “She’s a really seasoned entertainer. She knows how to work the crowd. When Aunty Bev takes the stage people always have fun.”

Following the EKK model, Muraoka’s performance will include music, dance and talk story.

“In Muraoka’s case, it will be her charisma that carries the program,” Yotsuda said.

Since 1982, the format of EKK has remained the same. During the first hour, musicians provide instruction in what is called an “‘ukulele circle.” Afterward, they begin a two-hour interactive performance.

“The artists try to involve the audience as much as possible,” Yotsuda said. “It gives people a chance to get up close and personal with the talent.”

One thing that has changed over EKK’s 30 years is the size of the audience. This year’s kick-off performance on Jan. 21, for example, brought in more than 400 people, many of them visitors who plan their vacations around the EKK season, according to Yotsuda.

“Everyone shares this love of Hawaiian music,” she said. “It’s almost like a huge extended family.”

When creating the annual lineup, Yotsuda focuses on bringing a mix of well-known artists and beginning musicians.

“I try to balance it so there’s different kinds of music,” she said. “That makes for a really nice program … You don’t want it to be monotonous.”

And when audience appreciation is high, as it has been for years, Yotsuda said the musicians perform better.

“It’s a two-way street.”

Additional scheduled performances for the 2013 EKK season include: Bobby Moderow Jr. on Feb. 4; “Mele‘uhane” featuring Lindsay Keikilani Lindsey Jr. and his son Lindsay Lindsey III on Feb. 11; “Hui O Kalama‘ola” featuring Doric Yaris, Maka Herrod, Nathan Kalama and Puna Dawson on Feb. 18; “Hi‘ikua” featuring the hot trio of Kamuela Kimokeo, Kalehua Krug and Blake Leoki-Haili on Feb. 25; Jerry Santos & Friends on March 4; the Abrigo Family Trio on March 11; Leokane Pryor and CJ Helekahi with Kaliko Beamer Trapp on March 18; and a surprise Ukulele Trio March 25.

All performances are from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort, located on Kuhio Highway between the Lihu‘e Airport and the Wailua Golf Course. Donations are recommended at the door.

“It’s a community service program,” Yotsuda said. “So the only way we survive is through donations.”

For more information about the E Kanikapila Kakou music program visit www.gardenislandarts.com or contact Carol Yotsuda at 245-2733 or by e-mail at giac@hawaiilink.net.

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