Manintin wins Ukes in Paradise contest

POIPU — Chysen “Koa” Manintin let his fingers do most of the talking Sunday at the Ukes in Paradise Keiki Ukulele Contest at Keoki’s Paradise in Poipu.

“I learned how to play from my dad and Papa when I was 9-years-old,” said the soft-spoken 12-year-old student from Kapaa Middle School. “I just play.”

Manintin’s rendering of “Guava Jam,” an ukulele instrumental, earned him top honors in the sixth- through eighth-grade division over the efforts of AyrieAnna Emayo of Hanapepe and Tia Morita, another Kapaa challenger.

Manintin was also named the competition’s overall winner, a new classification for this year’s contest. The overall winner was selected by the panel of judges from the top finishers of each division and will compete at a fundraising concert at Keoki’s Paradise with keiki winners from TS Restaurants on Oahu and Maui.

“He’s a very humble boy,” said Mary Lardizabal, the director of the award-winning Kapaa Middle School ukulele band and chorus. “He has good skills and is very consistent.”

Manintin’s rendering of “Guava Jam” was just one of two instrumental pieces presented, the other being the “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Kaleohano Castenada, the winner of last year’s competition and a senior at Waimea High School.

“I had some trouble doing the piece,” Manintin said. “It took me three weeks to learn.”

Lucia Lozar, a student at Kawaikini Public Charter School, edged out her brother Daniel, also a student at Kawaikini, in the K-2 division, both students getting their instruction from Kalaheo Music and Strings. They both received Kamoa ukulele for their efforts, courtesy of Sam Bonanno.

“They’re only ukulele,” said Bonanno, one of the judges. “It’s good to see young people enjoy the instrument and continue to grow in their skill with ukulele.”

Charlotte Harrison of Switzerland also received a Kamoa instrument, taking the third- through fifth-grade division.

“I used to listen to my sister play in her room,” Harrison said. “I thought I could learn how to play, too. Today, I presented ‘Silver Lining.’”

Tight competition ruled the ninth- through 12th-grade division as just four points separated first and third place. Castenada’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” topped the division followed by Julia Makepa, a winner from 2015, who played her own composition, “See You Soon.” The piece was just a point better than Celeste Velarde’s presentation.

“It is such a pleasure to see the winners from previous competitions return with so much growth and progress in their play and skill,” said John Poenhelt, the Keoki’s Paradise assistant manager. “We encourage people to keep growing, and coming back to perform.”

The sixth annual Ukes in Paradise sponsored by Keoki’s Paradise was one of two events Sunday that closed the 10-day Koloa Plantation Days celebration.

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