The Kauai Old Time Gathering, sponsored by Hale Puna and Kokee Lodge, is today through Sunday in Kokee State Park.
The gathering is a celebration of the traditional musics of North America and the Hawaiian Islands and an opportunity for fans and musicians to learn how to perform different styles on a variety of instruments in workshops, classes and jams.
Square dancing classes and old-time crafts will be featured. Performances and workshops will be held throughout the weekend.
“We encourage all to bring instruments, dancing shoes and a desire to learn more about the old ways of playing, singing, dancing and living,” a press release said.
There will be Grammy award-winning and internationally acclaimed traditional musicians representing a range of cultures and a love for old time music.
This year’s event has been expanded. Several extremely talented and award-winning mainland groups and performers are coming to participate, share and learn music with local performers. Kailua resident Kilin Reece will be coming to share his extensive studies of Hawaiian string band traditions and their influence on the modern American soundscape. Master artisans will teach skills that plantation days Hawaiians used to live and survive.
Some of the musicians include:
• Foghorn Stringband — Square dance music, honky tonk country, blistering fiddle, banjo and mandolin tune;
• Los Kauaianos — Kachi-Kachi Puerto Rican/Hawaiian dance music brought by 19th century Puerto Rican immigrants to Hawaii;
• Roochie Toochie and the Ragtime Shepherd Kings — Over-the-top stagecraft with props, instrumental tricks, costumes, dancers;
• Ed Punua and Friends — Hawaiian steel guitar music and old-style campfire singing;
• The Cajun Country Revival — Legends of Southwest Louisiana’s endemic Cajun music: accordions, fiddles, sung in French, and perfectly dance-able;
• Pancho Graham and Friends — Traditional slack-key guitar tunes and singing;
• Nick Castillo — Hawaiian falsetto or better known as leo ki‘eki‘e — perpetuating the Hawaiian culture and this art of singing.
Workshops, classes and lessons
All performers will be holding group and individual music lessons on fiddle, banjo, guitar, ukulele, steel guitar, slack-key guitar, pakini bass, harmony singing, group playing and leo ki‘eki‘e.
In addition, there will be workshops on Hawaiian and old-time music history, ecology and arts including blacksmithing and weaving. Lessons in square dancing and two-step dancing complete the program.
Camping and cabin living for the weekend
Reasonable rates are available on cabins, bunks, campsites and meal plans. All campers will have access to bathrooms and showers. All bunkers and cabin dwellers will have access to bathrooms, showers and communal or private kitchens. You’ll be able to check in, turn off your cellphone and enjoy the rustic beauty of Kokee State Park.
There are volunteer opportunities available to all attendees with the Kauai Resource Conservation Program, involving invasive species removal and outplanting of native plants from the nursery. This is a great chance for attendees to connect with the host location and give back to Kokee State Park.
In November 2017, Fanny Rose Ballantine-Himberg, Matt Morelock and Jim Ballantine organized a small Kauai Fiddlers’ Convention, which included slack-key guitar performers and a top-notch square dance caller at the Kokee Lodge. There were free live performances and music jams. Attendees and observers were so enthusiastic about the concept and experience that the group decided to repeat the event this year and broaden it.
Ballantine and his daughter Fanny Rose Ballantine-Himberg manage a farm and restaurant on the Westside of Kauai. Their nonprofit organization, Hale Puna, is the presenting sponsor for the event. Their restaurant, the Kokee Lodge, in Kokee State Park, is the central gathering spot for the festival.
Ballantine-Himberg is a seasoned musician, and Ballantine has extensive experience in producing large projects. Morelock, a Tennessee transplant to Kauai and the event planner, plays and teaches traditional music and has many years of experience producing and performing at festivals and fiddlers’ conventions.
Last year’s event was a one-day jam, concert and square dance party at the lodge. This year’s program has extended to three days. Last year, the instructors and performers were mostly locals, with some from neighboring islands, and there were around 100 attendees.
The 2018 Kauai Old Time Gathering will carry the same spirit, with a truckload of veteran traditional music practitioners both from the continental U.S. and all over Hawaii. The lineup is an “A list” of traditional musicians who were chosen for their unique abilities not only to put on a good show — but to also show how to make the same kind of music.
Hale Puna Managing Director Ballantine and daughter Ballantine-Himberg are descendants of H.P. Faye, one of the founders of the Kekaha Sugar Company. Ballantine was born and raised in Waimea, left Kauai to pursue his college studies and had a successful career in production. He started out producing live events, then moved on to produce animated films and television shows. He received two Emmy nominations for producing “The Ren and Stimpy Show.”
Ballantine-Himberg is an accomplished musician and has been playing cello since she was 8 years old. She has been coming to Kauai since small-kid time, and has a deep love for the island. She fell for the charm of old-time music 10 years ago and has been playing old-time cello and “clawhammer” banjo ever since. Managing this event has been a true labor of love for her.
Both Ballantine-Himberg and Ballantine moved back to Kauai in 2015, where they have thrown themselves into community life and revitalizing projects around West Kauai.
The mission of Hale Puna is to “encourage cultural and economic resiliency within the community by preserving and investigating the rich history of West Kauai.”
Highlights of the event and why?
The learning workshops: Hawaii has never seen such a concentration of legendary masters of traditional music from the continental U.S alongside legendary masters of Hawaiian traditional music. The performances will be fast-paced variety shows followed by small-group instructional sessions by the performers.
“We’re also excited about the prospect of traditional Hawaiian musicians and continental musicians sharing the same stage and same space in hopes that they share their songs and styles with one another,” Ballantine said.
Is there a cost?
This is a high-value event that’s meant to be easy on the pocketbook, especially for kamaaina. Live performances in Kokee Lodge will be free. Workshops will be ticketed and held at the nearby CCC Camp and Camp Sloggett. Ticket prices are $25 a day.