The 2019 Kauai Folk Festival celebrates two days of folk music, dance, food, drink and craft, featuring multiple Grammy-winning artists, and more than a dozen international acts on five stages this Saturday and Sunday.
Held at the historic Grove Farm Museum, the Kauai Folk Festival blends traditional music and dance from all over the world with its Hawaiian counterpart in a stunning setting.
Inspired by the 19th-century royal Hawaiian courts that encouraged musical collaborations across cultures and genres, the Kauai Folk Festival will showcase the heavy influence Hawaiian music has had on nearly every genre of popular American music.
“With a full lineup of over 30 performers, the festival will bring together Hawaiian and North American traditions like never before,” said a press release.
“The goal of the Kauai Folk Festival,” festival director Matt Morelock said, “is to introduce Hawaiian artists and Hawaiian music fans to a broad diversity of North American roots music, and also to introduce these mainland musicians to their Hawaiian counterparts.”
There’s never been an event of this scale with this mission in Hawaii, he said.
“We hope to encourage further fusion and influence at this beautiful site with some of the greatest musicians alive today,” Morelock added.
It’s known that Hawaiian artists popularized the steel and slide guitar in the early 1900s, changing blues and country music forever, but Morelock points to other influences these roving Hawaiian bands had in the days of Vaudeville.
“We’re finding that certain styles of harmony singing, certain chord progressions and certain rhythms that existed in early Hawaiian music quite possibly did not exist in a lot of American music before people were exposed to traveling Hawaiian musicians,” he said. “The festival wants to show through examples and stories how Hawaiian music has been so influential.”
This is a lesson that festival headliners Taj Mahal and Peter Rowan both know well. Taj Mahal has redefined American music as one of the world’s greatest blues singers, but for over 20 years he lived on the island of Kauai, where he formed the Hula Blues Band. He’s recorded a number of albums of Hawaiian music since then, and will be appearing as Taj Mahal’s Hula Blues Band at the festival to celebrate his love for the music.
Continuous live music will be performed on multiple stages. The lineup includes: Taj Mahal, Peter Rowan, and Tim O’Brien, Caleb Klauder, Reeb Willms, Austin Derryberry and Jonny Fritz, local Hawaii players Puka Asing, Kirby Keough and Wally Rita’s Los Kauaianos, along with an eclectic mix of acts like local bluesman Vic the Barber, African rhumba band Boma Bango, and French folk duo The Montvales.
Hawaiian reggae musician Sashamon will be backing up Molokai singer uncle Isaac Kamaile Jr. on old-school Hawaiian country songs. Ukulele player and singer Asing grew up with cousin Israel “Bruddah Iz” Kamakawiwo‘ole in one of the legendary families of Hawaiian music.
Hawaiian slack-key and steel guitar will be represented by Na Opihi with Pancho Graham and Kirby Keough and Norman De Costa and Meles of Molokai.
Rowan is widely known as one of the heroes of bluegrass music, as one of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, as a member of countless legendary stringband ensembles, and as a captivating solo performer. He was a longtime bandmate of The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia.
His 2017 album “My Aloha!” demonstrated how Hawaiian steel guitar and ukulele (and the styles in which they were played) were an influence on foundational bluegrass, folk and country artists like Monroe and many others. Rowan will be bringing his My Aloha Bluegrass Band to the festival.
With five stages running continuously, Morelock sees the Kauai Folk Festival as a kind of “Island Opry,” inspired by his work programming variety shows for broadcast.
He’s packed the festival with his own discoveries, like Tennessee stringband Uncle Shuffelo and His Haint Hollow Hootenanny; E. Texas Creole fiddler Ed Poullard, whose music predates Cajun Zydeco; Mike Bub, who Morelock sees as the best living bluegrass bassist, and historic Hawaii music researcher and local hero Kilin Reece.
“Kauai Folk” workshops are a key addition to the festival format. Performers will share in workshops on guitar, fiddle, banjo, ukulele and mandolin. Dance instructors will teach hula, square dance, swing and two-step.
Voice instructors will teach harmony singing, ballads and Hawaiian song. Jam stations and loaner instruments will be available. Attendees are encouraged to bring instruments.
The artists will teach throughout the weekend, and there will be ample space for jamming and picking parties, a favorite activity for both Hawaiian and mainland musicians.
On Sunday, the festival will kick off with an Old-Time/Hawaiian Gospel Singing sacred set with songs selected from the Rural American and old Hawaiian hymnals, featuring festival performers and several local congregations.
Food and drink will be offered by Kauai Juice Co, Ya Quddus Bagels, Po‘okela Sausage, Uncle D’s Vegan BBQ, and local brewers and distillers.
Tickets for the Kauai Folk Festival are available in daily passes for $60, weekend passes for $100, and VIP passes for $300 each, and offer full access to all stage performances, workshops and parking.
The Kauai Folk Festival aims to show the influence of Hawaiian music on North American roots music by bringing together master musicians from both worlds in an unprecedented, two-day celebration of music, dance, workshops, food, drink and crafts.
Tickets are available for sale at www.kauaifolkfestival.com