Categorized | Entertainment

Puna Music Festival (May 5-11)


Funded by the Hawaiian Tourism Authority and the County of Hawaii, stewarded by Kalani, and presented by KAPA FM, the Puna Music Festival will take to the stage May 5.

In its third year, the festival has grown to become one of the largest events in Puna district. Converging on the theme of empowerment, top talent of Hawaii will be on hand to celebrate the beauty and spirit of Puna.

“The Puna Music Festival is a vibrant contribution not just to Puna, but to all of Hawaii Island. Puna is a culturally important area for music and performing arts,” Hawaiian cultural practitioner Leilehua Yuen said. “In some traditions, the art of hula was instituted at Haena in Puna, and Puna is home to some of our beloved musical families.”

The festival will feature more than 100 local performers throughout the week. Headliners for the 2013 festival include John Cruz, Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Sean Robbins, and Kuana Torres Kahele, who won an astonishing five Na Hoku Hanohano awards last year.

The opening event of the festival is the Pohoiki Open Concert, a free concert 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, May 5. The concert will again be held at Isaac Hale Park, a beautiful and symbolic location along the Puna “Red Road” better known by its Hawaiian name, Pohoiki.

Opening the concert will be Kumu Hula Ehulani Stephany with Halau Hula Ka Makani Hali Ala O Punakeiki, who will be joined by the Puna Men’s Chorus to kick off the musical portion.

Keiki from local schools will then perform, followed by a series of groups and performers from Puna during the concert’s “Spotlight on Puna.”

Headliners for this year’s Pohoiki concert are Kuana Torres Kahele, and Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole, who will be joined by his mother, Kekuhi Kanahele for this special appearance.

Kaumakaiwa said, “I have very few opportunities to headline here at home on Hawaii Island as an artist independent from Halau. This performance is a means to the healing of my family’s past losses, errors and land struggles in Puna.”

The Pohoiki concert will be hosted by well-known DJs Jaz and Kaea of KAPA FM. All on-site donations will support Hawaiian culture programming at schools and non-profits throughout Puna.

Also featured this year is the Kanikapila in Pahoa, which will feature music in the windows, balconies, and storefronts throughout old Pahoa town. Attendees will be treated to a wide range of musical styles during this whimsical event 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 10.

More than 20 businesses from the Mainstreet Pahoa Association are participating in the event, led by Hawaii Island Homes, who will be hosting the Grand Central stage and information zone, where visitors can pick up event maps and programs.

Following the Kanikapila, the festival is honored to feature “An Intimate Evening with John Cruz,” at the historic Akebono Theater. In this intimate concert, audience members will have a chance to feel a personal connection as John maps the journey that has brought him to where he is today, through talk story and song.

Tickets are available online ($20 general / $35 VIP) at

The closing concert will feature Nahko and Medicine for the People. The band is on quite the trajectory following their recent tour of Indonesia, and are on their way to an extensive tour of the U.S. Mainland. Much of their early support has come from the people of Puna and the rest of East Hawaii.

Nahko said, “I’m in my final stages of preparing to release a new record so many good things in the works. I’m so grateful to be able to do this performance at home.”

Tickets for Nahko and Medicine for the People are expected to sell out, and are available online ($20 general / $60 VIP, which includes a VIP reception, intimate unplugged performance by Nahko, and dinner at The Lanai at Kalani.)

Other featured events during the festival include a storytelling performance with Leilehua Yuen and Manu Josiah, telling the history of Hawaiian music through story and song; and a huge celebration of the extraordinary Kalapana Night Market on Wednesday, May 8, featuring the many talented musicians of Kalapana/Kaimu.

A series of innovative workshops throughout the week round out the festival’s offerings.

Jonathan “Kimo” Lopez lives and teaches Hawaiian culture in lower Puna, and shares, “the focus of this festival, not just on celebration of Puna and the beautiful music of Hawaii, but on education, makes it innovative and impactful. I’m excited to be a part of this year’s festival programming.”

The talented Ikaika Marzo will teach slack key guitar; a local legend, Uncle Alofa, will teach the traditional Hawaiian art of drum-making; and UH professor Sean Phelan will teach harmonica basics.

Leilehua Yuen said, “We believe the Puna Music Festival is important and empowering. I appreciate the innovative approach Kalani has taken with the Puna Music Festival to preserve, perpetuate, and expand the cultural traditions of Puna. This celebration of Hawaiian culture is to be commended.”

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