To celebrate the songs and dances of the Hawaiian Islands, the state began Mele Mei two years ago, launching a month-long festival boasting more than 30 events, from hula workshops to music concerts under the stars. The festival culminates with the 36th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards Ceremony — the Grammys of Hawaiian music — at the Hawaii Convention Center on May 25. Here are the can’t-miss festival events in Honolulu this month:
May 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and May 19, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Frank Fasi Civic Grounds
In its eighth year, this free event celebrates all things books, storytelling and music in Hawaii with panel discussions featuring local writers, hula performances, poetry slams and talks by such notables as Susanna Moore (The Whiteness of Bones, The Gift of Objects), John Ritter (The Boy Who Saved Baseball, Fenway Fever) and Jane Porter (Flirting with 40).
Ukulele, Slack Key & Steel Jam
May 19, 11a.m. to 4 p.m., Kapiolani Bandstand
Spend a relaxing Sunday listening to the sounds of Ben Kaili, Makana and others on the slack-key guitar and ukulele (a style of playing unique to the islands) at Kapiolani Park, the largest and oldest public park in Hawaii. Bring your own beach chairs and coolers and make an afternoon of it at the complimentary event.
May 21, 7 to 9 p.m., House Without a Key, Halekulani
While sipping a signature mai tai at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel’s outdoor gathering spot, enjoy the harmonious soundtrack provided by the award-winning Nathan Aweau. The New York Times said this three-time Male Vocalist of the Year “has an in-depth understanding of orchestration, and his singing style is effortless.”
May 25, 5 to 10 p.m., Hawaii Convention Center
The big finale to Mele Mei is this annual event, honoring some of Hawaii’s best musicians and artists such as Cyril Pahinui, Kalei Gamiao and Brittni Paiva. Admission is $150, which includes dinner.
Ogo’s Concert Luau
May 26, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Bishop Museum
Enjoy live music and a luau spread on the great lawn at the Bishop Museum, the state’s largest museum and the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific. The luau, which benefits the victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, will feature entertainment by the likes of Mark Yamanaka, Pali, Waipuna, Mailani and Sistah Robi. The food will be catered by Corner Kitchen in Kapahulu with special guest chef Ryoji Soranaka from Ogo Ono-Loa Hawaii Restaurant in Tokyo lending his expertise. The cost to get in is $50.
Photos Courtesy of Halekulani Hotel and Mele Mei