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Three people holding instruments
Kapiʻolani CC faculty and staff sharing mele

Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole’s personal guitar, handcrafted in 1911 by Manuel Nunes, was just one of the musical treasures featured at a unique fundraising event held at Kapiʻolani Community College.

Guitar with lei
The personal guitar of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole

Students, faculty and staff, along with community members and ʻukulele enthusiasts worldwide, were treated to a special concert in September showcasing some of Hawaiʻi‘s foremost musicians sharing mele, or music. The musicians played on historical Hawaiian ʻukulele and guitars, some of which dated back to the era of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The Aloha United Way fundraiser was a partnership with ʻUkulele Friend and the Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings. The event “A Century of Hawaiian Strings: A Concert featuring Historic ʻUkulele & Guitar Played in a Variety of Styles,” coordinated by the Paul S. Honda International Center at Kapiʻolani CC, was live-streamed and recorded for virtual attendees to enjoy from around the world.

“This is a new and exciting fundraiser and the first ever of its kind with the breadth of musicians performing, the significance of the historical instruments, and the opportunity for the campus and community to come together and raise awareness of those in need in Hawaiʻi. It was a wonderful gathering to celebrate music, history and community,” said Shawn Yacavone, an educational specialist with the Paul S. Honda International Center. “We are very fortunate to have this as part of our fundraising efforts for Aloha United Way.”

Two people playing music
Musicians David Woodward and Halehaku Seabury play on historical ʻukulele and guitar

More than just a concert, the introduction of the instruments, the luthiers (those who make stringed instruments), the music and the musicians provided an educational journey of Hawaiian music history since the late 1800s.

A treasure trove of historical ʻukulele and guitar dating between 1884 to 1932, on loan from ʻUkulele Friend and the Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings, were also proudly displayed in the campus cafeteria.

Some of the highlights included:

  • The personal guitar of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, handcrafted in 1911 by Manuel Nunes. Manuel Nunes is one of three Maderians (along with Jose do Espirito Santo and Augusto Dias) credited with the creation of the ʻukulele in the late 1800s.
  • The Kealakaʻi Jumbo Martin guitar (replica), made in 1915 for Major Kealakaʻi who was a protégé of Queen Liliʻuokalani. This was the prototype for the modern-day Martin Dreadnought, a widely used and famous acoustic guitar.
  • David Kaio played Hawaiian slack key on a Martin D-18 Dreadnought guitar previously owned by famed local musician Gabby Pahinui. A 1920s Martin soprano ʻukulele and a 1932 Martin guitar handcrafted of Hawaiian Koa were also played.
  • David Woodward, a three-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winner, played a historical Kamaka guitar that dates from between 1916–20, and Grammy-nominated Halehaku Seabury played an ʻukulele made by Jose De Espirito Santo in 1884, dating this instrument back to the Hawaiian Kingdom period.
  • Three Kapiʻolani CC faculty and staff (Joseph Yoshida, Mark Kunimune and Palakiko Frank John Yagodich III) closed the concert while performing with a 1932 Martin guitar, a 1916–20 Kamaka guitar and an 1895 Manuel Nunes ʻukulele.

Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings President Kilin Reece, who emceed the event, said, “We approach today to share some of the background of these very special instruments, but also the people who have played them in the past, the people who are playing them today, and the people who—hopefully, with our care and conservation—will play them tomorrow.”

—By Kim Baxter, Shawn Yacavone and Lisa Yamamoto

Ukuleles and Guitars
Full display of historical ʻukulele and guitar dating between 1884 to 1932.
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