The playful and cheerful melodies of the steel guitar are as quintessential to Hawai‘i as sunsets and tropical breezes. Developed in the Islands in the late 18th century, this unique technique involves turning a guitar flat and playing it on one’s lap with one hand, while changing the pitch of the strings with a sliding bar of metal known as a “steel.” The result is a beautiful and iconic sound that is 100% Hawai‘i.
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festivals
Every year, legends of the steel guitar and new players alike come together to celebrate this beautiful instrument with 3-day festivals on each of the neighbor islands in February (Kaua‘i), Spring (Maui), Summer (Waikīkī) and September (Big Island). The festivals are free to the public with evening performances followed by kanakapila (public jam sessions).
2018 Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival
This year’s Big Island festival has been moved up to early September to accommodate renovations at the host venue, the beautiful Mauna Lani resort on the Kona Coast. A finalized schedule will be published soon, but attendees can expect dazzling Friday and Saturday evening Ho’olaule’a (celebrations) programs with plenty of live music, daytime Open Stage performances, cultural workshops, and special classes. Sunday features a music-rich and delicious brunch. Throughout the week, steel drum guitarists will visit local schools and community music programs to provide instruction and inspiration in this integral island instrument for the next generation of slack-key and steel guitar enthusiasts.
One of the highlights of the festival are the informal kanakapila jam sessions after the evening concerts. Open to all skill levels and instruments, these jam sessions take place in the hotel bar and lounge area and can last well into the night. Musicians should bring their own instruments, amplifiers, and accessories. Attendees should grab a seat, a cold one, and enjoy the show!
Sponsored by the Hawai‘i Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences, the festival is free and open to the public. Autographed posters, CD’s, and memorabilia are available for purchase (or included with a $25 donation), with proceeds going to support music education in Hawai‘i.
Kona Coast Vacations features a selection of luxury vacation homes at Mauna Lani Resort, the home of the Steel Guitar Festival, as well as up and down the Kona coast, making it your ideal base for a Hawaiian vacation. Enjoy the beautiful beaches, scenic landscapes, and world-class golf in the warm Hawaiian sunshine, and then get ready to feel the heat every evening with some of the best island music, anywhere. Browse our incredible offerings of vacation villas and use our online calendar to pick the perfect vacation in paradise, complete with your own Hawaiian-themed soundtrack!