Even for knowledgeable fans of folk music, the lineup of the Kauai Folk Festival offers plenty of artists to discover from Hawaii and beyond. Along with headliners like Taj Mahal’s Hula Blues Band and Peter Rowan’s My Aloha Bluegrass Band, the two-day roster also features Hawaiian music from Puka Asing, Wally Rita y Los Kauaianos, and more representing the diversity of Hawaiian traditional music.
With five stages running continuously, the lineup also includes Jonny Fritz, Blaine Sprouse, Ed Poullard, Reeb Williams & Caleb Klauder, Mike Bub, and many others. Meanwhile, Kauai Folk Workshops will offer instruction on guitar, fiddle, banjo, ukulele and mandolin, in addition to dance instructors teaching hula, square dance, swing, and two-step, and voice instructors teaching harmony singing, ballads, and Hawaiian song.
Festival director Matt Morelock fielded a few questions by email about the festival, slated for September 28-29 at the historic Grove Farm Museum in Lihue, on the southeast coast of Kauai.
BGS: What inspired the idea to create a folk festival in Kauai?
Morelock: For decades, Hawaiian music has stood on the periphery of the ‘folk’ genre. Its undeniable and indelible influence on all forms of American music deserves to be celebrated. We created the Kauai Folk Festival for such a celebration and invited all of our favorite performers, both local and continental, to sing, pick, dance, and meet one another in this tropical paradise.
When you are selecting artists, do you have a certain audience in mind? In other words, is there a common thread that runs through your lineup and/or your ticket holders?
We’ve attempted to represent the broadest swath of ‘folk’ music and musicians that we could find. From bluegrass to blues – from Cajun to country – we chose the best performers in as many genres as possible to illustrate the diversity of American folk music. The common thread is diversity. Artists were chosen for their enthusiasm and skill.
What have you learned about the process of booking festivals that has really surprised you?
We’ve learned that a worthwhile festival is one with a purpose. Hawaiian music and musicians are fighting against the expense and logistical complication of geographical separation as well as the mass perception of their music and culture as ‘foreign,’ when in truth Hawaiian music and culture is both a product of and strong influence on what we consider ‘American’ culture and music. We’ve learned that a higher purpose can confound the typical challenges that festivals face in finding an identity and audience.
For someone who has never been to Kauai, how would you describe it to them?
In addition to being GORGEOUS BEYOND BELIEF, Kauai is rural and cosmopolitan at the same time. There are more wild pigs than human beings living on this island. The natural beauty and local hospitality are legendary. You can book a hotel and rent a car here just like you can anywhere else in the U.S. Flights aren’t as expensive as you think. Beer is cheap. Fresh food and clean air are abundant. There’s really no reason NOT to visit!
In addition to interest from the locals, you will be hoping to attract people from the mainland as well. What are some of the amenities or unique qualities that will make this festival a destination event?
We’ve opted to keep festival admission affordable rather than spending time and resources on lodging and flight packages. We trust that Kauai Folk Festival attendees from the mainland won’t have trouble booking a flight, renting a car, and finding a hotel room. Kauai itself is a uniquity. The festival and the astounding Grove Farm Museum are an amenity. There’ll be a broad selection of spectacular local cuisine (plenty of accommodations for vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free diets), and extremely creative beverage and local juice options. We’re also ‘on call’ via www.kauaifolk.com to assist with any travel questions or complications!
What do you hope that attendees will take away from the Kauai Folk Festival experience?
We hope that Kauai Folk Festival fans will leave the event with a deeper understanding of the historical interconnectedness between Hawaiian culture and ‘mainland’ culture. In the production process, we are finding similarities and cross-influences on a daily basis!