The Maui Steel Guitar Festival has been developed to promote appreciation and interest in the Hawaiian Steel Guitar as a uniquely Hawaiian music genre. This free, 3-day festival includes a series of performances, presentations, instructional workshops, jam sessions and public and private school visitations that are focused on the Hawaiian Steel Guitar and its importance in the Hawaiian music genre. The Hawaiian Steel Guitar is the only instrument thought to be indigenous to Hawaii.
The festival promotes participation by local residents, particularly young people, through community outreach programs utilizing teams of performers and music educators that will visit several Maui schools. These teams will discuss with students the history of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar, demonstrate playing techniques and the importance of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar in the Hawaiian music genre and perform Hawaiian music to encourage interest and participation at the festival's hotel workshops.
The Maui Steel Guitar Festival is presented each year by non-profit Arts Education for Children Group and the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel and produced by HIMELE - The Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences. The festival is presented for public awareness, education and entertainment. Funding for the festival, free and open to the public, comes from grants, donations and other underwriting and in-kind contributions. This program is supported in part by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts through appropriations from the Legislature of the State of Hawaii and by the National Endowment for the Arts.Please see the "Support Us" section of this website for others who help make this festival possible.
The 2018 Maui Steel Guitar Festival is in the planning and development stages. Please check back for updates.
The original was a wooden Spanish guitar with strings raised over the fretboard and played with a steel bar—according to a history of the instrument by The Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association.
A Hawaiian named Joseph Kekuku is credited with originating the Hawaiian steel guitar in the late 1880s. It gained worldwide exposure at the 1914-15 Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco and by the 1920s, Hawaiian steel guitar music was wildly popular across the country.
The first commercially available electric steel guitar came out in the 1930s. The pedal steel guitar was developed in the 1940s and other physical developments included additional strings, multiple necks, and stands with legs.
Throughout the first decades of the 20th century, Hawaiian steel guitar players were in great demand. But, by the 1960s, the art and technique of playing Hawaiian steel almost died out. During the following years some dedicated individuals did carry on and share their skill and knowledge of Hawaiian steel guitar.
Today, the distinct sounds of the instrument can be heard in jazz, country, bluegrass, western, blues, folk, rock and many other music forms. And in the Islands, the beauty and art of Hawaii's original instrument is being perpetuated by the teachers and players of Hawaiian steel.
The grand niece of Joseph Kekuku gave this speech at the 2009 ceremony held in Honolulu to honor the Hawaiian steel guitar.