By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Braddah Smitty’s 8th annual Laupahoehoe Music Festival is a family-friendly event, and for the musicians, it’s a family affair as well.
Mark Yamanaka, who won four Na Hoku Hanohano awards in 2011 for his debut solo CD “Lei Pua Kenikeni,” will play the festival with his trio, which includes bassist Eddy Atkins and guitarist Bert Naihe. Yamanaka’s 11-year-old son, Jorden, will also perform with Times Five, a band Yamanaka played in and recorded with.
The elder Yamanaka said he’s excited about the festival, which runs from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park.
“It’s a nice place to play and the crowd is there to appreciate the music. They really appreciate the traditional stuff,” Yamanaka said Wednesday. “There’s not so many opportunities to experience an annual festival, especially one that perpetuates Braddah Smitty’s vision. It’s a great festival with a great lineup and it’s for a great cause.”
The event has been renamed to honor its founder, Hawaiian musician Claybourne “Braddah Smitty” Smith, who died June 8 last year. An ailing Smith took the stage for the final time last year in Laupahoehoe to sing “Kanaka Wai Wai” with slack-key artist Makana.
Yamanaka called Braddah Smitty “a nice guy with so much aloha.”
“He was the man behind the whole festival and I think he had a positive influence,” Yamanaka said. “I think the whole mana‘o (thought) behind it was to help bring awareness of music to the kids. He wanted to make sure that music continues to go on in the children’s lives, and that’s huge. I know that for a long time, that kind of music was overlooked as far as being in the schools. I think Braddah Smitty had the right idea.”
The festival is a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Malama Hawai‘i Nei to raise scholarship money for graduating seniors in the Laupahoehoe area and to fund community projects. Another nonprofit, Hui Kaka‘o O Laupahoehoe, an independent organization which supports Laupahoehoe Community Charter School, will hold a silent auction at the large pavilion to raise money to purchase new hybrid buses for the school.
In addition to Yamanaka and Times Five, performers include the Lim Family, Darlene Ahuna, Kainani Kahaunaele, Ho‘onanea, Kanakapila, Ira and Manny Varize, Laupahoehoe School Ukulele Band plus hula groups Halau O Mailelaulani and Halau O Ke Anuenue. Emcees are Tommy “Kahikina” Ching and Penny Vredenberg.
Yamanaka said his life has changed since his big night at the Hokus almost two years ago.
“There’s so much exposure that it brought, and it gave me a lot of confidence in the things I do music,” he said. “It also humbled me, believe it or not. People have been really supportive and have encouraged me to continue what I do.”
He said that support includes his “day job” employer, Aiona Car Sales, who has allowed him to travel to Japan and the West Coast to further his music career. Yamanaka said he’ll also take his act to Las Vegas soon.
I’m headed there in May to do a May Day performance for Gary Haleamau’s May Day concert on May 4,” he said. “Actually, it’s my first trip to Vegas. I’ve been there at the airport on a layover to Reno, but I’ve never set foot on the Strip. I’m very excited.”
The Laupahoehoe fest is and alcohol- and drug-free event and no coolers are allowed. Food, beverage and crafts are available at the festival.
Advance tickets are $12, available at Hilo Guitars and Ukuleles, Hilo Shark’s Coffee Shop, 50s Highway Fountain and Sakado Store in Laupahoehoe, Mr. Ed’s Bakery in Honomu, Taro Patch in Honokaa and Music Exchange in Hilo, Waimea and Kona. Admission is $15 at the gate, with ages 10 and under admitted free.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.