Seventeen people attended the first E Kanikapila Kakou (Let’s Strike Up the Music), held the evening after Christmas in 1983.
Since then, it has grown to become Kauai’s premier celebration of Hawaiian music, hula, oral history and storytelling.
Held on Monday evenings from mid-January through March each year, the event features a “talk story/sing-along” format and performances by stars in the local music industry.
Past headliners include Kealii Reichel, Jerry Santos, Willy K, Cyril Pahinui, Robert Cazimero, Eddie Kamae, Brother Noland, Jeff Peterson and Raiatea Helm.
In addition to learning one or two songs from the artists, including the translations and correct pronunciations of Hawaiian lyrics, the audience is encouraged to share personal stories and ask about the songs’ background, including what inspired them and if there is any history or kaona (hidden meanings) behind them.
Occasionally, attendees rise from their seats to dance to their favorite songs or are invited on stage to sing and play music with the artists.
Like backyard jam sessions, interaction and spontaneity are a big part of the experience.