Fil-Ams compete in aloha-filled Vegas hula and ukulele fest

Ukulele couple Mitchell and Stevie Tabaldo relax before taking the competition stage with their group “Na Mele Kakou” under the direction of Arthur “Chika” Nagata from Torrance, California. INQUIRER/Florante Ibanez

LAS VEGAS — Many Filipinos were among the competitors as well as the audience at the 7th annual Kumukahi Ukulele & Hula Festival on Aug. 9 and 10at Sam’s Town Casino & Hotel.

Participants came as far as Hawaii and Japan for this year’s competition, which also served as a reunion of sorts for Hawaiian and Pacific Islander families in Nevada and Southern California, who refreshed ties at the swimming pool, bowling alley, food concessions and relaxed at the cinema complex as well as try their luck in casino games.

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One Fil-Am ukulele player, Mitchell Tabaldo, competing with the “Na Mele Kakou Ukulele group” under the direction of Arthur “Chika” Nagata from Torrance, California, was able to connect with his elderly uncle whom he had not seen in 5 years and who also plays ukulele by ear.

Mitchell said he has been playing ukulele for 11 years. He was born in Stockton, California and raised in Gardena. He found the festival much more enjoyable than he had expected it to be. Mitchell had a landscaping business, survived a heart attack, sang for his church, and was a site supervisor for Torrance High School. He is married and enjoys playing ukulele as relaxing recreation.

Various Hawaiian craft vendors also setup tables by the area next to the festival entrance. Cindy Macaranas, a Filipina small-business woman, has had her custom made Pacific Islander clothing business CMaxX 8 Corp since 2006 and came with her staff from San Diego.

Michael Tutop, winner of the Kane (men’s) Soloist Hula category, is surrounded by his kumus (teachers) Kekaimoku Yoshikawa and Tiana Kaʻanohiokala Price of Halau Hula O Ka’anohiokala, Fullerton, California. INQUIRER/Florante Ibanez

The Kumukahi Ukulele & Hula Festival organizers said their gathering was based on the spirit of Aloha, promoting friendship and fun over competitive drama. They and the judges, all seasoned in Hawaiian Cultural arts, scored the ukulele groups and Hula Halaus (groups) with the Hawaiian tradition of recognizing only one winner in each category as opposed to the more Westernized scoring of 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.

The winner among the seven Ukulele Groups also traveled the longest distance from Japan — “Hiroshi Okada Hawaiian Music School.” Michael Tutop, who self- identifies as “Filipino American, but Hawaiian at heart,” won in the prestigious category of Kane (Men’s) Soloist. For all the winners, including those from the 15 Hula Halaus competing, a judge would also perform an oli (Hawaiian chant), sing a song or perform a hula.

Finally, at the close of the awards, Kumu (Hula leader/teacher) Pele Kaio, from Waimea, Kōhala, Hawaiʻi, who also served as head judge, led the other Kumus and the audience in a specially composed hula in support of the current Hawaiian protest/struggle against the construction of a new telescope on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is opposed by many as a spiritual desecration.

All the participants and competitors had the common feeling of genuine Aloha and enjoyed the entertaining and joking style of the masters of ceremonies, Lincoln and April “Sissy” Kaio, from Hula Halau ‘O Lilinoe a me Kane Na Pua Me Kealoha, based in Carson, California.

Participants in the 2019 Kumukahi Ukulele & Hula festival:

Ukulele Groups, Kumu Ukulele-

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Kanikapila O Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV Kuemanu Schmidt

Ukulele Club of Ventura County Ventura, CA Kaimana Pendergrass

Na Wa a ‘O Keawe Huntington Beach, CA Kamaki Keawe

Mele Ohana Ukulele Group Torrance, CA Mike Gregan

Na Mele Kakou Ukulele Group Torrance, CA Chika Nagata

Hiroshi Okada Hawaiian Music School Japan Hiroshi Okada

Aikane Ukulele Hui Diamond Bar, CA Kawika Viloria

Halau, Kumu Hula-

Nani Ola Hawaiian Dance Company Las Vegas, NV Kanani Pharr-Cadaoas

Halau Hula a Kawika lāua `o Leinani Diamon Bar, CA Kawika and Leinani Viloria

Halau Hula O Kekela Laie, HI Kekela Miller

Hālau Hula O Noelani Cypress, CA Noelani Aguon

Halau Hula O Ka`anohiokalā Fullerton, CA Tiana Ka’anohiokalā Price

Hula Hālau Na Hua ‘O Maile Silver Lake, CA Kaiolani Bosque-Miller

Kanani Kalama Hula Studio Torrance, CA Kanani Kalama

Halau Hula Lani Ola Lake Forest, CA Puanani Jung

Ka Pa Hula O Keahialaka Torrance, CA Lehua & Ka’ale’a Riveira

Ke Ala `Olino Kona, HI Maile & Kawika Tavares

Hālau Hula Ka Lehua Maʻukele Carson, CA Lehua Hawkins

Halau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniākea Honolulu, HI & Japan Kapua Dalire-Moe

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TAGS: 7th annual Kumukahi Ukulele & Hula Festival, hula dancers, Las Vegas ukulele festival, ukulele players
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