Garden Party

Get back to the garden! The Hawaiian Legends, Hanalei Bay Trio and more of the Islands’ top musicians are set to rock the stage April 5 at the Southshore Visitors Center to celebrate National Tropical Botanical Garden’s 50th anniversary

A star-studded lineup is set to rock the stage next weekend to celebrate National Tropical Botanical Garden’s 50th anniversary at the nonprofit’s Southshore Visitors Center in Poipu. On April 5, a four-hour outdoor concert, “Musical Legends in the Garden,” will feature many of Hawaii’s top musicians, including The Hawaiian Legends – Ledward Ka’apana, Dennis Kamakahi and Mike Kaawa.

“I love Kauai,” Kamakahi replies simply, when asked why he chose to be a part of the festival.

The slack-key guitarist also is celebrating a 50th anniversary this year: He has been delighting audiences with his musical performances for a half century.

While melodies always have been part of his life, Kamakahi admits he is looking forward to retiring and “playing golf.” But it doesn’t seem like the 62-year-old Oahu native is anywhere close to fulfilling that goal. He has plans to create a biographical DVD, and also is recording another CD to be released at the end of this year. He says he looks forward to joining his bandmates, who together won the 2013 Na Hoku Hanohano award for “Music Video/DVD of the Year.”

“I love the people and the beauty of the island,” adds Kamakahi, whose favorite spot on the Garden Isle is lovely Kokee.

Ka’apana also is excited to join his bandmates and play for his friends and “Ledheads” on Kauai. The multi-talented musician, who just wrapped up an all-instrumental (autoharp, ukulele and guitar) CD titled Jus’ Cruzin’, is looking forward to playing with other “great entertainers,” especially Jerry Douglas, whom Ka’apana deems “the greatest dobro player.” In 1992, the duo went on tour as “Masters of the Steel String Guitar.”

Douglas, a 13-time Grammy Award winner, is indeed considered the world’s leading dobro (a resonator guitar derived from the 1920s Hawaiian lap steel guitar, which now mostly accompanies blue-grass music) player, and will perform for the first time in Hawaii.

Local musicians Ken Emerson, Pancho Graham and Kirby Keough will grace the stage as well, playing traditional slack key and steel guitar music together as Hanalei Bay Trio. Graham recalls sending the event’s co-producer Ken Levine a live recording of a Hanalei Bay Trio concert in November 2013 on Kauai. He was delighted when Levine followed up by asking if the trio wanted to perform at NTBG’s music festival. There was no hesitation by Graham, particularly because he has a close connection to the nonprofit. For several years he worked on carpenter projects at Limahuli Garden and Preserve when it became part of the nonprofit’s botanical collection.

“I’ve always been especially proud of my contribution in that way to its mission of preserving Hawaiian endemic and culturally important plants,” says Graham, who recently released a new CD, titled Kona Wind Days.

Emerson also is happy to support a good cause. Though he has relocated to California, he still visits Kauai and plays with the band several times a year. This performance will be notable for him as well, as he has taken pleasure in regular visits to Limahuli Garden and Preserve throughout the years.

“I’m interested in the preservation and protection of native indigenous species,” he explains.

Additionally, Keough is excited to support NTBG and play at its visitors center on the South Shore.

The musician delights in sharing his talent with others.

“The way I feel when I’m doing it – alive, joyful, out of this world – is reward enough to make me want to do it every day,” Keough says, “which I do and have been doing for most of my life.”

The Nathan Aweau, Jeff Peterson and Benny Chong Trio also is in Saturday’s lineup. Chong is recognized as the world’s leading jazz ukulele master, Peterson is one of the state’s most gifted guitarists and Aweau has received the “Male Vocalist of the Year” Na Hoku Hanohano Award three times.

Gates open at 11:30 a.m.; concert begins at 1 p.m. Food and beverages will be available, along with the opportunity to meander the garden’s 10 acres.

Tickets are available at NTBG’s Visitors Center, The Wine Shop, Scotty’s Music, Kalaheo Café and Coffee Co., Pictures Plus, Kauai Music and Sound, Hawaiian Music Kiosks or online at