The Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat is on!

We’ll be opening registration soon, but wanted to make  sure everyone knew that the retreat is still on!

November 10 – 16, 2019

The recent fire at the Kohala Village HUB, did not impact the Inn and they are now open and accepting reservations.

The classes, workshops, performances etc. (as well as the delicious, local-made meals) will be just across the road at the charming Hawi Plantation House, just like last year.

Stay Tuned. We’ll be opening registration soon.

Thank-you for your patience


Come join us at the Hawi Plantation House & Cottages on the beautiful island of Hawai’i, for a week of ‘ukulele immersion, fun, and camaraderie in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We’ll have a number of noted instructors on board to facilitate  workshops and classes in ‘ukulele, bass, Hawaiian lap steel, hula, percussion, voice, Hawaiian music, and culture.  And we’ll still find time to kanikapila, swim and snorkel,  and get acquainted with beautiful North Kohala and the people who live there.

And don’t forget your sweetie…..even if they don’t “uke!” While you’re engaged in learning and playing, he or she can be exploring the charming plantation town of Hawi, swimming with the dolphins and sea turtles at one of the beaches nearby, playing golf, riding horses in Waimea, exploring local farms and farmer’s markets, hiking to deserted beaches and lush waterfalls, visiting an active volcano, sunning on the most beautiful beaches in the world, reading a book, taking a beginning ‘ukulele or hula class.

We have sold out the last three years, so be sure to “subscribe” the website to make sure you are among the first to know when we open registration and don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn and play your ‘ukulele in Hawai’i, the place where it all began.

We’ll let you know as soon as we open registration.

Kawika– A Moment Etched in My Memory

Some twelve years ago, I was a beginning ‘ukulele player at a Hawaiian music workshop on the Big Island. One rainy afternoon, I walked into the front foyer of the Pahala Plantation House, where the workshop was taking place,  to find Dennis Kamakahi (on guitar) and his son, David (on ‘ukulele), playing “Kawika.”

Even then I knew this was a moment that would live with me for a long, long time. I just didn’t know how or when it would come back to me.

Why David and Dennis were playing “Kawika” that afternoon, I don’t know. Most of us think of Dennis, who passed away in 2014, in reference to the popular songs he wrote: “Wahine Ilikea,” “Koke‘e,” and “Pua Hone.” But Dennis was, among other things, a gifted scholar of Hawaiian history and culture. And “Kawika,” recorded by Sunday Manoa in 1969, is considered by many to be the spark that ushered in the second Hawaiian Renaissance—a revitalization of the traditions, culture, and language of the Hawaiian people. Maybe it was part of a story Dennis was telling about King David (Kawika) Kalakaua, whom the song was written about. Maybe he just really liked it. It is a powerful piece of music.

Looking around the room on that rainy day in Pahala, I also saw (a very young) Brad Bordessa sitting on the stairs, listening intently to Dennis and David and soaking it all in.  This was where I first met Brad, who was thirteen at the time—a serious musician even then. (A few years later, Brad posted an excellent ‘ukulele tutorial for “Kawika” on his blog, Live ‘Ukulele.)

That rainy afternoon in Pahala, the Kamakahi’s playing “Kawika,” and Brad listening on the stairway. . . . .all that musical magic came rushing back a few weeks ago when Brad suggested creating and teaching an ‘ukulele ensemble for “Kawika” at the 2018 Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, October 14 – 20. And with Kaliko Beamer Trapp also on the staff, to teach Hawaiian percussion, language, and pronunciation, there was no question in my mind that “Kawika” was simply meant to happen. And so it will.

Below is a link to “Kawika,” as recorded by Sunday Manoa. Enjoy. And while you do, imagine taking part in the musical ‘ukulele magic that happens each year in Hawi, at the northern end of the Kohala Coast. Registration is still open and the Kohala Village Inn still has a few rooms available.

If you can’t wait until October, you can get a quick lesson from Brad right here:

Lehua Wilson AhSam – The Jewel in the Crown

Lehua Wilson AhSam has been an integral part of the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat since we moved to the Kohala Village Hub two years ago. So, we thought it was time to let you all know a little more about her.

O Kaneohe Koolaupoko kuu one hanau

O Hilo Paliku kuu wahi hanai

O Kohala Loko kuu wahi noho 

O Lehua Ah Sam kuu inoa 

Roughly interpreted: Lehua was born in Kaneohe, Oahu; raised in Hilo, Hawai’i; and lives today in “deep” Kohala with her husband’s family.

But there is much more to Lehua Wilson AhSam than all the places she has been, and she continues to astound us all with her resources, talent, skill, and generosity.  She is the “tock” to the “tick” of the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat: consistently sure and steady, relentlessly operating in the background (as the Executive Director of the Kohala Village Hub), and absolutely indispensable.

She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and a Master’s in Hawaiian Studies, is fluent in Hawaiian language, and teaches Hawaiian Studies at the Hawaiian Community College.  She is also trained in Hula and has performed at the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. . . . .and to hear her sing is to take a journey back to the time of the Hawaiian monarchs.

Lehua is also a crew member for Makali’i, Hawai’i Island’s own voyaging canoe.

“He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa” 

“The canoe is our island, and the island is our canoe.”

It is Lehua’s passion for Hawaiian culture and all things wa’a (canoe-related) that will inform and enhance our “extra-curricular” activities, especially our visit to the Maka o Hule Heiau. It is her attention to every detail during our stay at the Kohala Village Inn that will ensure our success, again, at this year’s Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat October 15 – 21, at the Kohala Village Hub in Hawi.

Lehua joins a staff of exemplary talent at this year’s retreat: Gerald Ross (‘Ukulele and Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar); Brad Bordessa (‘Ukulele); Kevin Carroll (‘Ukulele and Uke-estra); Lady Ipo (‘Ukulele and Hula); Kaliko Beamer-Trapp (‘Ukulele and Story-telling); and KonaBob (Slack-key Bass and  Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar.)

It’s not too late to register, but we only have 3 rooms left at the Kohala Village Inn!  So hurry, if you don’t want to miss the most fun you can have with your ‘ukulele on, Hawaiian style!

Click Here for On-line Registration

Introducing Kaliko Beamer Trapp

Kaliko Beamer Trapp will always hold a special place in my heart.  He is the instructor who took this faltering, struggling ‘ukulele beginner with six thumbs on each hand, and got her to the point where she could change chords, strum, and sing (in Hawaiian). . . . .all at the same time. . . . .and with a certain amount of ease!  So Kaliko was a natural choice to teach our beginning ‘ukulele classes at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat last year, and, of course we had to bring him back.

Kaliko’s fun-loving approach to ʻukulele and his ability to make everyone feel at ease as they chart new territory will be a huge benefit to all beginners at this year’s retreat. But what he brings for everyone else is every bit as valuable: a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Hawaiian music, culture, history, language, and tradition . . . . . a very welcome addition and important piece of the puzzle that makes up the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat.

Kaliko, is the hānai (adopted) son of the late Aunty Nona Beamer and brother of famed Hawaiian slack key guitarist, Keola Beamer. He is an avid student of Polynesian culture and language and is a lecturer in Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.

In addition to teaching ‘ukulele for beginners, Kaliko will be teaching a workshop on rhythm (something we all can use) with traditional Hawaiian percussion instruments and another workshop focusing on “Hawai’i Aloha,” the beautiful song that traditionally closes any Hawaiian gathering or ceremony. His students will also  learn the meaning and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian words.  (Imagine if you heard a visitor enthusiastically singing “Tinkle, tinkle, little star!”. . . . .Don’t be that person!)

And he will tell us stories.  Kaliko is a fabulous and gifted story teller who lovingly, and respectfully, recounts the ancient tales of his adopted homeland in the most entertaining manner. (Last year,  Kaliko’s  “story time” was the highlight of the afternoon for many of us.) Time permitting, he may also be our personal guide for an optional visit to Pu’ukoholā Heiau, a temple built by King Kamahameha and dedicated to Kū, the Hawaiian war god, and other local historic sites.

We couldn’t ask for a more informed, compassionate, or entertaining guide as we explore the music, culture, and history of Hawai’i. 

We sincerely hope you can join us.

Register Now

Tchaikovsky comes to Hawai’i!

Tchaikovsky and Irish Fiddle Tunes!

jifkogfiddjpfbbkHave we got a treat for you! ‘Ukulele instructor extraordinaire, Kevin Carroll, will be joining us at the Kohala Village Inn, October 15 – 21, for the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, bringing incredible opportunities to learn and play world music with one of the finest instructors we know.

How about learning a little Celtic ‘Ukulele?  You’d be surprised at how similar in format and spirit an Irish “session” is to an Hawaiian kanikapila and how readily an ‘ukulele can play Celtic fiddle melodies!

Or how about a 5-day class in ‘Ukulele Blues & Soul to experience the gritty, rhythmic tones and textures that unfolded as “the blues” and morphed into “soul.”  Think Bessie Smith. The Four Tops. Vocalists, bass players, baritone and standard ukulele players will all find ample opportunities here to expand their skill sets.

And if you’re a classical music buff (and even if you’re not) you could work on your picking, strumming, timing, and learning to play as an ensemble while learning, practicing and performing Tchaikovsky’s Chanson Triste. . . . .on the ‘ukulele!

And because it is Hawai’i (and because Kevin always goes all out), don’t be surprised if  Kevin also brings us a couple of  arrangements of classic Tin-Pan-Alley “Hawaiian” tunes to play as an Hawaiian band!

Honi kâua wikiwiki!

We love working with Kevin Carroll and his students agree that he is simply one of the best ‘ukulele instructors out there.  We are over the moon that Kevin has agreed to join us in Hawi  and hope you will join us as well!

Registration is open and we still have rooms available in all categories, though all choices (especially with shared bathroom) are in increasingly short supply. Register soon for the most options.

Click here for more information.

Guess who’s coming to Hawi?

No doubt about it, some of the folks who come to the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat are hankering for ways to expand their musical repertoire beyond the ‘ukulele. Consequently we will be extending this year’s offerings by bringing in the “King of Swing,”  the inimitable Gerald Ross, who will be teaching not only ‘ukulele, but Hawaiian lap steel guitar, as well.

For many years now, Gerald has been one of our favorite ‘ukulele instructors, always bringing new advanced techniques and tunes (and occasionally a few new jokes), and delivering them all with a relaxed, easy-going style (bordering on mischievous) that only someone with his years and years of musical experience can deliver.  (He did, after all get his start on “Captain Kangaroo.”)

Not only are Gerald’s workshops top-notch, but he is also an amazing band leader with a propensity for putting together some stellar bands on the fly, and bringing out the best in everyone!  He is a jam master extraordinaire and his musical repertoire seems limitless, from tunes of the Big Band era to the slinky tones of surf music. . . . . and beyond.

Gerald joins a stellar cast of characters already committed to this year’s retreat, including Hawai’i Island’s own KonaBob, Brad Bordessa, and Kaliko Beamer. So, you know we’re in for a week of wonderful ‘ukulele instruction, camaraderie, and good-hearted fun.

There’s more to come, including a few additions to the staff, but in the meantime you should know that registration is  now open and we’d love to have you join Gerald and the rest of the crew at the Kohala Village Inn, in the lovely little town of Hawi, October 15 – 21.

Click here for rooms and rates

New “Special Events” for 2017

As we wait for confirmation from some of our staff members, I thought you might like to see some of the “special events” we’ll be hosting at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, October 15 – 21. (These are in addition to our usual round-up of ongoing ‘ukulele, bass, lap steel, and hula classes and individual workshops.) We’ve gt a little bit of everything: star gazing with a pwo navigator, hikes to ancient temples, an ‘ukulele beach party, outrigger canoeing, and more.

Maka o Hule Navigation Heiau 

Those hoping to absorb some local history can join us for a short (1.8 mile) early-morning hike and photo opportunity along the lovely Kohala coast, strolling past inviting crystal clear coves before  a very short scramble up to Maka o Hule Navigation Heiau, an ancient  temple of upright stones that point, with remarkable accuracy, to ancient seafaring destinations thousands of miles away, a testament to the unsurpassed navigational skills of the ancient Polynesians.

At least a century before the Europeans made landfall in the Americas, Polynesians were actively engaged in trade with various peoples in South America and North America, introducing the locals to chicken and returning to Polynesia with sweet potatoes. They voyaged out of sight of land for weeks at a time, navigating thousands and thousands of miles of open ocean without a compass or chronometer, using their encyclopedic knowledge of the sun, the moon, the and the stars, tides, winds, currents, clouds, and ocean swells, animal migration,  weather patterns, and changes in the color of the sea. It is said that a Polynesian navigator could tell by the shape of a mid-ocean wave whether or not it had crested an island in the past 2 weeks.

A brotherhood of experts,  trained to have acute powers of observation and memory, the Polynesian navigators were also priests responsible for conducting the rituals of their profession, invoking spiritual help in their voyages, and passing their profound skill and knowledge on to the next generation.  This they did with songs or chants, repeated until mastered and memorized, at temples such as Maka o Hule, where we will have opportunity to view and appreciate the sacred stones pointing across the vast and tempestuous Pacific Ocean to the islands of Tahiti, the Marquesas and the other Southern Islands.

Optional Outrigger Canoeing

While you wan’t be paddling across vast stretches of the Pacific, through a special arrangement with the local canoe club, we can offer hour-plus rides and paddling instruction down at Kawaihae to retreat attendees for a $100 surcharge.   What a great way to experience Hawai’i as the Hawaiians do and to kick-off our annual Beach Party BBQ and KaniKaPila, held this year at Spencer Beach State Park.

Pu’ukoholā Heiau

But if outrigger canoeing doesn’t float your boat, you can join us for a short walk along the Ala Kahakai, a National Historic Trail, followed by a ranger-led tour of Pu’ukoholā Heiau, one of the best-preserved and most significant temple sites in Hawai’i, built by Kamahameha the Great and dedicated to the war god, Kū.

This is just a smattering of the Hawaiian history to be learned  here…..all within a few steps of Spencer Beach, one of the few white-sand beaches on the Big Island, where, after our tour, we will eat and swim and snorkel and kanikapila until they toss us out.

But wait!  There’s more……

Star Gazing at Kawaihae

“If there are conflicts, the navigator must resolve them; if there is sickness, the navigator’s responsibility is to heal; if there is damage, the navigator must repair it.  His kuleana is to sail and bring back gifts to his home island.”

Remember the Polynesian navigators we were just talking about?  Well, before we head home for the evening, we will be joined by Chadd ‘Ōnohi Paishon, pwo navigator and captain of Hawai’i Island’s own voyaging canoe, Makali’i, and the voyaging organization  Nā Kālai Wa‘a.  As the star begin to fill the sky, Chadd will guide us on a fascinating star gazing voyage through the darkness, a perfect way to cap an extraordinary day at Kawaihae.

How did we ever get so lucky?

And all of this is in addition to daily classes and workshops in ‘ukulele, lap steel guitar, bass, and hula, not to mention ongoing evening entertainment in one of the lovliest locations on the island, the Kohala Village Hub.

Wouldn’t you like to join us?  Registration is now open and we still have rooms available  in all categories.  But hurry, they won’t last.

Register Now