Some of the best finds on Maui are found word of mouth. On this blog, I share these finds so that others won’t discover as late as I have. It’s also a way for me to remember and thank those that led me to these authentic experiences on Maui. My most recent find is the free Thursday night ukulele jam sessions in North Kihei.
Through word of mouth last November, I got to know a couple who have been coming to Maui every year for the past twenty years. They told me about a weekly ʻukulele jam session in North Kihei. In one-and-a-half hours, you play and sing Hawaiian songs and also see the young and old dance hula. It’s completely free because the purpose is to share Hawaiian culture. Their advice to me was the following:
- Arrive twenty minutes early and borrow a portable music stand and three song books.
- If you don’t have an ʻukulele, you can rent one there.
If you don’t know how to play the basic chords on the instrument, you can quickly learn online beforehand. As I’m revising my paper “Teach Yourself ʻUkulele via Free Sources on the Internet,” I share with you the following nuggets.
You really only need to know the most common chords: C, C7, G, G7, F, Bb, D, D7, A, A7, Am, Dm, Gm, as shown below. [Here is why.]
You can learn the three basic strums on Kumu Keoloha’s website. Kumu means teacher in Hawaiian. There are other goodies on this website, including location of this free Thursday evening “808 Uke Jams” which he has led for the past eight years.
On my way to the church in North Kihei, I managed to catch a glimpse of the setting sun and even had time to walk on the beach next to South Kihei Road. Already I could see people piling in.
Having spotted various sized shoes and flipflops at the entrance to the 100-year-old wooden church, I happily took mine off. There was an atmosphere of aloha as I approached the stage. Kumu Keoloha greeted me and remarked, “Your face looks familiar. Have I met you before?”
I replied that many people have said that. I was reluctant to introduce myself just then because I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, after settling down, unpacking my Tiny Tenor ʻukulele, and joining in the opening chants, I quickly acclimatized. Even though I didn’t know 95% of the songs, I was able to play and sing along just fine, amidst the three dozen voices and ukuleles.
The four microphones on stage were used by the kumu and his companions who accompanied on electric bass guitar, plugged-in acoustic folk-string guitar, and ukuleles. Another gentleman in the back played solo riffs on the ʻukulele. I can imagine myself getting people together to play ukuleles while I play solo riffs on my piano.
I was quite taken by the young girls and older ladies who hula danced to the songs. Obviously they were dancing to the lyrics of the songs. Apparently, you can learn hula dancing for free on Sunday afternoons at the church. Kumu Keoloha’s sister teaches then. You can also bring your ukulele and learn how to accompany to hula.
Probably the best find that evening was the other newcomer to this jam. Barbie Wong introduced herself as a piano teacher who taught ‘ukulele in the Bay Area after learning to play the instrument from Kaʻala Carmack, a musician I got to know on Oahu and collaborated last year on a math and music project. Needless to say, she and I connected over my favorite cocktail afterwards in Wailea.
One thing leads to another — Maui is a place full of surprising discoveries.
- Thursday Ukulele Jam
- 7 – 8:30 pm FREE
- Keolahou Church
- 177 South Kihei Road