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Hawaii: Bring on the ukuleles, slack key guitars and hula for song festival on 4 islands

Hawaii’s monthlong annual celebration of song has expanded so much that events will fill two months this year.

Mele Mei — Hawaiian for “Songs of May” — spills over into Lune (June) with cultural celebrations that include music and hula on four islands. Many of the activities are free.

The festival, sponsored by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, kicked off April 30 with the presentation of Lifetime Achievement Awards to several musicians. Ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro (above) once performed when Roy Sakuma received the award.

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Here’s a sampling of what else you can expect if you are heading to Hawaii:

Mele Mei ma Maui, May 13-15. Performers plus craft and food vendors will gather during a series of free concerts at Lahaina Banyan Tree on Maui.

May Day by the Bay, May 14. Hawaiian music and hula demonstrations will highlight the celebration at Waioli Beach Park in Hanalei, Kauai.

Music of Hawaii, May 18. A concert featuring Pomaikai Lyman at 7:30 p.m. in the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Na Hoku Hanohano Musical Festival Workshops, May 27. Professional development sessions accompany solo sessions by popular performers on the slack key guitar and ukulele at Honolulu Community College.

Hawaii Songwriting Festival, June 17-18. A Friday evening concert will highlight this event at Hapuna Beach Prince Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Ki Ho’alu: Honoring the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Tradition, through June 30. A display of these Hawaiian guitars continues at Waikiki’s Ala Moana Center.

While not part of Mele Mei, a related celebration of songs and stories, Na Mele Aloha, Aloha Alii will be held May 14 at Honolulu’s Mission Houses Historic Site.

The event, held four times a year, recognizes Hawaiians’ deep affection for the past alii (royalty). Tickets cost $30 in advance or $35 at the door.

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