Two island luminaries—legendary cultural performers Dave Kapileo Peter and Ana Pialur Limes—were honored at the 2016 Ukulele Festival held last Saturday at the Garapan Fishing Base.
The event kicked off with a performance by the Saipan Community School Ukulele Band, followed by Irish ukulele player Susan O’Donohoe, and capped by electrifying numbers by Japanese ukulele players Yuta Uchiumi with his family and Yusuke Saito and Korean ukulele strummer Blues Lee.
The ukulele festival, which is the first of its kind in Micronesia, got started because of Peter.
“We started the ukulele fest because the late legendary Dave Kapileo Peter always talked about it to KKMP,” said KKMP personality and Marianas Ukulele Festival Association vice chair Gordon Marciano.
“We got together with Larry [Lee] and Radio KKMP, and we finally kicked it off two years ago. It was the same time when Uncle Dave [Peter] was leaving for medical. When he returned, he heard us live because we were streaming, and he was happy. The first thing he said was ‘Outstanding,’” reminisced Marciano.
“At least you guys are the first one to start it off in Micronesia,” Marciano recalled Peter as saying.
Marciano thanked the Commonwealth Center for Arts and Culture for making this possible.
“With the support of everybody, most importantly the CCAC, thank you for the stage, thank you for the lights, thank you for the sound system. They’re the ones that really came through,” he said.
Marciano said that the festival was intended to honor both Peter and Limes.
The ukulele festival initially aimed to just have local performances, said Marianas Ukulele Festival Association chair Larry Lee, but international ukulele performers wanted to join the festival as well.
“The plan for the uke festival was to showcase local talent; however [we] could not pass the opportunity for international talent, so [we] went with both,” said Lee.
“We were able to bring in a performer from Japan and also one from Korea,” he added.
O’Donohoe was one of the international ukulele players who performed last Saturday. Marciano said O’Donohoe already played the ukulele in previous Thursday Night Markets.
“My love for ukulele started from listening to Brother Iz (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) on YouTube. This is where I heard the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow and thought that song was a very beautiful song in addition to the way he sung it and also just the video where they were spreading his ashes,” she said.
“I heard about the uke festival from Gordon [Marciano]. I came to Saipan about a month ago, came to see the Night Market in Garapan, played a few songs, and Gordon asked me to come along as well,” she added.
O’Donohoe said the sound of a ukulele is more beautiful to her than that of the banjo, which she formerly played.
“I am delighted because to me, one of the most beautiful sounds in the world is the ukulele. I love to be surrounded by that sound. I used to play the banjo, but I’ve moved away from it because the ukulele has a more mellow, beautiful, and rich tone, so I’m delighted that so many people have so much love for this instrument on this island,” said O’Donohoe.