Uta Matsuri Plays On In Pearl City

Alana Folen
Wednesday - March 18, 2009
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Three years ago, the Pearl City High School Learning Center held what was believed to be its final performance of Uta Matsuri, a celebration of Japanese song and dance. However, this year the celebration is back and dedicated to the life and music of Clarence Hayase, a gifted arranger and composer of Japanese Enka-style music.

“The Uta Matsuri began as a showcase for Enka music in Hawaii,“explained Chadwick Kamei, Learning Center director and director of bands at Pearl City High School. “We have the Islands’most talented students working alongside professional musicians, singers and dancers.

“Mr. Hayase passed away in October 2007, and this Uta Matsuri was dedicated to him,“Kamei said, referring to the recent twoday celebration that took place at the Pearl City Cultural Center. “It was originally planned as a one-time tribute concert, but the response from the community to continue the program was overwhelming. We hope that the Uta Matsuri continues, because it’s a great opportunity for students, and it will always serve to remind us of Mr. Hayase’s love of music.”


Hayase was known to many as the heart and soul of Uta Matsuri, serving as producer and musical arranger for the show.According to Kamei, when Hayase was younger, he would play in Japanese bands and perform Enka music.

“That’s how he gained such skill in performing and arranging music. He was also influential in teaching the next generation about this genre of music,” Kamei explained. “Mr. Hayase was considered the father of the Uta Matsuri.”

With the passing of many Enka experts of older generations, Kamei said much of the knowledge is being lost; however, it was Hayase who ensured that this part of the Japanese culture would continue to be passed down to his students.

“Many of the attendees are in the Nisei generation, but everyone - young and old, Japanese and other ethnicities - have enjoyed performances of the Uta Matsuri,” Kamei stated.“People who have attended the event in the past come back each year, which is why this year was sold out!”

Kamei says over the years, the event has expanded to include Okinawan songs and modern Japanese music as well. Hawaii Matsuri Taiko and Hanayagi Mitsusumi Dance Studio also were showcased at last month’s event.

Yet the best part of the show, Kamei says, is the live talent of the Uta Matsuri Band.

“There is nothing like performing with a live band on stage. The students provide such youthful energy and practice extremely hard to make this such a successful event.”

The anticipation and excitement for next year’s Uta Matsuri already is brewing. Hayase would be proud to know that the Japanese music and culture continues to live on for generations to come.

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