From a Hawaiian renaissance man ...

George Kahumoku Jr. — also known as
“Hawaii’s renaissance man” — not only plays folk music, but also lives a
traditional folk lifestyle. 

“I was lucky,” Kahumoku said in a phone
interview from Hawaii. “I was born into a Hawaiian family that plays
music. A lot of kids aren’t born into Hawaiian families and have a hard
time learning traditional music.”

He is a seventh-generation slack-key
guitar player and lives in Maui on his family farm, which focuses on
organic sustainable farming methods. The farm produces papayas, taro,
sweet potatoes, bananas and legumes, and Kahumoku raises goats, ducks,
chickens and miniature horses.

He says his farm grows enough food to
support 100 people for a year. Originally, he used the farm to feed and
support himself, his wife and their 15 children, 12 of whom were
adopted. Now he frequently donates produce from his farm to help feed
the homeless.

When he’s not kept busy picking several
hundred pounds of fresh produce per week or chasing after one of his
frisky miniature horses, he will probably be found playing music. He has
produced over 70 albums and has won four Grammy awards for his Hawaiian
folk music, which focuses on highlighting the natural Hawaiian flora
and fauna.

“Hawaii is so beautiful. I sing about the
plants, clouds, weather, wind, ocean, the mountains; things that are
dear to our hearts.” 

He said that many of his songs are love
ballads that intermingle wordplay about the bodies and forms of plants
and animals, including “kinolau,” which is a Hawaiian word that
expresses the way creatures and plants change shapes, and “auomakua,”
which means family members who come back as guardian angels in another
form, such as sea turtles, sharks or owls.

On Friday, Kahumoku performs a 3 p.m.
concert and hosts a 4 p.m. workshop at Elderly Instruments, 1100 N.
Washington Ave., in Lansing.

... to an Irish fiddler—with dancers in tow

Osin Mac Diarmada is the fiddle player of the Irish band Teada, which combines Celtic culture with modern twists.

In a phone interview, Mac Diarmada says
that he is “fascinated with the process of bringing old tunes to life,”
which can be seen at the heart of many of Teada’s songs. He said the
band looks for older pieces of traditional music and “fine tunes which
we don’t hear every day,” then revitalizes them with newer material.

“There’s no better way to bring them to life than to put them on stage,” he added.

Mac Diarmada says folk is considered mainstream in Ireland.

“It’s not an alternative lifestyle,” he
explained. “All kinds of people play traditional music from old to
young. It’s one of the greatest ways of meeting people from all walks of
life. There’s a common ground in music that brings different people

He said that he has been playing the fiddle since he was 6, which he says is typical in Ireland.

“You start playing before you have a chance to think about what you’re doing,” he added, with a chuckle. 

Normally a five-piece band consisting of
the fiddle, accordion, flute, guitar and the bodhran, a traditional
Irish drum, Teada will expand to seven people in order to put on a
bigger Folk Festival show.

Although Teada’s albums are instrumental,
the band will add singers for the festival. “And if that’s not enough,”
Mac Diarmada said, “we’ll have dancing as well.”

The show will feature traditional Irish sean-nos dancing, which is primarily improvised and usually includes many low-to -the-ground steps. 

“It’s an easy type of music to listen to," Mac Diarmada says of Teada. “People who haven’t been out before should give it a try  — there’s no age distinction in the music. You never know: You might end up picking up instrument and playing it yourself.”

‘We like to think we’ve got a little bit of everything’: Director Mike Secord discusses musical diversity

The heart of downtown East Lansing will move
to the beat of a different drum (perhaps of an Irish bodhran) this
weekend for the 10th anniversary of the Great Lakes Folk Festival, which
is put on by the Michigan State University Museum.

“What sets us apart is that we bring
traditional ideals and music to the downtown business area of a busy
little city for a neat, different kind of feel,” said Mike Secord, the
event manager and festival director. 

The festival boasts 17 different folk bands from around
the world, a mix of returning favorites and newcomers. Organizers
focused on diversity while creating the lineup for the concerts this
year, which take place on three stages. 

“We want people to not only enjoy the music, but also see something they don’t see all the time,” Secord said.

A wealth of cultures, styles and genres
will be represented in the music, including Iranian, Irish, Caribbean,
mariachi, polka and Hawaiian.

There will also be almost 40 different
vendors and artists featuring a plethora of items pertaining to this
year’s festival theme: grassroots green. Visitors will find all sorts of
recycled and repurposed items in the green arts marketplace, ranging
from pillows crafted from recycled wool sweaters to guitar pick and
button jewelry and even handbags made out of recycled plastic juice

The green doesn’t stop there: A series of
“re-skilling” workshops provide one-hour demonstrations of traditional
earth-friendly life skills, such as how to darn socks, how to raise
chickens in the backyard, how to make your own brooms and even how to
have a green funeral service.

For even more eco-friendly knowledge and
demonstrations, visitors can walk over to the green kitchen stage area
and learn how to can food and how to make cheese and yogurt. 

“We like to think we’ve got a little bit of everything — different stuff for everybody,” Secord said. 

The event is free; however, Secord said, donations are strongly encouraged and appreciated.

“Funding for arts and culture isn’t easy
to come by,” Secord said, explaining that every dollar donated will help
cover the cost of running the folk festival, as well as help pay for
future community events.