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National agency honors musician Ledward Kaapana with prestigious award

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Hawaii slack key guitar and ukuele musician Ledward Kaapana was named as a 2011 National Heritage Fellowship recipient, which is the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts.

Kaapana, 62, was one of nine recipients announced Friday by the National Endowment for the Arts and the award comes with a $25,000 check. The award recognizes individuals for their artistic excellence and efforts to preserve their culture for future generations. 

The recipients have been invited to Washington, D.C. in September for an awards presentation and concert at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Md.

Kaapana, who grew up in Kalapana on the Big Island but now lives in Kaneohe, was recognized for entertaining audiences for more than 40 years. He has been nominated for a Grammy Award four times. 

Throughout his career, Kaapana dedicated himself to perpetuating the music styles he grew up with. 

Kaapana learned music from his mother, Mama Tina Kaapana and an uncle, Fred Punahoa. “We didn’t have electricity, not television, not even much radio,” he told the endowment. “So we entertained ourselves. You could go to any house and everybody was playing music.”

 

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