If this wasn't the best concert of the year, it was for sure the biggest contingent of happy people per square foot in Hawaii. The Third Annual Kokua Festival proved this year to be much more than a concert, but a huge movement of talented people dedicated to making a better world through music, love and education.
The Kokua Festival 2006 was held on the 19th of April on the island of Maui and on Oahu on the 22nd – celebrating Earth Day. The funds raised from the events – both sold out months in advance – will be used to further support the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, a non profit organization that educates students of Hawaii about sustaining the precious North Shore environment.
The Honolulu version of the Kokua Festival was the bigger of the two. On a special and sunny Saturday around 10 .000 people of all generations and races came together within the Waikiki Shell – an amazing outdoor arena with Diamond Head standing tall in the background. They stood and sat and danced and were entertained by a classic group of bands hosted by Jack Johnson, creator of the event and idol of a generation.
Backstage there were no celebrities or producers but family members, kids and a very healthy vibe that makes Kokua a special event. The festival also had a village where people would hang out during the breaks sampling local organic products and taking in information from countless environmentally-active groups from around the islands.
The show started in the afternoon with the local ambassador of aloha Henry Kapono, followed by the California band ALO and the pianist/vocalist Zach Gill who were joined by Jack Johnson for a couple of songs. After that the talented Hawaiian singer Paula Fuga and One Love 'Ohana Band showed the real aloha spirit to the crowd. Just in perfect timing, the alt-folkie Ben Harper showed up for the sunset playing some of his favorite songs with a gospel flavor. It was his first time at the Kokua festival and It was a gift for Jack. People seated on the grass would complain about the sound quality, but at that point, everybody just want to have a good time.
As the sun went down and the stars came out, Willie Nelson and his Maui-based jam partners the Planetary Bandits brought their energy to the stage. At this point kids, teenagers and old school guys were dancing and singing along with Willie's most classic songs.
And then came Jack, at ease and happy and playing like he was in the backyard of his house on the North Shore watching his friends surf Pipe. Jack's fame has presented him with a busy schedule that keeps him on the road and away from Hawaii for much of the year and it was obvious he was happy to be playing at home for a crowd like that.
On the stage, Johnson said as much: "I am very happy to be here with my friends,
family and I just want to remind you guys why we're here."
The highest moment of the concert came when Jack Johnson, Ben Harper and Willie joined the stage for a final session. An exceptional meeting that made people cry and take this moment in the memory.
The Kokua Festival 2006 raised will be dedicated toward the goals of the organization as stated on their website: "The mission of the foundation is to provide students with exciting and interactive encounters that will enhance their appreciation for and understanding of their environment so that they will be lifelong stewards of the earth.."
For more information on the Kokua Hawaii Foundation surf the Internet to www.kokuahawaiifoundation.org