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August 18, 2017 - 7:20am

American jazz singer and songwriter Alberta Hunter described the blues as what milk is to a baby and the spirit is to a minister. On Saturday, from 2-10 p.m., Off the Grid Productions presents the first annual Big Island Blues Festival at Hale Halawai in Kailua-Kona.

Originating in the late 19th century among African-American communities in the deep south, blues is a musical genre fusing traditional African music with gospels and sultry ballads. Early blues renditions often reflected the social struggles and strife within African American society. The first documented appearance of the blues dates back to after the Civil War and is often associated with the freedom of slaves in America.

“I grew up around blues music my entire life, because my dad was in a blues band,” said Zackery Kuyten, event organizer. “Blues music is about life and telling a story, and everyone has a story to tell. Blues music most certainly gave life to so many musical genres that came after it, setting the foundation for almost all popular music in the 20th century.”

Kuyten chose to organize a blues festival in hopes of bringing the community together to enjoy music and barbecue while having a great time and participating in the activities available for all ages.

“I’ve been on the Big Island for several years and haven’t seen this type of event so I decided to put one on myself,” he said. “Blues music has been a main music genre throughout my life. Through the years I’ve been able to reach out to the blues regardless of what kind of situation I’ve been in and it’s always hit the spot.”

The lineup for this inaugural festival includes Ronnie V. &The Family Band, Tomi Isobe’s Blues Band and Bottle of Blue. There will also be several barbecue vendors on site.

“Don’t be fooled by the blues’ basic musical structure that’s fairly simple to play,” said Kuyten. “It only makes conveying a song’s message even more difficult, which is why the blues singers’ styles are so deeply rooted in passion and emotion. A good blues player has the ability to strike a chord deep within your soul and take those bottled up feelings of sadness, love, hope, and sorrow and smash it against a brick wall to set them free.”

This event is for all ages. Tickets are $20 and available online at

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