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Cruz the star attraction at Puna music fest

May 4, 2014 - 12:05am

Hawaii music legend John Cruz will play the Puna Music Festival for the third time in its four-year history.

He and fellow Oahu singer-songwriter Paula Fuga are the main attractions at today’s free Pohoiki Open Concert, the festival’s kickoff event, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Isaac Hale Beach Park.

“Puna audiences have always been kind to my family and me. We’ve always gotten a great response and it’s always fun to play for the Puna gang,” Cruz said. “Puna is like my second home, you know. My dad’s home has been Puna for so many years and I’ve got two brothers who live there and my sister. Members of my family and I have called Puna home for the past 40, 50 years.”

Cruz’s 1996 debut album, “Acoustic Soul,” has sold more than 150,000 copies. His 2007 CD, “One of These Days” was honored in 2012 by Honolulu magazine as one of the “Top 25 Greatest Hawaii Albums of the New Century.” He’s in the process of mixing his long-awaited third album for August release and will tour in Japan soon. He just returned from Guam, and played shows earlier this year in Australia and New Zealand with Jack Johnson and Fuga. He said he and Fuga will share the stage at some point during the concert.

“I love playing music with her,” he said. “She’s genuine, she’s real, both as an artist and as a person. She’s the same whether you’re sitting on the beach with her, on the back porch, in the car on the way to the show, or on stage.”

A large turnout is expected for the show, and festival organizer Tiffany Jentsch of Kalani said there will be “volunteers directing traffic to keep things orderly.”

In addition to Cruz and Fuga, the festival features a stellar lineup of artists, including Kuana Torres Kahele, Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole, Jaz Kaiwikoo, Mike Love, Hawane Rios, Sean Robbins, Uncle Robert’s Awa Band, Leilehua Yuen and Manu Josiah, and kumu hula Ehulani Stephany and Halau Hula Ka Makani Hali Ala O Puna.

With a weeklong program of concerts, events, workshops and classes today through Saturday, and the support of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the county, Suisan and the guidance of Kalani, the Puna Music Festival has quickly grown to become the second-largest multiday festival in East Hawaii.

Returning this year is the popular and whimsical Kanikapila in Pahoa, presented by Suisan, which will close out the festival from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Jentsch said “3,000 to 5,000” are expected to crowd Pahoa Village Road, the town’s main drag, for the event.

“There will be people playing in balconies, in storefront windows and on the sidewalks,” she said.

Festival-goers are encouraged to dress in green and incorporate nature into jubilant costumes, with prizes awarded to those best expressing this year’s theme, “Celebrate Your Nature.”

Other key events include Wednesday’s Kalapana Night Market Celebration, featuring Hawaiian music artist Kuana Torres Kahele, and an Intimate Evening with Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole, a talk story-style concert to be hosted Friday at Kalani EMAX. Hosted by Jaz and Kaea of KAPA, Kaumakaiwa will share stories of the Kanakaole ohana.

In addition to the week’s roster of diverse performances, the festival also presents a unique opportunity to participate in collaborative, educational experiences with artists including Fuga, who will lead a songwriting workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at Kalani. Other workshops include oli, chant, with Kanakaole and learning to make and play the ohe hano ihu, nose flute, with Manu Josiah.

For the calendar of events and to buy tickets, visit For more information or to request auxiliary aid or modification, call 965-7828 or email

Email John Burnett at