Spotlight ON!

Spotlight ON! Lion Ladies Steel Guitar Ensemble

Over the years, Japanese steel guitar master Kiyoshi "Lion" Kobayashi has shared his talents at many of HIMELE's steel guitar festivals. Lion has also assembled performances by students of his music school, and has presented them from time to time. Guests of the Maui Steel Guitar Festival have, over the years, enjoyed performances by his Lion Halau.

His latest effort is the Lion Ladies Steel Guitar Ensemble, a group of four female steel guitarists who play in unison along with him. The ensemble is often backed up by other members of Lion's school, and recently by another music ensemble that Lion has assembled called New Trade Winds.

The four steel guitarists of the Lion Ladies Steel Guitar Ensemble are Masako Wakamatsu, Sakae Machida, Akiko Watanabe, and Yoko Tanaka.

The ensemble made its debut at the 2019 Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week event, and recently participated in the March, 2021, Open Stage Showcase.

In honor of Lei Day (May 1st) the group has created a performance video of "May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii." The musicians are from left: Masako Wakamatsu, Sakae Machida, Keiji Kusano (NTW-bass), Lion Kobayashi, Hidezo Ito (NTW-drums), Akiko Watanabe, Hideki Saito (NTW-guitar) and Yoko Tanaka.

Meet the Ladies

Masako Wakamatsu

Masako met steel guitar in 2009, when she participated in a steel guitar study session hosted by the NUA (Nihon Ukulele Association). Later, in 2012, she met Lion Kobayashi at a music studio with ukulele friends in Shibuya, Tokyo. In 2013, Masako participated in a steel guitar group lesson at NHK Cultural Center Aoyama, Tokyo taught by Lion. From 2014, she moved to private lessons.

In 2014, Masako participated in the Maui Steel Guitar festival Maui for the first time and played ukulele with students of Lion's ukulele class. She participated in the Maui Steel Guitar Festivals from 2015 through 2018, playing ukulele and steel guitar with Lion and his students.

She discovered the ukulele in her early 40's and joined NUA after several years of private lessons. While at NUA, she took part in the Ukulele Festival Hawaii at Kapiolani Park in 2007, 2010 and 2013.

Since 2014 to date, Masako has presided over an ukulele circle in a local community. In 2016 and, 2019, she served as an acting lecturer in Lion Kobayashi's ukulele class. (NHK Cultural Center, Maple Cultural Center)

Recently, she is actively trying to introduce steel guitar in ukulele circle activities.

Sakae Machida

Sakae began learning ukulele in 2005 and joined a local Hawaiian band in Tochigi prefecture in 2008 where she played the ukulele, wood bass, and keyboards.

She belongs to the Ryomo Hawaiian Club in the Northern Kanto region. She encountered the steel guitar there and was fascinated by its sound of the steel guitar, studied under the Club chairman. In 2016, she met Lion at Yoshikawa Culture School and has been taking private lessons since 2017.

Sakae participated in the 2017 and 2018 Maui Steel Guitar Festivals.

She was First Mandolin in college. In 2008 she joined a local Hawaiian band playhing the ukulele. In 2011, she played the wood (upright) bass and in 2015 she was involved with keyboard and steel guitar. Since that time, Sakae has been in charge of steel guitar for that band and has been active at events mainly in Tochigi Prefecture.

Akiko Watanabe

Akiko started playing the steel guitar at a Hawaiian music club at a college, but quit in two years. After that, she worked as an electone instructor for about five years and played jazz and pop music.

After nearly 30 years, Akiko joined a Hawaiian band and resumed playing steel guitar.

In 2007, Akiko became a student of Lion Kobayashi and studied from the basics. After experiencing several Hawaiian bands, she encountered Ms. Masami Sato of Aloha Station (in Roppongi, Tokyo). As a member of the band Makana, she participated in the 2017 Maui Steel Guitar Festival the 2018 Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival.

Akiko is also an instructor in one of Lion Kobayashi's music classes.

Yoko Tanaka

Yoko joined a Hawaiian band in a university club activity 50+ years ago, where she learned playing the Steel Guitar under Lion for two years. In 2013 she enrolled in Lion's steel guitar class at a music school, and encountered the fun of playing with the ensemble.

Yoko participated in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Maui Steel Guitar Festivals, taking part in an ensemble with Lion and his students.

Since 2017, Yoko has been a member of a music band which she formed with her schoolmates from the college. The band played at college reunion events until 2019, and currently is on hold due to COVID-19.

Lion Ladies Steel Guitar Ensemble Events

The Ensemble was started on May 22, 2018, at Kiyoshi Lion Kobayashi's lesson room as "steel ladies"

  • 2018
    (October 27) - The first performance at HSGA Japan Convention, at Hatoba Kaikan (Yokohama)
  • 2019
    From February - Joining (for training) in Lion's monthly regular live performance at Aloha Station (Roppongi, Tokyo)
    July - Waikiki Steel Guitar Week at Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center
    August - Performed at a music event at Filmmaker Toru Murakawa's private studio Actzar M in Yamagata prefecture
    October - Performed at Applause in Sannomiya, Kobe city; Performed at HSGA Japan Conference at Esaka Tokyu REI Hotel in Osaka; Performed at the Hawaiian event at Salute Takeshiba Restaurant in Tokyo
    November - Performed at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan in Ueno, Tokyo
  • 2020
    January - Performed at a Hawaiian New Year's Party held at TIKI TIKI Shinjuku, Tokyo.
  • 2021
    January - Participated in the 1st HSGA Virtual Steel Guitar Festival
    March - Participated in the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Open Stage Showcase (virtual)

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