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Slack-key guitar legend told not to play at Honolulu airport

HONOLULU, Hawaii (KHON) — A longtime, local musician says he felt surprised and embarrassed after he was told to stop playing his guitar at Honolulu International Airport.

“You know, that’s my life. I love to play music and entertain people,” said Ledward Kaapana, who has been playing music for 50 years.

That love for music stays with him wherever he goes, including airports. Kaapana says he likes to play at airports to help relax travelers and ease their nerves.

He was playing his guitar at a Hawaiian Airlines gate Wednesday. The 67-year-old said other travelers were enjoying his music until a security guard approached him and said:

“‘Excuse me, you cannot play guitar here.’ I said, ‘Excuse me? I said you mean I cannot play music?’ He said, ‘No, you cannot do that here,’” Kaapana said.

Kaapana said he’s been doing this at airports around the world for decades, so he was surprised when he was told to stop.

“At the same time I was mad and I kinda felt, kinda shame, kinda embarrassed in front of all these people,” he said.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara said playing music is against the law.

In fact, the law states that at any public airport, a person “shall not use musical or other noise producing instruments.”

§19-26.1-5 Prohibited conduct. At any public airport, a person shall not:

(4) Chant or dance, use musical or other noise producing instruments, use megaphones or other sound amplifying apparatuses, or burn incense inside a terminal building;

“We certainly appreciate the talents of Mr. Kaapana. I mean, he’s a great musician, and certainly we meant him no offense,” he said.

Sakahara said the security guard was just doing his job.

“It was simply enforcing the rule that is technically part of the law and so that’s what the security officer was doing,” Sakahara said.

“Will you play music again at the airport?” WISH-TV’s sister station KHON asked.

“Yes, that wouldn’t stop me, because I just did it again in Maui,” Kaapana said.