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Eddie Kamae

Eddie Kamae Eddie Kamae Eddie Kamae was born in 1927 and spent his entire life in the Hawaiian Islands. Through the years he distinguished himself as a singer, musician, composer, a documentary director, and author. He has been a key figure in the Hawaiian cultural renaissance, which found one its earliest and strongest voices in the Sons of Hawai‘i. This charismatic band, was formed in 1959 by Kamae - already famous for his ‘ukulele virtuoso -and the legendary singer and slack-key guitar master, Gabby Pahinui. The band became known for its authenticity of feeling and music. Many of their songs were the result of Kamae’s research into the archives of long-neglected Hawaiian melodies and lyrics.

Eddie’s story began when he taught himself to play the ‘ukulele after his brother found an instrument on a city bus and brought it home to him. From that moment on, Kamae was captivated by the sound it produced. In the late 1940s, he teamed up with Shoi Ikemi as the ‘ukulele Rascals at the famous Lau Yee Chai restaurant in Waikiki. They then joined the Ray Kinney Band for a tour of the US mainland. Shoi never returned to Hawai‘i, but Eddie couldn’t wait to get home and later rejoined the Ray Kinney Band at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in the 1950s as the ‘ukulele soloist. He also played with respected entertainer and singer Haunani Kahalewai where she asked him to learn his first Hawaiian song, Queen Lili‘uokalani’s beautiful composition Ku‘u Pua o Paoakalani.

Eddie knew and loved Hawaiian music, but in his early years, found no challenge in its simple progressions, so he turned to classical, Latin, popular, and jazz tunes which required a mastery of theory and technique that few, if any, had ever attained on the ‘ukulele. Kamae learned to play the most difficult classical arrangements and developed a technique of plucking all four strings simultaneously, resulting in a sound that included both melody and chords together at the same time. He almost single-handedly revolutionized the traditional method of playing the ‘ukulele and transformed it from a rhythmic instrument with limited capabilities into a major instrument with unlimited potential.

It was not until the late 1950s that Kamae incorporated Hawaiian songs into his performing repertoire. This was the turning point in his musical career, as he gradually abandoned non-Hawaiian music and devoted himself almost exclusively to traditional Hawaiian music. It was not an instant conversion, but an evolution caused by the haunting memory of the only thing his father asked him to do - - to sing and play Hawaiian music.

Helped along by his close Hawaiian friends, Eddie’s growing awareness and aloha for the culture that surrounded him deepened with each step of his musical research. Among those that influenced him the most was Gabby Pahinui, who Kamae had helped to recover from an almost fatal illness. The two began playing together – one providing technical expertise and the other a feeling for tradition - and so began the first Sons of Hawai‘i group with its revolutionary sound.

During the 1970s through Hawai‘i Sons Productions, Eddie and his wife, Myrna, produced seven albums of traditional Hawaiian music in a series called Eddie Kamae Presents The Sons of Hawai‘i, a Christmas Album in 1978 and between 2000 and 2008, they produced four Hoku award-winning CDs. Marking his impressive 50 year milestone in music, Eddie released his newest CD titled Eddie Kamae & The Sons of Hawai‘i: Yesterday and Today Volume 2 in September of 2009. It includes many songs that were never heard before the release, even though some of the songs were more than 100 years old.

In the 1970s, Eddie’s group, the Sons of Hawai‘i, included the steel guitar genius of David “Feet” Rogers, Joe Marshall’s solid bass and vocals, Moe Keale on ‘ukulele and vocals and Dennis Kamakahi (one of Hawai‘i’s most prolific songwriters) on guitar replacing Gabby Pahinui.

Today, Sons of Hawai‘i keep the magic and excitement going with the rhythm and solos of Mike Kaawa’s 12 string guitar, the driving bass of Analu Aina, Ocean Kaowili on guitar, and with Paul Kim on steel guitar, capturing the original sound of The Sons of Hawai‘i once again.

Best known compositions include the hauntingly beautiful song Morning Dew (E Ku‘u Morning Dew) written with Larry Kimura; Kela Mea Whiffa written with Pilahi Paki and Ke Ala A Ka Jeep written with Mary Kawena Pukui. Eddie has written fourteen songs with his wife Myrna, including the 2009 Hoku nominated song Maka Ua (Little Raindrops).

While music has always been the driving force behind Kamae’s work, during the 1980s, while still leading The Sons of Hawai‘i, he found his second calling as a filmmaker. His years of searching for original musical sources put him in touch with the generation of older Hawaiians who he understood represent the last living links with the pre-modern life of 19th century Hawai‘i. Moved to record their voices, their faces, their ways of speaking and thinking, Kamae undertook a series of documentary films dealing with Hawaiian musical and cultural tradition.

Eddie's Awards


1978 Resolution for outstanding achievements in Hawai‘ian musical performance, research and recording from the House of Representatives, State of Hawai‘i
1978 KHON TV Special Christmas Time with Eddie Kamae & The Sons of Hawai‘i Co-Producer - - Winner of Iris Award and New York International Film Festival Award
1979 Living Treasure of Hawai‘i Award Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i
1984 March of Dimes No Ka Oi Award For outstanding showmanship
1989 Na Makua Mahalo Ia Award A lifetime of dedicated service to the people of Hawai‘i through musical Composition and performance scholarship Brigham Young University/Hawai‘i & The Polynesian Cultural Center
1993 Joint Congressional Resolution to Eddie & Myrna Kamae for service and accomplishments in leadership, music and film Hawai‘i Delegation of the U.S. Congress
1996 Artists' Lifetime Achievement Award, Bishop Museum's Charles Reed Bishop Medal
2000 Lifetime of Achievement Award From the Commission on Culture and The Arts for City and County of Honolulu
2001 Induction into the ‘Ukulele Hall of Fame
2002 Film in Hawai‘i Award To Eddie and Myrna Kamae From the Hawai‘i International Film Festival For the ongoing contribution of their “Hawai‘ian Legacy Series”
2005 Resolution for Achievements in Hawai‘ian Music and Film Award House of Representatives, State of Hawai‘i
2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from The Hawai‘ian Cultural Foundation at Pacifika New York Hawai‘ian Film Festival
2006 Proclamation from New York City Council for Contributions to the Perpetuation of Hawai‘ian Culture through music and film Introduced by New York Councilman, John Liu
2007 Recipient of the prestigious Keep it Hawai‘i Kahili Award from Hawai‘i Tourism Authority in recognition of perpetuation of Hawai‘ian culture
2007 National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts The highest federal government award a folk musician can receive
2007 Inducted into the Hawai‘ian Music Hall of Fame

1978 Iris Award and New York Film Festival winner for KHON TV Special Christmas Time with Eddie Kamae & The Sons of Hawai‘i
1982 Anthology of the Year - Best of Sons of Sons of Hawai‘i From the Hawai‘ian Academy of Recording Artists
1992 Lifetime Achievement Award From the Hawai‘ian Academy of Recording Artists
2005 Album of the Year and Anthology of the Year – Eddie Kamae Sons of Hawai‘i From the Hawai‘ian Academy of Recording Artists
2007 Anthology of the Year Award - Eddie Kamae & Friends From the Hawai‘ian Academy of Recording Artists
2007 Moe Keale “Aloha is” Award for Community Service from the Hawai‘ian Academy of Recording Artists
2009 Lifetime Achievement Award – Eddie Kamae and The Sons of Hawai‘i From the Hawai‘ian Academy of Recording Artists
2009 Nominated for Hawai‘ian Album of the Year Eddie Kamae and The Sons of Hawai‘i: Yesterday & Today (Vol 1) Nominated for Group of the Year From the Hawai‘ian Academy of Recording Artists
2009 Nominated Song of the Year, “Maka Ua” by Eddie & Myrna Kamae From the Hawai‘ian Academy of Recording Artists

2005 Ka Pala Pala Po‘okela Award
Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association
• Excellence in General Hawai‘ian Culture – Winner
• Excellence in Non-Fiction Books – Winner
• Excellence in Writing Non-Fiction – Winner