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Hawaiian Son: The Life and Times of Eddie Kamae

One of Hawaii’s “living treasures” is the subject of this biography, Hawaiian Son: The Life and Music of Eddie Kamae.

It celebrates the personal journey of an extraordinary musician and pioneering filmmaker, Eddie Kamae. The book was written by award-winning author James D. Houston (1933–2009) in close collaboration with Kamae, and was designed by Barbara Pope of Honolulu-based ‘Ai Pohaku Press. The 260-page book includes more than 60 historical photographs, drawings and album covers that help to chart the high points of an influential career that has spanned more than half a century.

As a young man in the late 1940s, Kamae developed a jazz picking style that forever changed the status of the ukulele. He became its reigning virtuoso. For 20 years the legendary band he founded with Gabby Pahinui, The Sons of Hawaii, played a leading role in the Hawaiian cultural renaissance. By the mid 1970s Kamae himself had become a folk-hero, known for his instrumental genius and for a vigorous singing style that carries the spirit of an ancient vocal tradition into the 21st century.

During the 1980s, while continuing to perform, arrange, and lead the band, Kamae launched a second career as a filmmaker, once again proving to be a cultural pioneer. In documentaries such as Listen to the Forest and Words, Earth & Aloha he found a filmic voice that speaks from deep within his own island world.

Kamae’s personal journey is measured by the many teachers Kamae, now 85, has met along the way, from Mary Kawena Pukui and Pilahi Paki, to ‘Iolani Luahine, San Li‘a Kalainaina, and “Papa” Henry Auwae. Dancers and singers, storytellers, healers, and elders have guided him in his long quest to find the sources of a rich tradition and thus to find himself.


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