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1996 Hall of Fame Honoree

Haunani Kahalewai


"Hawaii's First Lady of Song" was the billing given to Haunani for her pure contralto voice along with her rich mezzo soprano range. Hers was the most widely-recognized and revered female singing voice in Hawai`i, during her memorable professional career.

Haunani was born in Hilo on a February day when an unusual tropic snowfall blanketed Mauna Kea. The sunset glowed pink and gold on the snow. In the Hawaiian tradition, a child born during a rare event was blessed with a meaningful and significant name, and her mother Punohu named her "Kahaunaniomaunakeakauiokalewa" (the beautiful snow on the slopes of Mauna Kea). Her father, Sam, called her simply "Haunani."

She won her first singing prize, a silver dollar, in a radio contest at age 3, sang in her high school chorus, and began her professional career in a small club outside Honolulu. A producer filming in Hawai`i recorded on a movie soundtrack her incomparable voice rising from a deep contralto to an obligato high above the chorus in a Polynesian lament. Webley Edwards, producer of the "Hawai`i Calls" radio show, heard the soundtrack and exclaimed "find that voice!" Impresario Al Kealoha Perry brought Haunani back from a small resort on Kaua`i, and the rest is history. She became a regular featured star on the "Hawai`i Calls" show.

Don the Beachcomber engaged Haunani for his Sunday luau shows. At Alfred Apaka's request, she was the featured female vocalist with him in Waikiki. Haunani appeared in major television shows both in Hawai`i and New York, and recorded albums for Capitol Records, Decca and several other companies. She took Hawaiian music around the world with a full show of dancers, musicians and singers. In Canada, she broke all existing box office records at the Royal York in Toronto.

A respected composer, musician, arranger, producer/director, Haunani as a vocalist could be vibrant and romantic, bold and spirited or dreamy and tender. The word that best describes this remarkable entertainer to friends who knew her is the Hawaiian word mana -- miraculous power, deep in the soul and spirit.

Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 4717, Honolulu, HI 96812-4717
Phone: (808) 372-8921
Fax: (808) 596-8680
Email: HMHoF