Kapa Cafe

Uncle Eddie Kamae

January 20, 2015, 8:49 AM HST
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Uncle Eddie Kamae

Jaz: Home of Hawai’i’s music, we are KAPA FM at 100.3 – 99.1 and online at kaparadio.com. That is music from Eddie Kamae and of course The Son’s of Hawai’i. Very—classic song, “E Ku’u Morning Dew” you probably heard it in the background of a commercial that we’re airing for of course Mountain Apple Company’s release of “Li‘a – The Legacy of a Hawaiian man,” which is of course the story of Sam Li‘a, composer—of—“Hi‘ilawe,” oh actually we’re gonna find out more about that this morning cause we have a legend on the phone we’re so pleasured to have him—on the phone with us this morning, Mr. Eddie Kamae of The Son’s of Hawai‘i.

Good morning Uncle!

Eddie Kamae: Good morning Jason, how you?

Jaz: Good, good! How’s everything?


Eddie Kamae: I’m fine.


Jaz: You know, it’s good to see you guys are still so busy, yea?

Eddie Kamae: Well, that’s the way it is, you know.

Jaz: That’s it. Well, let’s talk music for a bit. How’s everything with you and The Son’s of Hawai‘i?


Eddie Kamae: Everybody’s fine. Everybody having a wonderful time.

Jaz: Alright. Still jammin?

Eddie Kamae: Yea, they still jammin. I just—and play with the boys and have fun.

Jaz: Nice. So, we of course had know that you’ve been doing a lot of movies lately. Tell us how did you get into the whole movie thing?

Eddie Kamae: Well, it’s because—my teacher had passed on, Sam Li‘a Kalainaina. When he passed on I wanted to tell his story because—he was a kind and gentle man. A man who loves people, loves God. You know, and that’s what he is. So if people, they celebrate their birthday or weddings, whatever, he go and sing for them—and he write songs for them.

Jaz: How did you meet Sam?

Eddie Kamae: Well, I met Sam Lia through my teacher and mentor, Kawena Puku‘i, who wrote the Hawaiian Dictionary. She guided me to Sam Lia. She told me where he lived, and she told me—she didn’t tell me she was gonna write a letter, but I was surprised when I reached, I went to see him, and see him all dressed and ready waiting for me. So he just told me “Noho.” So I sat down next to him and we discussed things about any subject I wanted.

I was very fortunate.

Ka‘ea: Uncle, was Uncle Sam Li‘a from Waipi‘o?

Eddie Kamae: Yes. Born in Waipi‘o Valley, like my father is born in Waipi‘o Valley. Then he moved up to Kukuihaele, you know, and that’s where he stayed, and I like it there.

Jaz: Were you already playing already and did he just help you develop, or did Sam pretty much start you from scratch?

Eddie Kamae: Well no, I was playing music but I wasn’t playing songs that he did, he wrote. See, I was playing music with the boys, The Son’s of Hawai’i. The music I found in music manuscript, but was Queen Lili‘uokalani’s music, that I started with Gabby and The Son’s of Hawai‘i, but then, my teacher Kawena told me, “You go and see Lia.” and I said, “Well, I need to find where he’s at.” She said, she directed me to see him. The area, and she told me what to do. The thing is, she wrote him a letter to let him know that I was coming. That’s Kawena Puku’i. She wouldn’t tell me. All she said is “Out there, everything is out there,” for me to find out what it is.

Ka‘ea: Now Uncle, Kawena Puku‘i has played a really important role in where we are as a lahui, as a nation, especially a lot of the things that she’s documented and transcribed from the Bishop Museum and many of her books.

Eddie Kamae: Well, Kawena, my main concern is the children of Hawai‘i. She told me, “Eddie, I do all this work for the children of the next generation. So you do, you do it.” She told me to go out there and do it. Go out and see the country folks and talk to them. She always said, “It’s out there Eddie,” and I couldn’t figure out what she meant “out there.” Only when I went out in the country side and see the people, then I knew what she told me about.

Jaz: Wow. How was the experience with Sam? Like how would you, you know. Would you guys just sit out on the porch? How did you guys do things back then?

Eddie Kamae: We just talked, talk music. I said I wanna do this I wanna do that, you know. He said, “Then let’s do it,” you know, but he played the organ for the church and he do things for people. That’s where he was. He said, “If it’s your birthday, I write you a song.” People get married, he write them a song. He was very generous in that area. Everybody loved him.

Ka‘ea: Uncle, I have one last question for you on my side. Do you, can you confirm that Sam Li‘a was the composer for Hi‘ilawe?

Eddie Kamae: Sam Li‘a’s father originally wrote Hi‘ilawe, and Sam Li‘a told me who Hi‘ilawe was.

Ka‘ea: Right.

Eddie Kamae: Everybody think it’s the waterfall, right?

Ka‘ea: Right.

Jaz: Try wait, I’m rubbing my chicken skin right now, hang on. Wow, this is amazing. Okay, sorry uncle.

Eddie Kamae: Well, he told me when he took me on the tour, my wife and I on a tour of Waipi‘o Valley, and he told me, and we stopped in one area, and he said here, this area, is where a beautiful woman was, and she would just stay there, and all the man folks would go there, in the valley, in that area, very close to the waterfall, and that right down below, you know. They all go there looking for her, and she wasn’t interested in any one. She only was interested in one man. He said when the man went there to see her, and that’s who she was waiting for, Sam Lia told me. He looked at her, she was a young and beautiful woman and he was an elderly man, and he turn around and walk away. She said I’m not her. And when he walked away, she was broken hearted and she passed away. That’s why when you go down the roadway at Waipi‘o, you see a huge rock on the side, that’s her.

Jaz: Wow. That is amazing. Wow Uncle, thanks for sharing that.

Ka‘ea: And you documented all of this, yes?

Eddie Kamae: That was personal thing he shared with me.

Jaz: And the DVD that you guys are releasing which is of course called “Li‘a,” What is the—is there a lot of—was it–newer footage—or were you able to find a lot of old footage and add it to the movie?

Eddie Kamae: Well, see what happened is when he passed away, he—me. And I told my son, you know, here, to help me if it’s possible. He said yes. I said I wanna do a story about my teacher, my mentor. So he said, go. So I went down to the valley and good thing there were people down there, and they were filming, and so I was perfect to just walk in there and tell them, can we do this can we do that, I’ll pay you, and they said yes. And they went back again with me. So we did it twice down in the valley, and so I got all the footage I needed in the valley in those days. Then I met the people up above and they all contribute to the liking and story of a good man, Sam Li‘a.

Ka‘ea: Uncle, you’ve really. I’m just, I’m over here in tears, cause lot of this stuff we just read in books, you know, you go college, stories you do, documentation, you transcribe, and what you’re saying is that you were there. You were living it, you continue to do what your kumu told you to do, and create these things so that our children have a legacy.

Eddie Kamae: Yes, see, and that’s what I do, in all my work I do in films, is for the children. Like Kawena would say to me, “Do it Eddie. Do it for the children. It would—Eddie.”

Jaz: Uncle, and we appreciate all that you’re doing too. Amazing. Just from hearing the story about Hi‘ilawe, going I’m sure change a lot of people’s way of playing it now, after exactly—no really, you know, just from knowing actually what it’s really about, it’s probably change a lot of the way people play it, that’s just amazing.

Uncle, so the DVD, it’s out already, yes?

Eddie Kamae: Yes, it’s out in the stores.

Jaz: Alright, and of course the title is Li‘a and—

Eddie Kamae: The legacy of Hawaiian man. Li‘a. The legacy of Hawaiian man.

Jaz: Uncle, we’re gonna spread the word, this of course is with Mountain Apple, ah company, and we’re gonna spread the word and get everybody to get this, cause just from hearing this story, the rest of the DVD just must be amazing and I can’t wait to see it.

Eddie Kamae: If they see the film, they will enjoy it.

Ka‘ea: Aw, thank you Uncle.

Jaz: Uncle, and tell Aunty Merna thank you too, and you guys best of luck on your future endeavors with some more films, hopefully we see some more out of you.

Eddie Kamae: Yes. Well, you folks have a good day now.

Jaz: You too Uncle Eddie!

Ka‘ea: Okay Uncle!

Jaz: Take care!

Eddie Kamae: Love you folks

Ka‘ea: Love you! Take care.

Jaz: Aloha! Love you too. Aloha.

Eddie Kamae: Aloha

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