Kalama's Quartet, in one of the only known photos of the group.

Kalama’s Quartet, in one of the only known photos of the group.

By Greg Olwell

For this #tbt, we’re going back to a thoroughly astounding short film of one of the finest groups of the 1920s. Featuring two steel guitars, two rhythm guitarists, and ukulele player, Kalama’s Quartet is still a favorite for today’s fans of vintage hot Hawaiian music.

The song is “My Hapa-Haole Hula Girl,” written by Sonny Cunha, a Hawaiian composer and musician who popularized the “hapa-haole” (“half-white”) songs of the 1920s that catered to the mainland’s fascination with the exotic Hawaiian Islands.


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First up on vocals, is the group’s namesake and ukulele player, William Kalama. Here, he seems to be playing a taro patch (or taropatch), an 8-string version of the ukulele that has doubled strings, a move that was made to help make the little ukulele louder. His verse is followed by rubber-kneed guitarist Bob Nawahine. Rounding out the quartet, which was really a quintet for most of its years, is guitarist Dave Kaleipua Munson, and steel guitarists are Mike Hanapi and Bob Matsu.

Dating from a session in New York in 1927, with some questionably authentic hula dancers springing up at the end, this early talkie no doubt set audiences in those grand theaters wild.

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