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Hawaiian Son: The Life and Music of Eddie Kamae
260pp. January 2004
Hawaiian Son: The Life and Music of Eddie Kamae
Author: Houston, James D.; Kamae, Eddie;
Winner of Ka Palapala Po‘okela Awards for Excellence in General Hawaiian Culture, Non-Fiction Books, and Writing Non-Fiction

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.

color & b/w illus.

Distributed for the Hawaiian Legacy Foundation
“A great read . . . the kind of story that speaks to all peoples everywhere. And the writing is superbly crafted.” —Herb Kawainui Kane

“Hawai'i has more music per square mile than any place on earth. The music of this place springs from the life of the land. Here is Eddie Kamae's own story: where his music comes from, where it has led him—all the places he has explored, from the mountain to the sea, all the voices who have joined with his. It is the love song of a true Son of Hawai‘i.” —Gavan Daws

“Brother Eddie and The Sons were pioneers in the revival of Hawaiian music. When they started coming out with their sound, which had that sincere folk quality to it, it made everyone stand up and take notice.” —Ka‘upena Wong

“Eddie Kamae is a living treasure of Hawai‘i, one of the rare links with the traditions of Hawaiian music that have come down to us through the generations. . . . To have an eloquent and meticulously presented account of his life and outlook, his views on music and the life of which it sings, is something to be grateful for.” —W. S. Merwin

“Houston’s latest book, Hawaiian Son, The Life and Music of Eddie Kamae, is imbued with an island essence that speaks, not of little brown gals or little grass skirts, but of mist-shrouded Hi‘ilawe Falls, checkered palaka plantation shirts worn as a badge of rootedness in the aina, or land, and the palupalu sound of Hawaiian spoken like waves lapping on shore.” —San Francisco Gate Chronicle

“An amazing new book . . . compelling and elegantly written.” —Honolulu Advertiser
Author: Houston, James D.; Kamae, Eddie;
The author of many award-winning works of fiction and nonfiction, James D. Houston (1933–2009) has been recognized in Hawai‘i and nationwide for his broad understanding of the history and cultures of the western United States and the Asia/Pacific region. With his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, he co-authored the classic Farewell to Manzanar. Based upon the experience of her family during and after the World War II internment, this book is now a standard work in schools and colleges across the country.

Houston served as writer for seven of Eddie and Myrna Kamae’s cultural documentaries in The Hawaiian Legacy Series and is a former Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. For some years, while getting started as a writer, Houston made his living as a musician, playing string bass and acoustic guitar. A frequent visitor to Hawai‘i, he lived in Santa Cruz, California.

For more information, please visit his website at www.jamesdhouston.com.