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John Almeida – Hula Music and History – Jan Baza

image retrieved from www.cordinternational.com on 8-15-11

John Almeida - Hula Music and History

From Paradise Garden's Hui'Ohana newsletter - Jan and Dave Baza

HULA ‘AUANA:  NOHO PAIPAI (Rocking Chair Hula)

Written by John Almeida.


Lyrics Mana’o
Verse 1  
I crouched down to keep Pupue iho au i mehana
The thought of my sweetie pressed to my bosom Hone ana o use i ku’u poli
Verse 2  
She seemed to be saying to me Me he ala noe ‘i mai ana
Where is my wreath of red roses? ‘Auhea ku’u lei rose lani?
Verse 3  
You are a stranger, I am a stranger too Malihini ‘oe, malihini au
But when we kiss each other, we are friends Ma ka ihu kaua kama’aina
Verse 4  
If you were here with me Ina ‘o you me a’u
We would rock together on a rocking chair Kau pono i ka noho paipai
Verse 5  
This is the end of my song Ha’ina ‘ia mai ka puana
A dream of my sweetie pressed to my bosom Hone ana o uese i ku’u poli

A little Hawaiian music history

John Kameaaloha Almeida – Musician

(November 28, 1897 – October 9, 1985), was born John Celestino Almeida Jr. in the Pauoa Valley on the island of O’ahu in Hawai‘i, to Portuguese contract laborer John Celestino Almeida Sr. and his wife, Honolulu lei seller, Julia Kamaka Almeida.  His 1930s radio program on Hawaii's KGU earned the visually impaired artist the sobriquet "The Dean of Hawaiian Music", who by the time of his death had composed hundreds of songs that have today become Hawaiian music standards.

 On December 25, 1900, Johnny's sister Annie was born.  John Sr. soon deserted the family and returned to Portugal.  Annie and the children moved to Wai’anae, where they eventually moved in with Paulo Kameaaloha who became hanai father to both children.  Hanai is the Hawaiian tradition of fostering, or unofficial adoption, where one family gives a child to another family to raise.  John carried his hanai Kameaaloha name the rest of his life, becoming John Kameaaloha Almeida.  Paulo and Julia would add sister Martha to the family in 1904.  Conversations in the Kameaaloha home were held exclusively in Hawaiian, giving young Johnny the advantage of being bi-lingual at an early age.

As Johnny’s vision worsened, his musical ability grew with his accomplishments on his beloved ‘ukulele, which he discovered at the age of four.  By then, he was already active in church choir.  Paulo taught Johnny ancient chants and traditional songs.  Totally blind by the age of 10, his mother's doctor diagnosed the "probable" cause as maile sap on her hands at the time of John's birth.   Advances over the past century in knowledge of childhood vision loss indicate a more likely cause to be congenital blindness.

 The Òwai’anae Star Glee was started by John at age 15, and evolved into "Johnny Almeida's Hawaiians," performed at community functions as word spread of Almeida's talents.  Johnny performed at Queen Lili’uokalani’s funeral in 1917, in the Royal Throne Room of Iolani Palace as Hawaii’s last monarch lay in state, and then again during the services at Kawaiaha’o Church.  He performed for Prince Jonah Kalaniana’ole, Princess Abigail Kawananakoa and Princess Elizabeth as his audience began to grow.

 On September 3, 1919, John Almeida married his first wife Elizabeth.  Hawaiian musician, Wenonah became Almeida's second and fourth wife.  Doris Booker from California was the third wife, and Janet became the fifth.

John now spread his performances to neighboring islands.  By the age of 25, Johnny had mastered more musical instruments, including the steel guitar, violin, banjo, bass, saxophone, and piano.  He was chief musician on Matson Lines ships 1922-1927 sailing between Hawai`i and the West Coast, and was a regular performer on Hawaii Calls radio show.

John and his wife Elizabeth took sister Annie's son, Charleston Puaonaona, into their home as their hanai son, and Pua Almeida became John's first musical protege.  Under John's tutelage, Pua became a legendary Hawaiian performer in his own right.  Aunty Genoa Keawe dates her first professional association with Johnny Almeida to 1946 when he issued an on-air invitation at radio station KULA for anyone who could sing, to come to the studio and go on air.  From that meeting, John began to mentor her and encourage her to sing Hawaiian songs.  Her first recorded song for 49th State Records was John's composition of Maile Swing, which became an immediate hit for her.  Almeida was also instrumental in launching the careers of falsetto virtuosos Joe Keawe, Bill Ali'iloa Lincoln, known as "Hawaii's Falsetto Poet", and Hawaii's steel guitar legends Billy Hew Len and David Keli`i.  On December 13, 1971, these proteges and other performers honored John with a testimonial at the Coral Ballroom of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel.  On October 9, 1985, John died of arteriosclerosis, and is buried at Hawaiian Memorial Park.  In 1998, Almeida became an honoree in the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame.

The above is an excerpt from Paradise Garden’s Hui’Ohana Newsletter. We have posted this with permission from Jan and Dave Baza, Hula Instructors in Northern California. To sign up for their monthly newsletter, contact Jan at huladancers@c-zone.net.

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