Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, April 13, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Aaron Mahi, center, conducts the Royal Hawaiian Band during
one of the band's Friday concerts on the Iolani Palace Grounds,
as bandmembers Scott Furushima and Daniel Asao sing.

Royal Hawaiian Band plays on

By John Berger
Special the the Star-Bulletin


History will be made tomorrow night at the Hawai'i Theatre as the Royal Hawaiian Band is formally inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame. It will be the first time an organization has been honored for its contribution to the perpetuation of Hawaiian music. Kahauanu Lake, chairman of the advisory board that selects the inductees, says it is about time.

"They've been around for 163 years and I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to let younger people know how important the band has been," Lake said. Lake is a driving force in the administration of the Hall of Fame. Previous inductees have included chanters, composers, singers and musicians.

"Though a lot of the (19th century) music was European influenced, they turned it around and made it Hawaiian," Lake says.

Kamehameha III founded the Royal Hawaiian Band in 1836. It is one of the last active links to the monarchy. Bandmasters Heinrich "Henry" Berger and Mekia Kealaka'i, as well as band member David Nape, have already been inducted for their individual contributions to Hawaiian music.

Aaron Mahi, leader of the RHB since 1981, will accept the award as the band and an array of special guests celebrate 163 years of Hawaiian style band music in Hawaii. "The Royal Hawaiian Band probably stands at the beginning of the development of Hawaiian music in a Western format," Mahi said.

"Many songs that we really hold dear and true for Hawaiian people come out of the band tradition," he said.

The best-known bandmaster of the band's first 100 years was the German-born Berger, who was "loaned" to Hawaii by the imperial German government in 1872. He became a naturalized Hawaiian subject in 1879, composed more than 75 Hawaiian songs and 500 marches, co-wrote "Hawai'i Pono'i" with King Kalakaua, and led the band through more than 32,000 concerts across Hawaii and the mainland. Berger retired in 1915 after 43 years of service. Mahi's 18 years as bandmaster thus far makes his tenure the third longest (Wilhelm Mersberg served from 1848 to 1870).

Weekly concerts on the Iolani Palace grounds are among the 305-plus shows the band plays each year. "Boat Day" was recently added to the schedule.

"We have a place in the community, getting out there sharing a sense of our history and our heritage. We have all the array of Hawaiian music we perform ... so that the public can see the Royal Hawaiian Band as an instrument of expressing all the various forms of musical styles we have in Hawaii," said Mahi.

"When we perform it's in hopes that the youth of Hawaii can come to understand the music and the traditions of their people. So many people talk to me about how they grew up with the traditions of the band, and here we are, still trying to provide our community with the relationship with the past, and hopefully a way to the future."


Night of fame

Bullet What: Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame 4th Annual concert
Bullet When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Bullet Where: Hawai'i Theatre
Bullet Tickets: $25 and $40
Bullet Call: 528-0506

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