COURTESY ANTHONY CALLEJA
Mihana Souza and 99-year-old Bill Tapia wowed the crowds at Mihana's birthday concerts last weekend at the rRed Elephant. Owners Paul Kreiling and Joey Wolpert recorded the sellout shows for Mihana's CD and DVD.
Mihana Souza, Bill Tapia wow crowds
Mihana Aluli Souza
and 99-year-old ukulele player and singer Bill Tapia
captivated applauding fans at her three birthday concerts at the rRed Elephant last weekend. Mihana opened her family's treasure chest of musical talent and stories. She called
Tapia her birthday present. Their songs and stories painted a golden picture of Hawaiian history.
Never has a history lesson been so enjoyable. The music was fabulous, with Mihana's vocal versatility shining brightly. She let it all hang out, singing Hawaiian, hapa-haole, country, pops, rock and jazz numbers, sometimes singing soft, gentle and loving -- and at other times bold and brassy like a red-hot mama.
Mihana or her mom, the legendary Irmgard Farden Aluli, who died six years ago at age 89, wrote most of the songs. (Tapia said he had done musical work with Irmgard in the 1930s.) Mihana had an all-star band, plus professional singers and dancers who helped make the concert special. Mihana's daughter, Mahina Souza, displayed her talent, singing her own compositions.
The big production number was Mihana singing her "Hula Rock Mama" with three "Hula Rockettes" -- Kahe DeCastro, Celeste Paiaina and Kalei Kalama -- dancing in cellophane hula skirts and the band going at it hard with David Choy on sax and Tapia taking groovy solos. The other band members -- bassist Ernie Provenchure, steel guitarist Jeff Au Hoy, drummer Adam Baron and guitarist Jeff Peterson -- had their place in the sun taking solos during the show, especially Choy and Peterson. After Tapia played a solo, he directed band members when to come in. At 99, the man's musicianship, singing and memory are astonishing ...
Soloists stand out
Hula soloists were Kekahu Aluli
, 12, who danced a strong, manly version of Irmgard's "Boy From Laupahoehoe," and Chandra K. Miars
-- Aima McManus, Iwalani Kahalewai, Luana McKenney
and Mihana -- sang Hawaiian favorites. Singer Kristian Lei
with pianist Pierre Grill
performed. Mihana's stories about her musical family and Tapia's tales about how he started playing ukulele and buying one for 75 cents from uke-maker Manuel Nunes
at age 7, were priceless. A uke today that was made by Nunes is a treasure. Mihana and Tapia are treasures, too ...
, who sold the Star-Bulletin in the streets of downtown Honolulu during World War II, writes of people, places and things in our Hawaii. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org