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Versatile musician also sang falsetto


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Well-known Hawaiian musician Jacob Piiakanoa Kaleikini Sr., 94, died Feb. 5 in Honolulu. According to Don Kona Woods, a member of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association, Kaleikini was a "legend" at accompanying on ukulele and bass, as well as singing in falsetto and a smooth baritone.

"Jake" Kaleikini was the scion of a musical family, first playing professionally in the early 1930s at the Lalani Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. The Honolulu Advertiser's Bob Krauss noted that Kaleikini was a one-man show, climbing coconut trees, pounding poi, overseeing the pig in the imu and serving luau food in addition to playing in the band. He branched out in the 1940s as co-owner of Hawaiian Tree Trimming Co., later selling the company so he could play bass on Matson's Lurline ocean liner for four years.

On dry land Kaleikini played guitar or bass with performers including Auntie Genoa Keawe, Auntie Pauline Kekahuna, Sol Bright, Pua Almeida and Harris Kaleikini, and touring Japan with Lena Machado in 1962. Woods believes Kaleikini also played with the Johnny Almeida Hawaiians.

In the '70s, Kaleikini and sister Frances Camacho Rodenhurst became regulars with the Waikiki Elks Serenaders. On his 90th birthday in 2005, Kaleikini was awarded a "Letter of Appreciation" from Elks Lodge 616 for a quarter-century of service, raising funds for children with special needs. He also played bass for the Moiliili Community Center Ukulele Class for Seniors and at several care homes.

A member of the Musicians Association of Hawaii, Local 677, Kaleikini's instruments included autoharp, steel guitar, bass guitar, upright bass, ukulele and guitar, and he was sometimes compared to electric guitar legend Les Paul.

Kaleikini's wife, Ana "Mary" Oku-Kaleikini, died in October. He is survived by sons Jacob P. Kaleikini Jr. and James Young; daughters Emma Ernestburg, Kuuipo Hurst, Violet Hawkins and Hope Kaleikini; stepchildren Richard Oku and Rita Oku; sister Leialoha Kaleikini Keliinui; and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

Visitation is 9 a.m. Friday at Mililani Mortuary-Waipio, mauka chapel, with a musical tribute at 10:45 a.m. A Mormon service is at 11 a.m., with burial at 12:30 p.m. at Mililani Memorial Park.