Friday, October 5, 2001


Irmgard Aluli was known as a grand storyteller who
could draw much laughter at her birthday bashes.

Famed isle
composer leaves
enduring legacy

The great lady of island
music wrote about
400 songs

By Rosemarie Bernardo and Leila Fujimori

Irmgard Farden Aluli, the prolific composer of popular Hawaii tunes and the first living inductee into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, died yesterday in Kaiser Medical Center.

She was three days shy of her 90th birthday.

Aluli "hugged us with her smile and great music," radio personality Kimo Kahoano said.

Kahauanu Lake of the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame called "Aunty Irmgard" a one of a kind who cannot be replaced.

"She was certainly gifted by God," said Lake, chairman of the hall's advisory selection committee.

During her last days, family members gathered at the hospital and sang music for her.

"My grandmother played a huge role in molding our family through music," said Kapono Souza, Aluli's grandson. "The music is the medicine. It is the glue that binds us together and keeps us strong."


Irmgard Aluli wrote more than 400 songs, including:

>> First composition: "Down on Maunakea Street," in 1935.

>> First hit song: "Puamana," composed in 1937.

>> Considered Aluli's best song: "E Maliu Mai"

>> Others: "Laupahoehoe Hula" ("Boy from Laupahoehoe"), for which Aluli composed the music and Kawena Pukui wrote the lyrics. "Baby Kalai" was written in 1943 for the baby luau of the first Aluli grandchild born into her husband's family. Both songs are still being performed and recorded.

Source: Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Aluli, who wrote about 400 island songs, was inducted into the hall of fame in 1998, the same year she was honored with the Hoku's Lifetime Achievement Award.

"It was a unanimous decision by the whole committee," Lake said.

One of 13 children, Aluli was born in Lahaina on Oct. 7, 1911.

Her father, Charles Kekua Farden, worked on a plantation but also reared a musically talented family. Aluli's parents, brothers, sisters and other relatives all were gifted musicians, playing the piano, saxophone and violin, among other instruments.

As an adult she would form her own singing group, Puamana, which included daughters Mihana and Aima and a niece, Luana.

Aluli began composing in 1935 while she worked as a field agent for the University of Hawaii Agricultural Extension Service on Molokai.

Her first song, "Down on Maunakea Street," depicted a woman selling lei in Honolulu.

"Puamana" was her first hit song and tells a story of her life in her happy home of Puamana, Maui. She composed the tune in five minutes in 1938, according to a 1967 Star-Bulletin article.

"The tune just came one morning while I was at home sitting at the piano," Aluli said then. Her father and five sisters helped put Hawaiian lyrics to the song.

ALULI WAS MUCH LOVED, having big birthday bashes thrown in her honor going back to at least the 1960s.

A former schoolteacher, she was known as a grand storyteller who drew much laughter at those celebrations.

Many of those birthday parties were held at the Willows restaurant, where Aluli and Puamana regularly performed.

She also used her talents for causes she believed in, such as halting the bombing of Kahoolawe in 1978. Back then, she and her daughter sang the song "Aloha Kaho'olawe" before the Navy.

"She was one of the great ladies of Hawaiian music," Kahoano said. "She was a great inspiration ... always supportive of everyone."

At Aluli's performances Kahoano would at times dance hula when she would sing "Boy from Laupahoehoe."

Artist Eddie Kamae said, "It's a great loss to Hawaii and Hawaiian music."

In 1925, Aluli attended boarding school at St. Andrew's Priory.

She graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1933. At the UH and Molokai and Washington intermediate schools, she taught home economics.

Later, she became a member of the Annie Kerr Trio, of which her sister, Diane, also was a member. Performing at parties and dances, the trio became one of the top female singing groups in the isles.

She was married to the late Nane Aluli. They had six children.

Later in life, Aluli became involved in real estate sales while remaining active in church and community activities.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete last night.

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