THE SENATE

S.C.R. NO.

140

THIRTIETH LEGISLATURE, 2020

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE CONCURRENT

RESOLUTION

 

 

Recognizing Mekia Kealakai's birthday of October 15 as Royal Hawaiian Troubadours Day.

 

 


WHEREAS, at the dawn of the twentieth century, Hawaiian string bands tirelessly travelled the circuit of world fairs, chautauquas, and vaudeville, playing the largest venues of their day; and

 

WHEREAS, they spread a new Hawaiian style of string driven ensemble music featuring a synthesis of string, brass, and reed instruments all played with a virtuosity that has defined and influenced much of what is now considered to be quintessentially "American" music; and

 

WHEREAS, the musical innovations of this generation include two of the most iconic stringed instruments of the modern era, the Martin Dreadnought acoustic guitar and the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar; and

 

WHEREAS, after several years of research drawn from public and private archives, historical societies, personal correspondence, recordings, oral histories, and collaboration with the C.F. Martin Guitar Company, groundbreaking research has surfaced on the life story of Mekia Kealakai, a Native Hawaiian born into poverty who was the son of a sergeant major in the Royal Guard; and

 

WHEREAS, like many at-risk youth today, Kealakai found himself in a reform school for juvenile delinquents at the age of twelve; and

 

WHEREAS, what could have led to a lifetime of trouble, instead became a life-changing opportunity through the mentorship of Royal Hawaiian Band leader Henri Berger, who introduced him to music; and

 

WHEREAS, as he studied legendary composers in the western classical tradition, Kealakai became an accomplished student of theory, harmony, and composition, fusing the Western classical repertoire with the cosmopolitan traditions of his hometown Honolulu and creating a new Hawaiian ensemble style along with his band mates; and

 

WHEREAS, faced with uncertain political times, Kealakai and musicians of his generation left the islands to share their unique Hawaiian string band music with audiences throughout the continental United States and around the world, in time becoming internationally renowned ambassadors of Hawaiian culture and music; and

 

WHEREAS, playing to audiences of ever-increasing size, without the aid of amplification, these young Hawaiian musicians found themselves at the leading edge of innovation in guitar design that came to define the sound of modern popular music; and

 

WHEREAS, Kealakai began collaborating with the C.F. Martin Guitar Company, the leading manufacturer of acoustic guitars at the time, and requested they make an extra-large jumbo guitar; and

 

WHEREAS, that Kealakai model would later become known as the Dreadnought guitar the guitar of choice for such icons as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Gabby Pahinui, the Beatles, and Bob Marley, to name but a few; and

 

WHEREAS, so far in 2020, the Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings has presented four sold out Sovereign String Band concerts featuring award winning Hawaiian musicians Aaron Mahi, Raiatea Helm, and Jeff Peterson, joined by premier artists from the worlds of classical and opera to bring this historic legacy to life before contemporary audiences; and

 

WHEREAS, the Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings has released a compact disc in collaboration with the Library of Congress of historic Hawaiian string band music from 1904, and is currently curating a major exhibition for the Bishop Museum, opening in Spring 2020; and

 

WHEREAS, recognition of the Royal Hawaiian Troubadour generation and their seminal contributions to the musical arts is long overdue; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Thirtieth Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2020, the House of Representatives concurring, that Mekia Kealakai's birthday of October 15 shall become recognized as Royal Hawaiian Troubadours Day; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to the President of the Puuhonua Society, Chief Executive Officer of Bishop Museum, and Hawaii State Comptroller.

 

 

 

 

OFFERED BY:

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Report Title:

Mekia Kealakai; Birthday; Royal Hawaiian Troubadours Day