H.C.R. NO.














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 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 youths 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 icons including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Gabby Pahinui, the Beatles, and Bob Marley; and


WHEREAS, 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 curated 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 House of Representatives of the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2021, the Senate concurring, that this body recognizes Mekia Kealakai's birthday of October 15 as Royal Hawaiian Troubadours Day; and


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









Report Title:

Mekia Kealakai; Royal Hawaiian Troubadours Day