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Alfred Apaka

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  • Years Active: 1940s, 1950s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Alfred Aloha Apaka (1919 -- 1960) was one of the influential performers in the history of Hawaii's popular music. Although he recorded for less than a decade, Apaka set the standards for modern Hawaiian music with his joyful, baritone vocals and highly entertaining performances. In his book, Hawaiian Music and Musicians, George Kanahele wrote that Apaka was "the possessor of one of the most remarkable voices to come out of Hawaii. A natural, untrained, voice, it was strong, masculine and agile.....a delicate instrument that could range from B flat to E in pianissimo." Apaka inherited his musical skills from his great aunt, Lydia Ahola, the daughter of Queen Lilioukalani. In an interview with The Honolulu Sun Bulletin, Apaka's son, Jeff, who also became an entertainer, said, "I like to think that Dad's musical training came in a direct line from the queen." During the '40s, Apaka performed with several orchestras including Don McDiamond's Royal Hawaiian Hotel house band and Ray Kenney's band in New York. Overheard by Bob Hope while singing at a luau in Honolulu, Apaka became a regular guest on Hope's radio and television shows. Although many predicted that he would become a successful mainstream vocalist, Apaka took a different route when he convinced multimillionaire Henry Kaiser to build a hotel, The Hawaiian Village, that included a showroom where he starred in his own extravagant revue. Apaka's energetic performances soon made the hotel an essential tourist attraction, and his popularity continued to grow. Plans for a nationally broadcast television special were finalized in February 1960. A few days later, however, Apaka suffered a fatal heart attack while playing handball. Following a highly publicized funeral, Apaka was buried with a microphone placed in his hands before his casket was closed. An album of "lost recordings" (recorded between 1945 and 1949), Lost Recordings of Hawaii's Golden Voice, released in 1999, received the prestigious Na Hoku Hanohano award.