Aunty Genoa Keawe, 89, passed away early this morning at home. She was a local legend and an unstoppable force in Hawaiian music and culture. Word of her passing is just beginning to spread through the Hawaiian music community. The news was posted to HawaiiThreads, and confirmed by her granddaughter L.P. Faleafine.
“Aunty has been in the hospital for a few weeks, asked to go home on Saturday,” Faleafine wrote. “It is a huge loss for Hawaii.”
Keawe was born in Kaka’ako in 1918, and was deeply in love with music by age 10. She learned and sang in the Hawaiian language, performing in military clubs before World War II and on the radio. She went on to record over 140 singles on the 49th State record label, then started her own label in 1966. She has won multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, making beautiful music for over 50 years while raising her 12 children. She was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Last month, Keawe performed a free concert at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel on Maui. For Faleafine, the event sparked memories of visiting her home in Papakolea as a child. The concert drew a huge crowd, including family and friends going back decades.
“Auntie closed the show with her signature song Alika, and the crowd joined in with Hawai’i Aloha,” Faleafine recalled. “We introduced Auntie to our children hoping they had realized they were in the presence of a legend and shared in an experience that we hold dear to our souls.”
Auntie Genoa Keawe celebrated her 89th birthday last October, an event that brought the entire Hawaiian music community together. “Genoa is the pillar of the house for Hawaiian music,” Hawaiian language teacher and songwriter Puakea Nogelmeier told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “She has for scores of years been the reference point for Hawaiian musicians and has bridged tradition, to territory, to 21st century.”