Hold That Note! Watch the Legendary Genoa Keawe Sing ‘Alika’ Live in 1995

This posting was spurred by my having recently edited a story for the Summer 2020 issue of Ukulele that includes quotes from a young player/singer named Pomaika’i Lyman, who happens to be the granddaughter of one of the greatest vocalists ever to come out of Hawaii, “Aunty” Genoa Keawe. Lyman has the vocal chops and the courage to take on her grandmother’s most famous number, “Alika,” in which Keawe holds a few notes to almost absurd lengths, all the while strumming her uke—it’s a lucky thing she doesn’t burst! I own a couple of different albums containing “Alika,” including a live one that is particularly exciting, and listening to those again sent me scrambling to YouTube, where I found this version from 1995, when Aunty Genoa was 77. (She died in 2008 at the age of 89.)


She had a long career as a performer, mostly in Hawaii, is credited with having brought many Hawaiian-language songs into the repertoire from the beginning of her recording career in the mid-1940s, and she certainly helped to spur the Hawaiian folk music renaissance of the early ’70s with her commitment to the “old ways.” Give this one a try some time and see if you can match her surreal, but almost casual lung power! —Blair Jackson