#TBT To A 1927 Hula Girl

Kalama's Quartet, in one of the only known photos of the group.
Kalama’s Quartet, in one of the only known photos of the group.
By Greg Olwell

For this #tbt, we’re going back to a thoroughly astounding short film of one of the finest groups of the 1920s. Featuring two steel guitars, two rhythm guitarists, and ukulele player, Kalama’s Quartet is still a favorite for today’s fans of vintage hot Hawaiian music.

The song is “My Hapa-Haole Hula Girl,” written by Sonny Cunha, a Hawaiian composer and musician who popularized the “hapa-haole” (“half-white”) songs of the 1920s that catered to the mainland’s fascination with the exotic Hawaiian Islands.


First up on vocals, is the group’s namesake and ukulele player, William Kalama. Here, he seems to be playing a taro patch (or taropatch), an 8-string version of the ukulele that has doubled strings, a move that was made to help make the little ukulele louder. His verse is followed by rubber-kneed guitarist Bob Nawahine. Rounding out the quartet, which was really a quintet for most of its years, is guitarist Dave Kaleipua Munson, and steel guitarists are Mike Hanapi and Bob Matsu.

Dating from a session in New York in 1927, with some questionably authentic hula dancers springing up at the end, this early talkie no doubt set audiences in those grand theaters wild.