Musician was ukulele master

Lake’s unique style added daring to traditional Hawaiian

By John Berger

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 08, 2011

Walter Kawai’ae’a was 15 years old and had been playing the ukulele for only a few months when he heard his teacher, Kahauanu Lake, playing guitar. He asked Lake why he didn’t play guitar professionally instead of ukulele.

Kawai’ae’a never forgot Lake’s reply.

“He said, ‘If I’m going to be the leader of a Hawaiian group, then I’m going to play a Hawaiian instrument!'” Kawai’ae’a recalled yesterday.

“I told him, ‘But, Papa, you play that guitar so good,’ and he said, ‘The hell with that damned guitar. It’s a haole-made instrument. And how’s my ukulele playing?’ and that shut me up,” Kawai’ae’a said. “It was about who he was and about being Hawaiian and always personifying that. He was a prince, and they don’t make ’em like that anymore.”

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