Ernest Kaai’s Hawaiian Troubadours in New Zealand, 1925.



The ukulele, the hula-hula, and the steel guitar, as entertaining products of Hawaii, are known all over the civilised world that comes under the influence of vaudeville circuits, but such segregated examples as have hitherto been shown in Auckland are mere museum specimens compared with the living actuality of the performance given in His Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday night by Ernest Kaai’s Hawaiian troubadours. These minstrels exhibited ukulele and guitar with all the sweet setting of their native haunts, the strains of the strings enriched by vocal harmonising in which the Hawaiian exccels, and the harmonising enhanced by quaint falsetto and yodelling effects that thoroughly delighted a house packed to the doors.

The curtain rose on a pretty palm-fringed beach scene, when it could be seen, for the house was in darkness when a harmonious chorus of Hawaiian voices, with stringed instrument accompaniment, was lifted in song to welcome the doming dawn. It was a native harmonising chorus set to music by Queen Liliuokalani, and entitled “Aloha Oe,” which swells to a paean of joy as the rising sun lights up the expectant world—in this case quite an effective stage scene. A similar characteristic effort of voice, strings, and light, symbolising twilight, with the stage fading melodiously into darkness, marked the ending of the first part of the programme, while in between dawn and twilight came a series of novel, interesting and thoroughly entertaining items. An Island folk-song by eddie Kniley, a ballad by Frank Luiz, hula dances by Gertila Byrnes and Layley Leywood, and a steel  guitar selection by Thelma Kaai were given with effective voice and string accompaniments. It was the part-singing in trios, however that most captivated the audience. One such number by David Kaili, Thelma Kaai and Eddie Kinley was emphatically encored, but when Queenie and David Kaili and Thelma Kaai appeared in whimsical part songs in which Queenie appeared as a soubrette of talent with a quaint gift for vocal ornamentation, the house was so vastly entertained and amused that the party were recalled four or five times.

Another fine stage setting, and a shift to a display of orchestral selections, were features of the second part of the programme, in which all the stringed cousins of the ukulele and guitar were effectively enlisted to set toes tapping to catchy melodies. Once again the voice accompaniment was used to give the full Hawaiian flavour to the music. For variation a dip was made into jazz, with saxophone and “traps” reinforcing the strings for lively and humorous musical episodes. Frances Lelani displayed the hula-hula in another of its traditional aspects, and she also did a clever and amusing step-dance of the tickle-toe variety, with a descriptive jockey finale which captured the fancy of a race-night audience. David and Queenie Kaili again made a hit  with whimsical duets, and the former displayed exquisite skill in solo playing on the steel guitar, to which his pals supplied pleasant string accompaniment.

The entertainment was notably picturesque and novel, as well as being thoroughly enjoyable from end to end, the capable orchestral arrangement by Mr. Ernest Kaai, and the clever interplay of vocal and string effects by the individual performers being such that the interest of the audience never flagged at any stage of their “Night in Honolulu.” The company will appear nightly until the end of the week (Saturday excepted), and will give a matinee performance on Wednesday.

[This information was found online at PAPERSPAST, a division of the National Libary of New Zealand, which contains more than four million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The collection covers the years 1839 to 1948 and includes 130 publications from all regions of New Zealand.]

(Auckland Star, 4/20/1925, p. 9)


The Auckland Star, Volume LVI, Number 92, Page 9. April 20, 1925.

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