Alfred Apaka

Alfred Apaka (March 19, 1919 – January 30, 1960) was a Hawaiian singer who possessed a romantic baritone voice. Born as Alfred Aiu Afat, Jr., Apaka was arguably the foremost interpreter of hapa-haole music which melded either Hawaiian music or traditional pop music with traditional pop arrangements and English lyrics that conveyed Hawaiian or other Pacific Island imagery and themes. He was of Chinese, Portuguese, and Hawaiian ancestry.

Apaka was a regular on the enormously popular syndicated radio program Hawaii Calls, produced by Webley Edwards. The radio program was heard around the world and helped to propel Apaka’s career worldwide.

The Decca Records release “The Best of Alfred Apaka” noted the following information in the albums liner notes:

“Alfred Aloha Apaka (1919–1960) was one of the influential performers in the history of Hawaii’s popular music. Although he recorded for less than a decade, Apaka set the standards for modern Hawaiian music with his joyful, baritone vocals and highly entertaining performances. In his book, Hawaiian Music and Musicians, George Kanahele wrote that Apaka was “the possessor of one of the most remarkable voices to come out of Hawaii. A natural, untrained, voice, it was strong, masculine and agile…..a delicate instrument that could range from B flat to E in pianissimo.” Apaka inherited his musical skills from his great aunt, Lydia Ahola, the daughter of Queen Lilioukalani. In an interview with The Honolulu Sun Bulletin, Apaka’s son, Jeff, who also became an entertainer, said, “I like to think that Dad’s musical training came in a direct line from the queen.” During the ’40s, Apaka performed with several orchestras including Don McDiamond’s Royal Hawaiian Hotel house band and Ray Kenney’s band in New York. Overheard by Bob Hope while singing at a luau in Honolulu, Apaka became a regular guest on Hope’s radio and television shows. Although many predicted that he would become a successful mainstream vocalist, Apaka took a different route when he convinced multimillionaire Henry Kaiser to build a hotel, The Hawaiian Village, that included a showroom where he starred in his own extravagant revue. Apaka’s energetic performances soon made the hotel an essential tourist attraction, and his popularity continued to grow. Plans for a nationally broadcast television special were finalized in February 1960. A few days later, however, Apaka suffered a fatal heart attack while playing hand ball.”

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