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Hawaii’s musical ambassador ‘Ihilani Miller dies

As a musical ambassador for Hawaii, ‘Ihilani Miller charmed audiences around the United States and Canada with sparkling performances at premier clubs across the continent and through the emerging wonder of television on programs like “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Perry Como Show.” Yet, her loved ones say, her heart remained ever faithful to her island home, where she remained stalwart of the local entertainment scene from early adolescence until her death last week.

Miller, once dubbed the “Voice of the South Pacific,” died on May 17 at age 81 in Ewa Beach.

 “She always said she was an entertainer,” said granddaughter Ihilani Cummings. “That’s what she did. That’s who she was.”

Miller grew up in Kapahulu and displayed her musical talents at a young age. By the time she was 13, she was performing in local clubs, often sitting out intermissions in the manager’s office because she was too young to stay in the showroom. She wrote the classic song “Pakalana” — one of her most famous compositions along with “Kuhio Beach” — as a young teen.

She also studied hula under renowned kumu hula Sally Wood Naluai, and was a driving force for the Ilima Hula Studio.

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