On the Scene: Mihana Souza keeps legacy of musical family alive
Mihana Souza celebrated her 70th birthday with a huge luau Saturday in Kailua. She will perform Monday with Kanoe Cazimero at the Blue Note Hawaii.
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Mihana Souza was born in Tennessee while her father, Nane Aluli, was finishing law school. Her mother, Irmgard Farden Aluli, an accomplished Hawaiian composer, was one of the 13 Farden siblings from a prominent Maui musical family.
After her family moved back to Hawaii in the 1950s, Souza grew up surrounded by music.
When Irmgard Farden Aluli decided to reorganize Puamana, a musical group named for the Farden family home in Lahaina, it was understood that Souza, her two sisters and her cousin, Luana McKenney, would be in it. Irmgard Farden Aluli died in 2001, but Souza has kept the group going with other members of the extended family.
Souza celebrated her 70th birthday with a huge luau Saturday in Kailua. She will perform Monday with Kanoe Cazimero at the Blue Note Hawaii.
I remember a newspaper column by a local writer who was anticipating her 30th birthday — you would have thought that living to be 30 was a fate worse than death. How does it feel to be 70?
There’s something really, really nice about age (and) I can still do everything I did when I was 20. I am just so overwhelmed at all the things that I want to do.
What do you want to do?
I’m planning to record (another solo album), and I’d love to do my entire first album, “Rust on the Moon,” in Hawaiian. I’ve done (the song) “Rust on the Moon” in Hawaiian, and it’s beautiful. But then in the meantime five new songs have come for a new album, and I’ve recorded three of them. And Puamana would like to make another album. (My cousin) Hailama (Farden) says we need to make one more. I just have to know that in God’s time things will come.
How did you start performing with Kanoe Cazimero?
Kanoe used to come to Duc’s Bistro (on Maunakea Street) where I would sing. It’s generally a really great place to learn music and to really be able to share. So every time Kanoe would come in I would impose on her to dance, and then one night she sang. I’m a really good alto and Kanoe has this incredible high voice and we really meld together really well. Monday is going to be our first night at the Blue Note. We’re going to do “hula jazz” and other things that we love doing.
What is something about you that might surprise people?
I can’t speak pidgin! My father said, “You either speak good Hawaiian or good English, but you cannot speak pidgin.” My mother could speak pidgin because she grew up in the camps (on Maui), and I think my father could, but we were not allowed to speak pidgin.
You’re known professionally as Mihana Souza of Puamana — except in 2002 when you recorded your Hoku Award-winning solo jazz album as I. Mihana Souza. How do your names fit together?
My real (first) name is Irmgard, like my mother. I’d thought it was my middle name, but then I had to find my birth certificate and there it was — and I love being Irmgard. Mihana is a Hawaiianized Chinese name that goes back to my (Aluli) great-grandparents, so that was my middle name, and then when I was growing up my Auntie Napua (Stevens) said, “We really need to finish your name.” She came up with Ka‘imihanano‘eau, “the one who searches for wisdom.” I asked her later if that meant I would be searching all the time, and she said, “No, no, no, that means you will always rise to the top of where you are, and then always go to the next level,” which I really think is really wonderful.