Google today unveiled a doodle celebrating the 61st birthday of Native Hawaiian singer-songwriter and activist Israel Ka‘ano‘i Kamakawiwo‘ole.
The animated video doodle, in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrates Kamakawiwo‘ole’s life, starting with him playing ukulele on a beach, followed by other vignettes of his life, accompanied by his beloved rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”
Along with plumerias, his favorite flower, there are scenes from places that had special significance to Kamakawiwo‘ole, including Diamond Head, Makaha Beach, the Palehua vista and the black sand beach at Kalapana.
“Through his joyful songs and lifelong advocacy for the islands’ values and culture, Kamakawiwo‘ole has been widely referred to as the ‘Voice of Hawai“i,’” said Google in its blog.
Google created the doodle in partnership with the Kamakawiwo‘ole family and record producer Jon de Mello, featuring artwork by Makaha kapa artist Dalani Tanahy.
A biography of the late Kamakawiwo‘ole, who was born on May 20, 1959, is included in Google’s blog, describing how he was often found holding his ukulele against his chest at the age of 10. He died in 1997 at the age of 38.
Though he grew up on Oahu, his roots were on the island of Niihau, where he spent summers with his grandparents. He and his brother Skippy formed the Makaha Sons of Niihau, a contemporary Hawaiian musical group that won numerous Na Hoku Hanohano awards before he broke out on his own.
“Late one night in 1988, Israel sat down in a Honolulu studio, closed his eyes, and in a single take, sang an emotional ukulele-backed version of the classic song, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’” said Google in its blog. “Little did he know, this recording—which serves as the soundtrack of today’s video Doodle — was destined to become an international phenomenon.”
Kamakawiwo‘ole, better known as Bruddah Iz, is also featured in the Hawaiian Music Walk of Fame in Waikiki, and his medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” continues to be a hit, with an unprecedented 500-plus weeks on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales Chart last year.
“But Israel is so much more than one song; with his band and successful solo career, he redefined popular Hawaiian music through his own unique style and spread his love for the islands around the world,” said Google. “Thank you, Israel, for providing the soundtrack for Hawaii and for continuing to move hearts around the world through your music.”
Last May, Google honored the late Hawaiian surf legend Eddie Aikau on his birthday through a special doodle.
Tanahy, a kapa artist and instructor whose work has been featured at the British Museum as well as Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa and Down to Earth stores, was thrilled to have her work included in the doodle.
She said Google doodler Sophie Diao reached out to her earlier this year for the collaboration, wanting to use traditional kapa patterns as a transition between images, specifically with rainbows and lemon drops.
Searching the web about 25 years ago, Tanahy remembers when very little could be found about the art of kapa making online, and now she googles and finds a plethora of information worldwide.
“Google googled me,” said Tanahy. “That’s a pretty awesome thing.”
A team of illustrators and engineers creates Google Doodles — spontaneous changes to the Google logo — to celebrate holidays, notable events and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists.