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He was an artist, an actor, a practitioner and a mentor, but perhaps Nalani Moe “Animal” Keale will be remembered most as an “ambassador of aloha!” His love for the human soul was his passion and he loved sharing it with kama’aina and malihini alike. Friends would return to his shows regularly just to experience that aloha, hear his beautiful ukulele and pure Hawaiian voice.
Moe Keale was born on the island of Ni’ihau to native Hawaiian parents on December 3, 1939. His father was employed as a civil service worker at Pearl Harbor which eventually prompted Moe and some of his siblings to take up residence on the island of O’ahu. At the age of 4, Moe began playing the ukulele. He never put it down. From his childhood days at Palolo Elementary to his teen years attending Kaimuki and Roosevelt High School, he continued to fine tune his art. As a Waikiki beachboy, he would explain the concept of “beach boy music” to all passersby. It included the blending of jazz chords on the ukulele and 4 and 5 part vocal harmonies. It was the beginning of an era.
In the mid to late 60’s, Moe became an integral part of the “Sons of Hawaii” with Gabby Pahinui, “Feet” Rogers, Eddie Kamae and Joe Marshall. In 1987, Moe won his first Na Hoku Hanohano Award for his recording project called “Aloha is . . . A Part of Me, A Part of You”. Danny Lopez composed “A Part of Me, A Part Of You” and called it the “Hospital Song” because Moe would frequent the Queen’s Medical Center and sing this song to the patients there. Truly an example of aloha!
He formed several groups after that, but though he enjoyed playing with his steady musician friends, he loved performing with newcomers! He would tell me he wanted to help them ‘ease’ into the business. This expression of aloha has reaped dividends today as Hawaiian music continues to prosper. In a Na Hoku Hanohano Awards ceremony in 1997, Moe Keale was quoted as saying:
“One of the great pleasures being in our industry over the past two decades has been to witness the renaissance in Hawaiian music. Not only have great masters been appreciated again, but we’ve created masters within our own generation. And there is a healthy stream of young people coming forward determined to continue the art and artistry of traditional Hawaiian music.”
On April 15, 2002, Moe Keale died leaving a legacy he hoped would continue. He will be missed . . . .
Note: This profile was written and given to Herb by Michael Keale