Since 1986, Hawaiian musician and film director Eddie Kamae and his wife producer Myrna Kamae, have devoted their lives to helping ensure authentic Hawaiian cultural continuity through the films. Their goal is to document for posterity the music, people and places of old Hawaiʻi. More than thirty of the kūpuna Eddie and Myrna have filmed are no longer with us. Through film festivals, community events and prime time television, the ten award-winning documentaries in The Hawaiian Legacy Series have reached more than ten million people from Waiʻanae to Washington D.C. More than 500,000 students have participated in classroom discussions.
It all started in 1971 while Eddie Kamae was on the Island of Hawaiʻi searching for a famed songwriter Sam Liʻa, a man who would later change his life. Sam Liʻa was a songwriter of an older era, whose years and music spanned two centuries. Born in 1881, he spent most of his life in and around Waipiʻo Valley. When Sam passed away a few years after they met, Eddie yearned for a way to pay tribute to this man and what he stood for.
Eddie consulted his teachers and kūpuna. He spoke with ʻIolani Luahine, the legendary dancer. He spoke with Mary Kawena Pukui, the foremost Hawaiian scholar and historian of her day. He spoke with Pilahi Paki, Hawaiian teacher and composer. They all told him the same thing: when the Hawaiians of Sam Liʻaʻs era are gone, our last living links with the pre-modern life of early Hawaiʻi will also be gone.
Eddie began to dream of making a film about Sam and Waipiʻo valley. The film would be about the place that nourished Sam's music and how his music celebrated and revealed the spirit of that place. It would include testimonials from other people who had been touched, as Eddie had been, and it would include Sam's songs, composed in the older tradition of Hawaiian lyric poetry. This was the beginning of The Hawaiian Legacy Series, which now includes ten documentary films, released between 1988 and 2007.