In researching the Mai-Kai’s history, I come across a lot of things that I am not sure will ever make it into a book, or a lecture or anywhere besides me and my wife. This weekend, with spare time due to the holidays, I did some digging. I have an October/November 1965 “Happy Talk”, a news magazine published by the Mai-Kai, and it is full of great stuff. The cover announces that Mariterangi will begin performing in the Molokai soon. I had not heard that name come up before, so I searched for the story of her life. There is not much.
There is a ton of her music online. I found Dub DJs with her in their list of music to mix. She, like many of the performers at the Mai-Kai, was from Tahiti, born in 1926. The fast tempo of the Tahitian drums is a draw for creating a live show I am sure. Toti was the lead there. Mireille was the choreographer and dancer from Tahiti. They likely knew of Marie and when she landed on the mainland of the US, they worked to recruit her. Marie came to the US via Hawaii, like many of the island performers, and created her own troupe. She started at the Bora Bora in San Francisco in 1960. That location became a Skipper Kent’s in the late 60′s after the owner was shot by his wife. Few even knew it was ever anything else. It stayed a Skipper’s into the 80s.
There were local island natives who would come to the Mai-Kai and as the evening came around, they got out their guitars and began to play and sing the songs of their homelands. It was simply a natural thing and it was enjoyed by the snowbirds as well. The Mai-Kai recognized the beauty of it and made this a standard practice there. Marie may have been the first formal player in the Molokai.
Sadly, Marie passed away of cancer in 1971. She was honored in her homeland, along with her sister Emma with a stamp. Her music lives on forever. Her voice is so full of emotion. If you can find her “Tahiti Nui”, it is a classic.
And today, the tradition lives on. It may be Mua and his guitar or any number of other musicians playing in the Molokai. Singing the songs of the islands…