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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tau Moe Family.......recordings with Bob Brozman "Ho`omana`o I Na Mele O Ka Wa U`i"

A fascinating story............The Tau Moe on.....


Tau Moe Family had considerable influence on the evolution of early Hawaiian music. Tau Moe, his wife and two children traveled the world in the 1920s showcasing Hawaiian music and culture as "The Aloha Four". The group was one of the first to tour Europe during the Hawaiian cultural expansion and for many years the family of four played in Europe, India and Asia.  Tau Moe's life of music began as a child in Samoa. Travelling with his father, a Mormon missionary who set up churches and taught music, Tau learned his love of music from his father. When Tau was 11, his father moved the family to Hawai'I and it was there that he was introduced to the musical styles he would grow to love and then showcase around the world.  In Hawai'i, Tau Moe learned the steel guitar from M.K. Moke. He soon met another steel guitar player, Rose, who was to become his wife. The two joined a travelling show and began showcasing their musical talents. They couple had their first child, Lani, in Japan, and she too joined the family act that would come to be known, with the birth of son, Dorian, as the "Aloha Four."  During the 1920s, Hawaiian music was sweeping the world with its own lilting and melodic sound. At the height of their popularity, Tau Moe and his family played for numerous world leaders in Germany, in Paris, Brussels and Japan, mesmerizing foreign audiences. They worked with a circus troupe, toured with the Josephine Baker show to Venice and played steel guitar music to an eager audience in Egypt. They also were profiled frequently in the press.  Years later, Tau and Rose retired, but not before leaving an indelible mark on the history of Hawaiian music, as one of the earliest musical forces to bring Hawaiian culture to international audiences.


Tau Moe Family

The story of the Tau Moe Family is perhaps one of the most incredible 20th century traveling musician stories to be found anywhere, a veritable Odyssey around the world.

Tau and Rose Moe (pronounced Mo-ay) performed together as husband and wife for over 61 years and for many years with their children Lani and Dorian. Tau, born in Samoa in 1908, was raised in Laie, a small community on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. He played music from early childhood. Rose, born in 1908, was the youngest daughter of the Kaohu family of the Kohala district on the big Island. Her family was musical, her childhood steeped in traditional music and dancing.

Young Tau became professionally interested in music and played with many artists, including M.K. Moke, John Almeida, and David Kaili, who were to become legends of Hawaiian music. Tau seems to have absorbed earlier styles, though the musicians he knew spanned the first and second generation of steel players.

In 1927, Rose joined a troupe of musicians featuring Tau and his three uncles. The group, Mme. Riviere's Hawaiians (managed by a French university professor), toured extensively in Asia from 1928 to 1934. They performed in Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Philippines, India, Burma, and Indonesia. The show included Hawaiian and Samoan music, dancing, and native "rituals." Mme. Riviere traveled in intellectual circles, and on eday in 1932 she took Tau to meet Mahatma Ghandi, an experience which made an impression on the young, but very curious Tau.

In 1929, the group recorded eight songs in Tokyo for American release. Rare today, these records were purely ethnic in style with traditional accompaniment of guitars, uke, steel guitar, and beautiful vocals led by Rose's falsetto singing. The records clearly show the influences of the period before 1915 without sounding like the more modern styles being recorded by other Hawaiians in 1929. They therefore give us a deep look back into what Hawaiian music sounded like up to and even over a century ago.

Lani, the son of Tau and Rose, was born in Tokyo in 1929. By 1934, in Shanghai, the Mme. Riviere tour broke up. Lani, at age five (already a signer, dancer, and ukulele player), joined his parents to form a trio. In Shanghai, "Ua Like No Ua Like," "Samoan Moon," and "Aloha Means I Love You" were recorded by Tau and Rose, in 1934. As of the recording of REMEMBERING THE SONGS OF OUR YOUTH, the Moe's award-winning 1989 release with Bob Brozman, there were no known surviving copies, and therefore the arrangements of these songs on the album were re-created only by the grace of Tau's excellent memory. Tau's memory was proven to be perfect, as years later Bob found one of the Shanghai recordings.

After working as a trio in India for several months, the Moes traveled to Egypt, arriving nearly broke, in late 1935. First finding work in Alexandria, they performed in Egypt's larger cities through 1936. From 1936-1938, their journey took them through Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Poland, Russia, France, and Germany! During the late 1930's, Tau had become quite popular in Germany. In fact, one night after a show, he was obliged to meet Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, and company. Tau was friends with many Jewish musicians, whom he helped in leaving Germany. He himself was advised by the American embassy to leave Germany as war loomed.

The outbreak of WWII forced them to flee Europe entirely. They settled briefly in Lebanon, but thern Italy declared war there. They worked their way further east in the Middle East, boarding a ship at Bagdhad in the hope of going home to Hawaii. However, Pearl Harbor had just been bombed and the Pacific Ocean was closed for travel, so the Moe family settled in India for the rest of the war years. Tau organized bands and orchestras for the top hotels in the major cities of India, employing a multi national group of musicians, all on the move because of the war. He would transcribe for performance the latest songs from musical films, watching the films several times in order to write down the melodies, chords, and words. Daughter Dorian was born in 1945 and soon was part of the act: dancing, singing, and later playing the guitar. In the late 1940s, after many engagements in principle Indian cities, the Moe family returned to Europe.

The Moe quartet worked in every Western European country, as well as Japan and Australia, through the 1950s and 1960s, recording, performing, and appearing in television and films. Their music became more modern, as can be heard on their many European recordings, the last one having been released in Yugoslavia in 1982.

The family continued touring together in Asia, Australia, and the U.S. mainland. In the late 1970s, Tau decided more that five decades on the road was enough. The whole family retired to Laie, Tau's childhood home. Tau's musical lifetime, already many times more intense, traveled, and long-lived than most, was to come full circle with his final recording, with Bob Brozman, in 1988. He spent the rest of his life receiving many awards, and enjoying the contact from old fans from around the world.

Read Bob's account of the exciting conclusion to Tau's story, and how Bob and the Tau Moe Family were united to record HO'OMANA'O I NA MELE O KA WA U'I - REMEMBERING THE SONGS OF OUR YOUTH, winner of the Library of Congress Award.

Rose Moe passed away in 2000, and Tau Moe passed away at age 95, in 2004.

And one more........

All the World was their Stage

The Tau family spanned the globe playing Hawaiian music. About the only place they weren't widely known was right here at "home"

By Richard Borreca

FIRST, the music.

Tau Moe holds the stainless steel National Resonator Guitar in his lap, just touching the strings. Next to him, his wife, Rose, starts to sing.

It is magic. His playing is effortless, her singing poignant. The haunting sound of the steel guitar blends perfectly with the clear falsetto.

The sound of steel guitar is the sound of the romance of Hawaii today and in days past. It echoes through the history Tau and Rose made after they met in music class in downtown Honolulu in the 1920s.

The story comes second.

Moe is Samoan. He was born Aug. 13, 1908 and grew up in Laie, where he and his uncles joined an entertainment troupe, Madame Riviere's Hawaiians, that featured Rose Kaohu, who was a dancer and musician.

When the Royal Hawaiian Hotel opened in 1927, Moe played steel guitar.

He and Rose went to Manila in 1928 with Madame Riviere, the former French ambassador, who formed a troupe to play in the Pacific's former colonial outposts.

By 1930, they were on their own, and had recorded eight records. They married, sang and danced, raised two children and went on the road - for 54 years.

The Tau Moe Family traveled around the world seven times, learning a half-dozen languages, making hundreds of records in countries as diverse as India, Greece, Yugoslavia and Germany.

They didn't come back to Hawaii for good until 1982: World famous recording stars and entertainers. Unknowns in Hawaii.

"He is unacknowledged in his own home. More than anybody else, he deserves to be acknowledged as the Hawaiian music ambassador to the world," musicologist, author and international musician Robert Brozman says about Moe.

"He was playing steel guitar where it was never heard before."

Tall and dignified even at 87, Moe wants to tell hundreds of good stories about living on the road for five decades. He is content in quiet obscurity, not interested in dwelling on the obvious slight delivered by the local Hawaiian music community, although he does note, "I don't think people realize what we did for Hawaii."

Now living back in Laie, Tau takes care of Rose, who has Alzheimer's disease. Their son Lani, 65, a teacher and manager of the Kalihi District Park senior citizen's program, lives with them. Daughter Dorian, 49, an established executive with the Polynesian Cultural Center, lives nearby.

"Everything I got came from singing and playing my guitar," Moe says.

It all started with the steel guitar, invented in Hawaii at the turn of the century by Joe Kekuku, who, in the Kamehameha Schools machine shop, designed a steel bar that would sustain a musical note when pressed across the strings.

Moe plays with a style that can be found only in archive records. Hawaiian entertainer Keith Haugen explains that when Moe left Hawaii in 1928 he was playing a type of music popular at the end of the 19th century.

"He is a very good musician," Haugen said. "His idea of what is Hawaiian music didn't change. What he plays is like what he played 50 or 60 years ago."

The sound of Hawaiian steel guitar took off after the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, according to Hawaiian music historian Harry Soria.

"There was a huge salt water fish tank, plants from Hawaii. In the center of the Hawaii pavilion was a stage with continuous shows with steel guitars and hula dancers," Soria said.

"America went nuts and the Hawaiian craze was born. First the ukulele was popularized. Hula dancers became popular ... Tin Pan Alley music started."

The Hawaiian steel guitar hypnotized people. It became BIG business, in records, on the radio. At least one side of everybody's record had to include Hawaiian or Polynesian music.

Through countless countries, Tau and Rose managed to keep a family together.

"They are a very loving family," Soria said. "They lived on the road for decades. In all, it is just incredible."

"What a life I had in show business. I thought I was going to get some money and come home and go to the university," Moe said.

But when he decided to come home, his children, by then established professionals, wanted to know what this home thing was.

"My dad said he wanted to go home," Lani recalled. "I said what is home?"

For more than a half century home was hotel after hotel. Meeting the rich and famous, living with the common folk and spreading Hawaiian music.

"In our (first) performance we weren't allowed to speak English," Moe said. "Our manager told us that was so everyone would think we were natives. It was all show business."

Within years, he became one of the most influential Hawaiian musicians in Asia and Europe. Moe is credited with introducing the steel guitar to the Asian subcontinent.

    More than anybody else, he deserves to be acknowledged as the Hawaiian music ambassador to the world. He was playing steel guitar where it was never heard before.
    Robert Brozman


"Today, there is a lot of steel guitar in Indian music," Brozman said. "I collect all the records and before he came, nobody was recording steel guitar. The year after he arrived, there were eight recordings."

Everyone has a story about Moe in India. Brozman talks about how Moe met Gandhi. Dorian recounts the family story of how Lani was born during Moslem-Hindu riots in India and a taxi equipped with dual machine guns was needed to get Rose to the hospital for his birth.

Moe tells how he taught an Indian maharaja how to play the guitar in the 1930s.

"The man had diamond buttons on his shirt. He took one off and gave it to Mom," Moe said.

Asked where the diamond is now, Dorian shows her hand, flashing an enormous diamond on a ring.

The family moved to Egypt, playing in Alexandria, then moving on to Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Poland, Russia and Germany.

Everywhere they went, Moe insisted they live the life of local people. Soon they were picking up the customs and language of each country.

"I go to their house, I eat their food, by the time I leave, I speak their language," Moe said.

The family picked up languages like tourists collect postcards. Tau learned Hindu; everyone learned French, German and Italian.

In Paris, Tau worried that the Hawaiian craze would fade, so he beefed up the act.

"I learned tap dancing; Lani learned classical dance; Mom learned acrobatics," he said "Then at night we all came home and taught each other."

In 1938, the Moes met Adolf Hitler, and fellow Nazis Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels at a fund-raiser for German orphans. The irony was that Moe had many Jewish musician friends and used the family's German passports to smuggle many out of the country.

Moe tells one story about how Rose was helping to smuggle the possessions of his Austrian agent out of the country. "The guard wanted to know why Rose was wearing three fur coats. " 'I'm from Hawaii, so I get very cold,' she said."

The next year, the American Embassy warned Moe to leave Germany. The family moved to Beirut, where the Embassy again warned them that Italy had declared war.

"We had only a couple of hours to get a bus to Baghdad," Moe said "We spent days in the desert, no one had food. Luckily, I brought loaves of French bread - it was the only thing anybody on the bus had to eat for the four-day trip."

Moe spent World War II in India, leading an unlikely big band of musicians from a variety of countries, including China and Russia.

After the war, the Moes returned briefly to Hawaii, but by 1947, they were back on the road, playing first in California, then back to Europe.

They played Monte Carlo, Rome, Nice. They danced in the Moulin Rouge. They appeared in a show with Josephine Baker in Venice. They spent the winter in St. Moritz. They appeared with Maurice Chevalier.

"Those were good memories, those were the glamour days," Lani said.

Now Moe speaks quietly in Hawaiian to Rose who is humming on the couch.

"She still sings every night, you know," Tau said.

For your listening pleasure......The Tau Moe Family with Bob Brozman 1989 "Ho`omana`o I Na Mele O Ka Wa U`i"...............enjoy!

Mai Kai No Kauai
Aloha means I love you
La Lupe Ua Sola
Goodbye my Feleni
Ua like No a Like
Meleana E medley
Samoan Moon
He Aloha No A Honolulu
Na Ali'i
E Mama Ea
Fort St. 1929 and 1988


  1. Everyone has a story about Moe in India. Brozman talks about how Moe met Gandhi. Dorian recounts the family story of how Lani was born during Moslem-Hindu riots in India and a taxi equipped with dual machine guns was needed to get Rose to the hospital for his birth. This is very good side I am very happy to see this side Thanks .03327043387

  2. Aloha,I remember with tenderness and happiness the TAU MOE FAMILY we worked in the same place in Brussels on many occasions,I was always pleased when I knew they were in the show.Dorian's smile could light up the whole place.I have learn't that sadly Dorian is the only surviving (I hope!) member of the group,I should so much be able to say hello and have a contact with her,she may remember me JUNE who danced at CHEZ PAUL in Brussels in BELGIUM,if somebody knows her could you kindly pass on the message?Thanking you so much in advance.