Steel Trappings

On the Playlist

Lena Machado

January 1, 2022 • Geronimo "Geri" ValdrizSteel Guitar History

"HAWAIIAN STEEL" is a weekly radio program that spotlights the Hawaiian steel guitar masters from the past to the present. "ON THE PLAYLIST" features the musicians heard on the program's playlist. This month we feature Lena Machado!

Lena Machado is a Hawaiian singer, composer and entertainer known as "Hawai‘i's Songbird." She was a dominant figure in the Hawaiian music scene of the 1930s and 1940s. Although she was not a steel guitarist, her performing band and her studio recordings always included only the best Hawaiian steel guitarists.

She was born Lena Waialeale on October 16, 1903, at Pauoa Valley, O‘ahu. At birth she was hānai to the Pan family, and as a young woman she married Luciano Machado.

Lena Machado

Lena's remarkable singing style is noted for the use of the vocal technique called "ha‘i," which emphasizes the transition between a singer's lower and upper falsetto ranges. This vocal leap was done with a break in the voice and is a unique Hawaiian style.

Lena was discovered by a radio broadcaster who heard her singing from the top of a mango tree next to his house! She won an audition and soon started her singing career on radio station KGU in Honolulu. As her fame and celebrity grew, she went on to sing with the Johnny Noble Orchestra at the Moana Hotel in Waikiki.

In 1925 Lena became a featured vocalist with the Royal Hawaiian Band under Mekia Kealaka`i. She performed off and on with the Band for nearly fifty years, until 1971.

Lena also toured extensively throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the U.S. Continent, singing at hotels, nightclubs, on the radio, and concert stages. She later hosted her own radio program show on station KGU, Honolulu.

Lena Machado
Lena Machado in her heyday. PC-Honolulu Star Bulletin/Holunape

As a composer, Lena Machado has no equal. Her use of "kaona" or hidden meaning, when writing song lyrics is a true Hawaiian art. She wrote songs of love, of human emotions, and everyday things surrounding her Hawaiian life. She viewed things through Hawaiian eyes and felt things with a Hawaiian heart.

Her songs are timeless and are considered Hawaiian standards. They are still sung and cherished today. They include "Ei Nei," Mom," "Ho‘onanea," "Kauoha Mai,", "Kamalani O Keaukaha",; and dozens more!

At the heart of Lena's music was the Hawaiian Steel Guitar. Her studio recordings feature steel guitar greats Sol Ho‘opii, Dick McIntire, Tommy Castro, Bernie Ka‘ai Lewis, and Billy Hew Len.

Her performing and touring band over the years, included many steel guitarists as well. They include Henry Machado, Lily Nawahine, Fred Noa, Gabby Pahinui, Sol Bright, Jake Holck, David Keli‘i, and many others.

In her later years Lena Machado devoted her time to teaching Hawaiian songs and hula. Her legacy is the "Haku Mele Award," a scholarship award given to a Kamehameha Schools Senior who excels in song composition.

Lena Machado died on January 23, 1974, at age 46.

Today fans seek out the recordings of Lena Machado. She continues to inspire vocalists seeking to emulate her soulful Hawaiian style singing. And steel guitar fans seek out the best steel guitar accompaniment. Her music is now available on CD and online to a new generation of fans who can appreciate this innovative and unique Hawaiian musician!

On the Playlist of Hawaiian Steel: Lena Machado

Song CD Album
Kauoha Mai - Keyhole Hula Hawaiian Song Bird (with Sol Ho‘opii) / Cord International
Uluwehi O Ka‘ala Tradewinds (with Dick McIntire) / Cumquat
Holau Hawaiian Song Bird (with Tommy Castro) / Cord International
Holo Wa‘a Pa Hawaiian Song Bird (with Bernie Ka‘ai Lewis) / Cord International
O Kalena Kai In Waikiki (with Dick McIntire) / Cumquat
Mai Lohilohi Mai Oe Hawaiian Song Bird (with Sol Ho‘opii) / Cord International

"Hawaiian Steel" with Geri Valdriz is broadcast live every Tuesday from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm (HST) on Mana‘o Radio, Wailuku, Maui, Hawai‘i, KMNO, 91.7FM.

You can catch it on the air, or streaming live at www.manaoradio.com. Listeners can also access the online archives to enjoy previously recorded programs at your convenience. Just search "Listen on Demand" for past shows.

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