Singer and composer Keith Haugen is possibly the most well-known Norwegian descendant in Hawaii. When he tells how he became Hawaiian, he begins with his military days when he was stationed in Hawaii. Later he was stationed in Japan, and while there he made the decision that he would one day settle in Hawaii.
But first he had to return to the mainland to study. Keith was familiar with Hawaiian music from the time that he had enjoyed listening to it on the radio as a youngster at home in Minnesota.
In 1968 he moved again to Hawaii to get his B.A. in music and Hawaiian language and culture. He lived on Maui and that is where he really first got to know the Hawaiian people and to appreciate their many good character traits. Then after two years he moved to Honolulu on the island of Oahu where he still resides today.
Fell in Love with the Hawaiian People
“They helped me and I got to know them well. However, it is not only the Hawaiian people that I have grown to appreciate, but also people of other backgrounds, such as the Japanese people and their music.”
There is no doubt about the fact that Keith has fallen in love with the Hawaiian culture and the Hawaiian people. Once a member of a singing group told him that he should change his name to a Hawaiian name. But he said no, he would not do that. He is not Hawaiian, he is a Norwegian singer from Minnesota, so a Hawaiian name would just not be right for him.
Keith loves the Hawaiian people so much that he married one of them, Carmen U’ilani, a Hawaiian singer and dancer he had performed with. She has meant very much to him, and to his music career.
“The best thing that has ever happened to me. She came with beauty, talent, hula, a smile, and laughter,” he says.
Carmen belongs to the `Ohana Kauaua family, recognized as the largest native family on the islands. According to the Mormon genealogy records, she can trace her ancestry 12 generations back to Liloa, once a great chief on the island of Hawaii.
Carmen and Keith sing and play together in performances that have taken them all over the world. Carmen’s favorite instrument is the six stringed ukelele.
Hawaiian Music Today
Keith sings the well-known song: “I love a pretty Maui girl,” and it suits Carmen well. She grew up on Maui; however, her mother tongue is not Hawaiian, but English. So Keith is probably better at speaking Hawaiian than she.
“There are so few people playing Hawaiian music today, that we do it to preserve the heritage,” Keith says. He not only sings, but also composes the music and writes the lyrics. He has more than 200 songs to his credit, and over 40 of them have been recorded, several of them by well-known artists.
Carmen and Keith sing and play on several CD’s that have been released. Keith has received several awards for his songs and music and for his interest in Hawaiian culture. He taught music for many years at the university in Honolulu.
When Carmen and Keith perform, they nearly always end the concert with “Aloha `Oe”, the song that is loved all over the world.
And Keith often adds a verse on the end:
You may go, I’ll let you go.
May God bless you,
You’ll be mine wherever you may be.
It is a warning, don’t say Aloha
For you’ll never find another Hawaiian like me!
And sometimes he adds:
For you’ll never find another Norwegian like me!
“Aloha from Forgotten Norwegians in Hawaii”