JANUARY 23, 1933


Born on October 1, 1879, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Cunha attended Saint Louis School & Punahou School before going to Yale in 1898.  At Yale, he starred at baseball and football, but did not graduate.  In 1903, Sonny composed My Waikiki Mermaid, the earliest known hapa haole song.  He had his first big hit, My Honolulu Tomboy, in 1905.  Other notable songs were, My Hawaiian Maid, My Tropical Hula Girl and Honolulu Hula Girl.  In 1905, Cunha’s sextette played in Santa Cruz, California.  In 1906, he directed the Royal Hawaiian Glee Club on their tour of the West Coast of the US with the Royal Hawaiian Band.  In 1914, Sonny published the first hapa haole songbook, Famous Hawaiian Songs.  He played piano, sang and led a dance orchestra in Honolulu for many years, toured the mainland, founded the Cunha Music Company, and later served as a member of the House of Representatives in the Hawaii Territorial Legislature from 1923 to 1924.  Cunha died on January 23, 1933, in Honolulu.

Sources:  “Sonny” Cunha Passes After Brief Illness, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1/23/1933.  Retrieved 6/28/2020, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/27456263/honolulu-star-bulletin/ Wikipedia
Photo:  Author and date unknown.  Fair Use. Source: https://www.discogs.com/artist/3279357-Sonny-Cunha.

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