After an illustrious performing and recording career that spanned more than seven decades, Edwin Mahiʻai “Mahi” Copp Beamer has left this earthly realm, and one can only imagine the incredible singing that must be taking place now with Mahi at the piano.
Grandson of the famed composer, Helen Desha Beamer, Mahi recorded her “Kawohikūkapulani” and “Nā Kuahiwi ʻElima,” under the Decca label in 1957. Two years later, then with Capitol Records, he recorded two full-length albums: “The Remarkable Voice of Hawaiʻi’s Mahi Beamer in Authentic Island Songs” and “More Authentic Island Songs by Mahi…Hawaiʻi’s Most Remarkable Voice.” The recordings showcase the pure falsetto for which he is so well known the world over.
While a student at the Juilliard School in the late 1940s, Mahi sang with Lani McIntyre in the Hawaiian Room at the Lexington Hotel in New York. After serving in the American Army, stationed at Schofield Barracks from 1951 to 1953, he performed onstage at the Queen’s Surf in Waikīkī between 1954 and 1959. He then joined his sister, Sunbeam, in Nalani Kele’s Polynesian Revue at the Stardust in Las Vegas where he remained for more than a decade. After returning home permanently in 1974, Mahi began playing at piano bars, first on Kauaʻi then on Oʻahu at Bay View Golf Course, Andrew’s Trattoria, the Moana Hotel, and finally Outrigger’s Prince Kūhiō hotel from which he retired in 2005.
Although he is most well-known for perpetuating the music of his grandmother, Mahi was also an incredible composer whose com- positional output ranges from little-known “ditties” like “Puaʻena- Mālama By the Sea,” composed at the home of his Uncle Pono at Kalokohanahou in Kāneʻohe, and “Be Gone, Begonia,” written in consult with cousins Nona and Keola in tribute to the automobile that transported the Beamer dance troupe across America, and the hula kuʻi song, “Leilehua, Ke Kuini o ke Kai,” celebrating a day with family aboard his Uncle Marmion’s fish- ing vessel, to the epic pieces he composed like “The Message” and “The Pledge” for his mother (Mildred Kaʻaloʻehukaiopuaʻena Copp Beamer) and father (Milton Ho‘olulu Desha Beamer, Sr.), respectively, and “God Hath Ordained” composed for cousin Marmionett’s wedding. In every instance, Mahi’s extraordinary ￼￼talent, both for melody and for lyric, is awe-inspiring.
Among Mahi’s honors are the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement award received in 1991, his induction into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaiʻi’s acknowledgement of him as a “Living Treasure of Hawaiʻi” in 2008. In 2015, Mahi received the I Ulu i ke Kumu award from the Hawaiʻinuiākea School for Hawaiian Knowledge.
So indelible a mark has Mahi Beamer left upon the history of Hawaiian music. He will be missed by so many, and we all will revel in the purity of his falsetto and his virtuosic talent at the keyboard for years to come.