On Easter Sunday 1978, record producer Bill Murata hosted a talent search contest at the famous Kona Inn on Hawai‘i Island, and heard the Lim Family for the first time.
Murata declined to take credit for “discovering” them, saying that had been done years earlier by the people of Kohala. But he did produce an album, Sounds from Kohala, released in 1979 that introduced the Lim Family and their music to a much wider audience. In five years, the Lim Family had climbed from a popular Big Island family act to become one of the most requested recording groups in the entire state.
More Sounds from Kohala followed in 1980 and won the Nā Hōkū Hanohano award for Best Traditional Hawaiian Album. The following year the Lim Family released Pua Olena, The Flower Song that was also named the Best Traditional Hawaiian Album. Two years later Mana‘o‘i‘o, Mana‘olana A Me Ke Aloha, their fourth LP was released. Kū Kaulana was their last Pumehana Records LP, it was released in 1984, and the last to include patriarch Elmer Lim Sr.
The Lim Family released three more recordings Aloha Nā Makana (1988), Nā Mele No Nā Hanauna (2001), and Following Traditions (2013). For Nā Mele No Nā Hanauna the Lim Family won the Group of the Year distinction at the 2002 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. In 2005 Pumehana Records released an anthology of the five Pumehana albums Launa‘ole – Unequalled.
The Lim Family includes Mary Ann, the family matriarch, with a strong, very Hawaiian voice that commands attention when she sings. She plays ‘ukulele. Elmer Sr. played rhythm guitar. Three of the couple’s children rounded out the group. Nani plays ‘ukulele and tiple; Lorna plays electric and acoustic bass; and Elmer Jr., known both as “Sonny” and “Kohala,” plays slack key guitar, steel guitar, banjo – taking all the instrumental solos in both live and recorded sessions. Mom and the girls – Nani and Lorna – did most of the singing, with Sonny and Elmer Sr. occasionally adding their voices to the mix.
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