Steel Trappings

On the Playlist

On the Playlist: Tau Moe

June 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 steel guitarist Tau Moe!

The story of the Tau Moe family is perhaps one of the most incredible 20th Century traveling musicians' stories! It is a veritable odyssey around the world. Tau and Rose Moe performed together as husband and wife, and later with their children Lani and Dorian for over 61 years!

Tau Moe

Tau Moe was born in Samoa on August 13, 1908. His family moved to Hawai‘i and he was raised at Laie, Oahu. As a young man he listened to early recordings of steel guitarists Joseph Kekuku, Pale K. Lua, and Frank Ferera. He also watched Sol Ho‘opi‘i performing live in Honolulu!

Tau played music for Madame Claude Riviere who had a Polynesian show for tourists at Waikiki. At the time, he also took steel guitar lessons from M.K. Moke where he met Rose Kaohu from Kohala, Hawaii. Rose was also a steel guitar student of Moke and already a seasoned performer with John K. Almeida's group. Tau and Rose fell in love and were married shortly thereafter.

In 1928 Madam Riviere took her Polynesian show to Asia and Tau and Rose joined the tour. The "Royal Samoan Dancers" traveled to perform at the Carnival Fair in Manila, where they were a huge success.

Rivere's troupe traveled extensively throughout Japan and China. They met up with other Hawaiian traveling musicians and the show's members changed over the years. In Tokyo they made recordings with Columbia Records and RCA Victor as well. After five years Riviere's troupe broke up so Tau and Rose split off into their own act called the "Royal Hawaiian Entertainers." Tau played the steel guitar and Rose sang, played the ukulele, and danced the hula.

Tau Moe

They continued to travel and entertain for many years and had a family while on the road. And when their two children Lani and Dorian were old enough, they became a part of the act as well, known as the "Aloha Four." The Tau Moe family lived and traveled around the world playing Hawaiian music from 1928 until 1982 when they returned home to Hawai"i to finally stay.

Tau and his family played in countries throughout Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Northern Africa, India, and Australia. They criss-crossed the globe many times playing at hotels, concert halls, theatres, the radio, television, and large and small venues alike.

These countries include Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Arabia, Turkey, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Poland, Russia, Germany, England, France, Portugal. Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Austria, Greece, the Mediteranian Islands, Japan, China, Burma, Singapore, and Thailand.

They also recorded Hawaiian music whenever a recording studio was available to them. They produced music on wax cylinders, 78 rpm shellac discs, 45 singles, and 33 rpm LP vinyls.

As ambassadors of aloha, they met world leaders such as Mahatma Ghandi of India, Adolf Hitler of Germany, Winston Churchill of England, Aristotle Onassis of Greece, and King Farouk of Arabia.

During World War II Tau and his family helped to smuggle Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany. In Calcutta India, Tau and his family sat out the war as he was unable to travel home to Hawai‘i. During this time he taught young hindu steel guitarists to play Kika Kila. Today these origins have evolved into "Hindustani Steel," a blending of Hindu Ragas played with Kika Kila.

After five decades of non-stop entertaining on the road, Tau decided to retire in 1982, and settle his family back in Laie, where he grew up. Rose passed away in 2000 and Tau passed away in 2004 at the age of 91.

His daughter Dorian Moe stated that wherever the group played around the world, the audiences were always drawn to the sound of the steel guitar.

Tau Moe played in the open A tuning, beginning with a Martin acoustic, then the National Tricone. He later played the early Rickenbacker and Fender electric steel guitars.

Tau Moe brought the steel guitar around the world and today fans seek out his recordings. He continues to inspire steel guitarist seeking to emulate his fluid Hawaiian style. His 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: Tau Moe

Song CD Album
Pa‘ahana Classic Recordings / Grass Skirt (3:06)
Rhythm of the Islands Hawaiian Favourites / Goldie Records (2:32)
My Golden Baby On a Coconut Island / Harlequin (2:55)
Hawaii Calls Classic Recordings / Harlequin (3:16)
Little Brown Gal Hawaiian Favourites / Goldie Records (2:45)
Malihini Mele On a Coconut Island / Harlequin (2:52)

"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 on the radio dial.

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


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