Sonny Cunha


Albert R. 'Sonny' Cunha was born in Honolulu October 1, 1879. Cunha was the moving force behind Hapa Haole music. As composer, arranger, singer, orchestra leader, pianist, businessman and politician, he composed his first hapa haole song, 'My Waikiki Mermaid' in 1903. He followed this with many more, and published many hapa haole songs in Famous Hawaiian Songs in 1914.

Cunha was one of the first Hawaiian entertainers to tour the mainland with his own group and his dance orchestra played in Honolulu for some years. Johnny Noble said Cunha was 'the first to add the piano to a Hawaiian orchestra. . .doing thereby as much to change the style and tempo of Hawaiian music as his compositions had.' Noble acknowledged Cunha's influence on his own compositions and those of many others.

Cunha also directed the Royal Hawaiian Band Glee Club and was the musical director for the Fatty Arbuckle Musical Troupe at the Hawaiian Opera House, as well as having interests in all types of music. There are no recordings of Cunha as a performer, though his songs were recorded. He passed away in 1933.