Iva Kinimaka at the Garden Bar

I am a man of many interests. Take this blog, for example. I am a musician, and I also fancy myself a writer. Sometimes I can bring these loves together and write about music. But what if one of your loves is on the stage and the other is more behind the scenes? In Iva Kinimaka’s case, he is equally as comfortable in front of the microphone as he is serving something slightly different for his audiences – from the kitchen where he will whip up a myriad of culinary delights. And he, too, has always managed to find ways of bringing his loves together. 

Kinimaka discovered cooking when he was only 10 years old – egged on (bad pun intended) by his mother. In the 1970s while he was headlining at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel – the engagement which inspired this article – he opened up a lunch wagon at Sandy Beach. Kinimaka did double-duty by serving up both food and entertainment as a headliner for Paradise Cruises before settling in at home in Kalihi with Iva's Komplete Katering, purchasing and renovating Diner's Drive-In in Kalihi (at the corner of King and Waiakamilo), and finally Iva’s Place (right across the street from the drive-in) where he could combine his two loves again – even singing from the kitchen while cooking courtesy of a wireless microphone. 

But Kinimaka’s music career spanned more than 30 years – starting out in the '60s with Kimo Garner (Loyal's brother) at Tropics (corner of Seaside and Kalākaua in Waikiki), then opposite Don Ho at Duke Kahanamoku's at the International Market Place, then the Cock's Roost before settling in as headliner at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in the 1970s. I consider his first appearance on LP to be a hidden gem. Self-produced for his own KiniKim label, Iva hit record stores in 1972 and featured an eclectic mix of old school traditional Hawaiian songs, newer compositions by some local up-and-comers (including two by Al Nobriga), a traditional Japanese song, and a classic of country-western. I have chosen two of my favorites from that LP to share with you here. Notice that they have in common with the Emma Veary LPs of the same period the large orchestral arrangements – flutes, strings, and the like – turning “My Sweet Sweetie” into something like a lullaby. And “Ua Noho Au A Kupa” reminds us that Iva possesses a sweet falsetto to boot. 

Iva’s sound would grow more “contemporary” with time. It would be a few years yet before he would turn out the hit that made him a household name – a song which you still cannot go a day without hearing on local Hawai`i radio. 

Next time: The song Iva wrote for his daughter which would become his trademark. And whatever happened to Al Nobriga anyway? And who was that band opening for Iva every night at the Garden Bar?... 


Recipe – Iva Kinimaka's Old Fashioned Beef Stew 


4 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil  

6 to 8 cloves fresh garlic, smashed  

1/4 pound fresh ginger, smashed  

4 pounds boneless stew beef ("clod" or "knuckles")  

2 pounds lean beef short ribs, cut in 1-1/2 by 1-1/2 inch pieces  

1 tablespoon Hawaiian sea salt or to taste 

8 cups water or to taste 

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice  

Chili powder to taste, optional  

4 medium-size salad potatoes, peeled and cut in sixths  

2 medium-size russet potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths  

3 medium-size turnips, peeled and cut in sixths  

2 medium-size round onions, peeled and sliced  

Carrots and celery to taste, peeled and cut in chunks, optional


As told to Catherine Kekoa Enemoto of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in its April 2, 1997 issue


Direct download: 01_Iva_Kinimaka_1.mp3
Category:70s and 80s -- posted at: 6:55pm EDT