First nameWilliamLucie

Hawaii born Billy lived in the USA since 1909. In 1913 he undertook a journey to Paris with other musicians, where he performed in Luna Park from November 1913 to April 1914. He then went to London with the guitarist of his group, Joseph (Joe) Puni, and Lucie Schmidt, a young French woman called Leilani. During the First World War, they appeared in England as The Hawaiians and Miss Leilani.

In 1920 Billy and Lucie returned to France as Kanui & Lula to perform at the Olympia in Paris between February and October. Billy sang and played the Hawaiian guitar, Lula played the ukulele and danced hula. They celebrated successes. Hawaiian guitarist Joseph K. Nahale joined them. In 1922 they recorded records in Berlin. This was followed by appearances in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain and other European countries, including Paris again and again. There, Billy recorded four tracks for Odéon in 1933 on two records, including Oua Oua, which became a world hit. Further appearances, i.a. with Josephine Baker, followed.

A contemporary magazine wrote enthusiastically, albeit completely unaware (the ukulele is absent in the recordings, and Lula is also not involved):

You probably do not speak Hawaiian? Me neither, but this excusable ignorance will not prevent you from savoring, as I did myself, one of the most picturesque records of folklore that has been successful for a long time. On his ukulele, Kanui plays the rhythm of two popular tunes that Lula interprets with a vigor, an exceptional truth. Carefully put these two songs, Oua-Oua and Tomi-Tomi, that we owe to Odeon, on the right shelf of your discotheque, the one mechanically reached like a re-read book or an old pipe.

L'Oeil de Paris pénètre partout 7.1.1933

Kanui had introduced the ukulele in France, performing at Luna Park at Porte Maillot late 1913. And Lula, his partner on stage from the following year was certainly the first French ukulele player.1)

Shortly before the Second World War, the group dissolved; from 1938 there are no appearances anymore. Kanui and Lula, however, remained in France until the end of their lives.

Billy Kanui with a Hawaiian Guitar
Oua Oua
Tomi Tomi
Both records: Parlophone R.1614 (Ki.6089-2/6090-2), Paris, 21.06.1933