Bruddah Waltah, man who made ‘Sweet Lady of Waiahole’ famous, dies at 68

Walter Aipolani, the beloved musician known as Bruddah Waltah has passed away after a battle with liver cancer.
Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 2:21 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 18, 2023 at 3:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The island music community has suffered another loss.

Walter Aipolani, better known as Bruddah Waltah, died Thursday after a battle with liver cancer.

A native of Keaukaha, he was often called the “Father of Hawaiian Reggae,” a genre that would later shift to be known as “Jawaiian.”

In the early days, he played music in a band with his brothers. Together they were known as ‘Aku Palu.’

In 1990, he launched his debut album on KCCN FM 100. His music eventually led him to win a Na Hoku Hanohano Award in 1991 for Contemporary Album of the Year with “Walter Aipolani & Island Afternoon.”

One of his most popular hits, written by Gordon Broad, came in the 1980s: ‘Sweet Lady of Waiahole.’ It’s a song that tells the story of an actual Waiahole resident who sold her fruits to support her family. That ‘sweet lady’ was Fujiko Shimabukuro.

The song exploded in popularity over the years, cementing itself as an island music classic. There’s even a famous dessert with the same name at the landmark Waiahole Poi Factory.

He was also a strong advocate for Native Hawaiians. Another hit that resonated in the Hawaiian community and beyond was ‘Hawaiian Lands,’ which highlights the struggle to “keep Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands.”

Loved ones say Aipolani refused to let his cancer diagnosis set him back. When restrictions from the COVID pandemic ended, he remained active performing at gigs all over Hawaii and beyond.

In 2022, he was honored with a three-hour tribute concert at the Hilo Palace Theater.

His family surrounded him in his final days. He was 68 years old.