For 54 years, Marlene Sai has dazzled audiences locally and abroad. Since graduating high school and being discovered by legendary entertainer Don Ho, Sai has enjoyed a robust career in Hawaii’s music industry.
“It’s nice, you know,” she says. “I started very young, so I got to know a lot of people and I was privileged to perform with them, get to know them and learn from them.”
Her work throughout the years has led to esteemed recognition as a Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
In 2007, she was inducted into Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame by Hawaiian Music Foundation.
“It is such a nice honor,” she says of the accolades she has received. “It’s your peers who are recognizing you for your talents and musical contributions.”
These days, Sai, who appeared on a MidWeek cover in April 1986, maintains a busy schedule, guest-starring on TV shows including Hawaii Five-0, sitting on boards for various organizations and working as a legislative assistant for state Sen. Brickwood Galuteria.
Most recently she appeared in The Haumana. Directed by Keo Woolford, the film tells the story of students of hula and its cultural significance, and went on to receive countless awards at various film festivals.
“I try to stay busy,” she says. “As much as I can, I like to give back; I’ve been fortunate in my career.”
Together, she and Galuteria established Kupuna Power in 2012. An annual event, Kupuna Power brings together seniors in the community to provide them with relevant information on topics ranging from avoiding scams to health issues in a fun environment, complete with entertainment by Sai and other local entertainers.
“It’s entertainment, information, exercise and just enjoyment,” Sai explains. This month, past participants Tony Silva of Da Braddahs, Jimmy Borges and Danny Kaleikini will join Sai and new honoree Melveen Leed, among other performers, to bring Kupuna Power to Hawaii Seniors’ Fair — The Good Life Expo Sept. 26-28 at Blaisdell Center.
Sai’s work with Kupuna Power and other organizations stems from a simple desire to express gratitude.
“All of a sudden, here I am in the kupuna role, and this is my means of giving back for all that I’ve appreciated,” she says.
Ever the entertainer, Sai says she’s considering a new album, though it’s currently on the back burner.
In the meantime, she maintains a close relationship with her daughters and three grandchildren.
“I enjoy being a grandmother and being with my grandchildren and family,” she says. “I love spending time with my family.”