To say that Oakland Park resident Tama Leao, from the Polynesian Cultural Association, has led an exciting life is an understatement. Born in American Samoa, in the Polynesian Triangle, to the son of a Marine, he is one of 10 children. When he was a child, he and the family moved to the bigger island of Hawaii. Tama has been entertaining family and friends his whole life.
Becoming An Entertainer
While he was studying Hospitality at the University of Hawaii, a friend asked him to accompany him to Waikiki to practice knife dancing. There he started playing the drums, the Pahu, or Pa’u a traditional Polynesian instrument, and the bass. It was in Waikiki he learned to do the always impressive Fire Dance. Doing the fire dance has taken Tama everywhere.
Seeing a need to showcase his talents, Tama put together a full Polynesian Show, featuring male and female dancers and musicians. The show featured Hula dancing, Fire Dancing, the Haka, a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment, and lots of traditional Polynesian music.
Tama’s show has taken him all over the world. They have danced in Tahiti and also did a six month stint in Japan. To promote his business further, a move to the Mainland was necessary. The show headed to the East coast and for almost 2 decades, summers were filled with shows from Cape Cod, the Poconos all the way down the Jersey Shore. His band played popular covers as well as traditional Hawaiian music.
Tama’s rugged, exotic look helped him add Actor and Model to his resume and he’s had parts in a variety of movies and television shows. His likeness has been printed in magazines all over the world. The uniqueness of his shows allowed him to perform at Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes, many casinos, the Playboy Club, The Don Ho Show, The Merv Griffin Show, MTV, and 2 appearances on the Tonight Show, to name a few.
Settling Down In South Florida
In 1972, Tama brought his Hawaiian Band down to Miami and played at the popular restaurant, the Hukilau. He added Polynesian dancers and the rest was history. With his summers filled with the Northeast, his winters were filled with Florida sunshine. In 1986 he performed at the Marina Bay Hotel and Restaurant and was a staple until 1999. Loving the atmosphere of Florida, Tama decided to settle down here and raise his family, all the while, promoting Polynesian culture. He rebranded his show and created Tama Leao’s Polynesian Show.
Oakland Park As Home To Polynesian Cultural Association
In 2004, while attending an event at Easterlin Park, Tama got the idea to host a big Polynesian party there. He consulted a City official regarding renting the park and they recommended Tama create a non profit group to promote the education of Polynesian culture. Thus, the Polynesian Cultural Association (www.polynesianculturalassociation.com) was born.
The first event was held at Easterlin Park for a couple of years and then moved to Wilton Manors. Tama was approached by Oakland Park associates to consider moving the event to Oakland Park when they finished a project they were working on called Jaco Pastorius Park. The Park was completed and in 2012 and the Polynesian Festival found a new home once again in Oakland Park.
Tama Leao: Oakland Park’s Tahitian Pearl
With the growing popularity of Tiki Culture perpetuated by movies like Disney’s Moana and Lilo and Stitch, Tama’s event company is as busy as ever. From corporate events to weddings to any sort of party, Tama can tailor an experience just for your needs. Don’t want a boring bachelor or bachelorette party? Why not take a private lesson on hula and haka dancing? If you’re an Oakland Park resident, the lessons are only $10 ($15 for non residents.) Want to learn how to weave a basket out of leaves? Tama’s got you covered there too.
It’s wonderful to know we have such a great resource of Polynesian culture in our own back yard. Tama Leao is like a Tahitian Pearl, cultured, rare, and surrounded by ’Tiny Bubbles’. Aloha!
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