State Fifty: Hawaii

The Aloha State is technically Americans who are foreigners. (Aren’t we all?) They have their own Christmas song–in their own foreign language. I am not gonna bother with “Mele Kalikimaka” in any version (not even Don Ho) nor even any ‘funny’ version (not even the appropriately polka version by Reel Big Fish on the 1997 KROQ Christmas album). But i might mention an illuminating Tom Scott linguistic breakdown of the exact translation of that phrase. Moving on…
Christmas in the Rainbow State” by Stasia Estep is exactly what we’d hope for. It’s vaguely authentic and mentions all the highlights of holiday-ing in Hawaii. But it veers into pop-country and got used on the modern Hawaii Five-O TV show. Too bourgeoisie allasudden.
Sam Sims has also been included in that TV soundtrack with his “Hawaiian Christmas.” It’s a bit too much uke, slack key, and mele kalikimaka. I’ve got way too many Island versions of the trads to get excited here.
Red Peters’s “Have a Wonderful Hawaiian Christmas” gets so ethnically racist i’m not sure the ‘kamon ai wanna lei ya’ nonsense is nostalgic for horrible strip comics from the ‘Fifties, or just intolerantly insensitive. Naw, it’s hate.
OFFICIAL BLUE ALERT While we’re down and dirty, consider The Jackofficers (a side project of a couple of the Butthole Surfers) techno-sampling for “An Hawaiian Christmas.” Nothing naughty, but nothing fun. Ahh, the ’90s!
Just as messed up is Dan Barletta Jr. and his “Hawaiian Christmas Song” which adds feedback to reverb to electric guitar versions of surf music versions of carols (and Hawaii Five-O‘s intro).
Joey Mackee gets all cheesy lounge nightclub with his “Christmas in Hawaii.” That’s one way to do it.
Strange electronic bleating sets the beat for Motogawa Music’s “Christmas in the Islands.” There’s a pretty song in there somewhere, but it seems put together by commitee.
Patrick Landza goes gently comic with “Hula Girl for Christmas.” It’s all harmonious innocence and regional ha-cha-cha. Cute wish list, kid.
These Polyneisan pagans are converts though. And you can hear the angelic church messages in Roddy Lopez’s “Hawaiian Christmas.” It is a medley (gah!) but it’s too pretty not to consider.
Too many 12 Days for here, but “Numbah One Day of Christmas” (by every sweet-voice singer out HI way) seems more authentic than travesty.
Dana Spencer’s “Mahalo Santa Claus” gets us down to the children’s level and makes us sit in a circle with percussive sticks and sing along. Sweet and sincere (and from that great set Christmas Across America).
Hawaiian kids are the best singers, guys! “My Hawaiian Christmas” from some odd compilation decades ago (Hawaii’s Favorite Christmas Songs) tugs at the heartstrings (although that graceless pianer plinking is offputting).
The Merriest Hawaiian Christmas” as sung by Honolulu Boy Choir, is more cherubim Christmas, marred by orchestration. (They also have a “Christmas in Hawaii.” It’s soporific!) (Don’t forget “Makahiki, the Christmas Mehune” a more arcanely culturally transposed version of white Santa. I love those.)
A couple ol’ gals in their dining room wail on their ukuleles and sing “Taro Patch Christmas.” Lei’ohu and Maydeen cast a spell on the season with their chuckling and hard harmonies. You can hear it better on Lei’ohu’s album, but i likes the comraderie of the home-made version here. Mahalo, women.
The sad white version of hey–it’s just us singing is done by The Chestnuts (Geri Grayson and Greg Blunt), “Hawaiian Christmas Song” sounds like old Canadian mounties competitively singing falsettos to their lady loves.
My favorite parody is a homespun Canadian group The Yule Be Sorrys singing “Away in Hawaii” (taking off of ‘Away in a Manger’)
revealing why we have so many ho hum Hawaiian Christmas songs: us cold boring mainlander Americans go there then and they gots to entertain us with some provincial localism.
Time for sunny fun! Odd Polynesian gods laugh down on scared natives in Na Leo’s “Santa Island.” It’s condescending pidgin AND funny. Laughing with… i guess. Oh probably just racist, like Jar Jar Binks.
Now if Santa can be mamboing he can certainly be hulaing. Californians Punama and Graden Island Blend put together “The Santa Hula Song” for gifts and giggles.
Uncle Benny Kai hit us with “Hawaiian Santa,” another so so offering, fun to dance to and reminiscent of Islanders, but come on… that da-dooda da-dooda is just musical warming up.
Patrick Canning has a haunting holiday hymn, “Hawaiian Christmas.” It’s barely holding on harmony and dreamlike alt-World music edge transports me like i’m drifting on the tide… the yuletide, natch! This Newfoundlandian folk singer writes a Christmas song every year and makes his own horrible video to accompany it. They skirt taste deliciously. Check him out.

well, gang, that’s fifty… so far. Okay fiddy-tree since i threw in D.C., Virgin Islands, and Lakota Nation. After the actual holidays which are nearing i’ll get back to PR, Samoa, Guam, N. Mariana (but probably not the little islands nor atolls: Wake, Midway, Palmyra, Johnston).