Hawaii Calls – Haunani Hulas!

Continuing our look at Haunani Kahalewai and her appearances on the too short-lived Hawaii Calls TV program… 

It was difficult – believe me, very difficult – to decide which of Haunani’s dozens and dozens of performances from the Ho`olohe Hou archives to share given that we have limited time to share them. (We will celebrate Haunani over and over again. But we also need to give some air time to the other stars of Hawaii Calls who have not even received an honorable mention yet.) Choosing the last video of Haunani was the most difficult task – until, that is, I ran across this performance by Haunani in which she graces us not only with song, but with a hula. 

“Hula Town” was composed by Don McDiarmid – orchestra leader, composer, and entrepreneur who started what has since become the longest continuously operating record label in the islands, Hula Records. A son and a grandson have since taken over the family business, but neither was a songwriter like their patriarch who also gave us such numbers perfect for comic hula as “Sadie, The South Seas Lady,” “My Wahine and Me,” and “When Hilo Hattie Does The Hilo Hop” (the latter composed for performer Clara Haili Inter who adopted the song’s title first as her stage name before changing it legally to “Hilo Hattie”). The connection here is not necessarily with Hawaii Calls, but with your author personally as I was briefly a Hula Records artist myself – the prize for having won the Aloha Festivals Falsetto Contest in 2005. To make this circle compete, when I performed for the prize the evening of September 24, 2005, it was on the stage of the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel – the very same stage where Haunani held court with her fabulous show in the 1960s. (And a Hawaii Calls regular of the 1960s cheered me on from the front row: Mahi Beamer.) Perhaps this is why I feel more deeply connected to Haunani than the average fan. 

In most of the video clips she filmed for the Hawaii Calls TV show, Haunani is either sitting still or standing still – letting the hula dancers steal the scene. In a scant few, she is either strumming an `ukulele or plucking a slack key guitar. (Since the audio tracks were pre-recorded in a recording studio in Honolulu, I have been unable to ascertain whether Haunani was the slack key guitarist we hear in that clip or if she was simply playing air guitar to whatever guitarist actually recorded the track back at the studio.) But “Hula Town” was the only clip in which Haunani did a hula. As with the similar clip of Lani Custino singing and dancing at the same time to “Waikapu,” Haunani is not really singing and dancing at the same time since her vocal was also laid down in the studio in advance of the location shoot. But even lip synching and hula at the same time deserves extra points for difficulty. 

I hope you enjoyed this last look – for now – at Haunani in action. But there may still be one more tribute to her “in the can.” 

Next time: Wrapping up our look at Haunani with one last listen from the Hawaii Calls radio days… 


Direct download: Haunani_Kahalewai_-_Hula_Town.mp4
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 1:47pm EDT