So, to introduce you to some of the Hawaii I grew up in, below are my top five Hawaiian recordings . I say "recordings" instead of songs, because one is a comedy routine by the brilliant Rap Reiplinger. I'm curious as to whether the local humor translates to those who don't know the islands very well. But let me tell you, when we were kids, he was our comedy idol, and to kama'ainas (locals) he's both legendary and hilarious.
1. "Ulili E" - Gabby Pahinui
There's no video of the late great Gabby Pahinui currently available doing this classic Hawaiian song. But just listen to what the man can do with a ukelele. It's in Hawaiian, but all you need to know is that it's about a bird, named in the title. Gabby's fingers on the strings and his voice do all the translating you need.
2. "Ku'u Home O Kahalu'u - Olomana
This is probably my favorite local song of all time. When I listen to it, I see the windward side of Oahu (where the town of Kahalu'u is), and I remember all the times I spent with my friends on the beach in Kailua, hiking Mount Olomana, driving the Old Dump Road at high speeds way past somebody's curfew, grabbing a shave ice, or bodysurfing at my favorite place on Earth - Bellows Beach. But this song perfectly captures the bittersweetness of memory, even if you've never been to Hawaii.
3. "Honolulu City Lights" - Keolo & Kapono Beamer
A prom theme many years running, a song we sung in choir, sappy and strong and sweet. I love Honolulu.
4. "Far Too Wide For Me" - The Peter Moon Band
I would listen to this when I was horribly homesick for the islands, far across one sea or another. The "Cane Fire" album by The Peter Moon Band is one of my all time favorites.
5. "Room Service" - Rap Reiplinger
Just a classic. If you understand this, you understand the islands.