A better White House luau soundtrack: 6 great Hawaiian luau albums.


The luau version of the annual White House Congressional picnic was totally on tonight.

We paid careful attention this afternoon as White House pool reporters on the South Lawn early in the evening gabbed and tweeted excitedly about the picnic’s Hawaii accoutrements—both kitschy and true to luau form:

• The purple orchid lei worn by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and even Vice President Joe Biden.

•  The mixed luau/backyard barbecue menu of lomi salmon, BBQ baby back ribs, tilapia tempura rolls, wasabi potato salad, crispy chicken hoagies, shrimp and clams, and grilled lamb chops crafted by Hawaii chef Alan Wong. (Yes, there was kalua pig, but not from a South Lawn imu. The National Trust for Historic Preservation would’ve had a cow if anyone took a shovel or backhoe to the lawn.)

• Sasha and Michelle Obama’s colorful aloha wear. Torches on the lawn, paper lanterns and paper flower lei.

• Hula and live music from Hawaii’s own Tihati Productions, complete with Pres. Obama-requested Samoan fire-knife dancers. Hula lessons were also being given.

Good stuff all.

Then we heard about the evening’s piped-in tunes: A DJ spinning “Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and Hawaiian music.” Our minds raced.

White_House_luau_Obama_great_Hawaiian_albumsWith the decidedly un-Hawaiian Beach Boys, we can only pray the DJ didn’t throw on “Kokomo.” Elvis? We get a kitschy kick every time we hear Presley’s “Rock-A-Hula Baby” or “Blue Hawaii,” but the King’s oeuvre isn’t really luau music. And we can only guess at what kind of Hawaiian music playlist even an expert all-purpose D.C. DJ would come up with.

So, yes, we realize our advice here is arriving a bit too late for the Obama’s luau. But we thought you might be able to use the below list of 6 Great Hawaiian Luau Albums (compiled by HAWAII Magazine editor John Heckathorn) at your summer Hawaiian-style luau.

You know, before you reach for the Beach Boys and Elvis.

• Makaha Sons – Makaha Bash 3
Recorded live at the Waikiki Shell, this 1991 album features Israel Kamakawiwoole, still with his original group. It’s Iz at his finest and funniest. We defy you to listen to this and not be in a great mood.

• Genoa Keawe – Party Hulas
This is the classic Hawaii luau album, guaranteed to make all the aunties get up and dance. It’s generally thought to be Genoa Keawe’s finest work.

• Brothers Cazimero – The Best of the Brothers Cazimero, Vol. 1
Almost any of the two dozen Cazimero albums wrap us in warm Island breezes, but this is still our favorite, with the original rendition of “Home In The Islands.”

• Don Ho – The Don Ho Show!
Hawaii’s master of good times will add to yours. This is the most uptempo—and generally up—of all his albums.

• Martin Denny – Exotica
Long-time Hawaii resident Martin Denny came up with this exotic sound while playing the lounge at the then Kaiser Hawaiian Village. It still says luau after all these years.

• Barefoot Natives – Barefoot Natives
This Hawaii supergroup includes Eric Gilliom, brother of Amy Hanaialii Gilliom, and the incomparable Willie K. These Maui musicians whip up a good time like nobody else working today.

Categories: Oʻahu