Our pick of Hawaii Christmas music albums that should be on your playlist.
It’s the season ! The season, which is when a bite in the air and the sudden manifestation of twinkling lights prompts you to revisit the best of your Christmas music collection. You dive into the collection. Maybe the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Perry Como, Burl Ives, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley, and in this writer’s case, Bruce Springsteen, are the tunes on your holiday playlist.
But do you have any Hawaiian Christmas music?
We thought no. Leave the Hawaii-made Christmas albums here and on the following pages sledding in your soundtrack season. You can find them all on Amazon.com and Apple iTunes.
Here, in no particular order, are HAWAII Magazine’s selection of the 6 essential Christmas music albums in Hawaii.
Mountain Apple Co., 2006
Robert and Roland Cazimero’s love of Christmas is well known in the Islands. Their annual Cazimero Christmas concerts are a popular tradition of the holiday season. They’ve composed four Christmas albums since 1984. So why is this mix of modern and traditional melodies the best of the group? The exceptional arrangement skills of Robert and Roland have only come to fruition over time and their harmonies become more and more sublime. Infused with imaginative twists that are Caz’s calling card, Caz Christmas rings fresh every holiday season.
Christmas Day in Hawaii Nei
Son of Makaha
Tropical music, 1999
Take the chicken skin harmonies of Moon Kaukahi from Makaha Sons and John and Jerome Koko. Add the trio’s signature clean acoustic arrangements: six- and twelve-string guitar and double bass. Then mix it up with a playlist combining classic holiday songs (“Winter Wonderland”, “Silent Night”) and a handful of originals (Moon Kaukahi’s charming title song). What is left to do after shopping for gifts is complete? Sit in your favorite chair, press play, close your eyes and Christmas in Hawaii is suddenly wherever you are in the world.
A Hawaiian Christmas
Tiki Man Records, 2007
Amy Hanaialii can sing just about anything. But she’s at her best when she wraps her versatile voice around music in the Hawaiian language. Amy’s Christmas debut album, featuring traditional holiday tunes from her childhood in Maui, is almost entirely in Hawaiian, where her true pleasures lie. “Betelehema Iki E” (“O Little Town of Bethlehem”), “Hamau E Na Kanaka” (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”) and “Po Hemolele” (“O Holy Night”), among others, sound brand new. guided by the exquisite and soothing voice of Amy nahÃ©nahÃ© arrangements (soft, melodious).
Punahele Productions, 2006
Maluhia is the Hawaiian word for “peaceful”. This is precisely the easy feeling that famous Maui singer, musician and kumu hula Reichel delivers on his Christmas debut album. Maluhia is an often thoughtful collection of holiday tunes, sung in English and Hawaiian. Reichel wraps his warm and luxurious voice around Hawaiian hymns [an a capella version of âNu Oli (Glad Tidings)â], traditional (“O Holy Night”), contemporary (“Merry Christmas, Darling) and original songs (Ke Au Maluhia by songwriter Puakea Nogelmeier). The perfect soundtrack for a quiet Christmas Eve.
Ki Hoalu Christmas
Dancing Cat Records, 1996
You’ll find a small handful of multi-artist Christmas albums featuring the Grammy-winning art of Hawaiian slack key guitar (ki hoalu), the most good enough. This is the best of the bunch, compiled by pianist / slack key guitar fan George Winston for his label Dancing Cat Records. Among the musicians on the song list are Ledward Kaapana, George Kahumoku Jr., Keola Beamer, Bla Pahinui and the late Barney Isaacs, all in great shape. The cover notes, explaining for example the origins of “Mele Kalikimaka” (performed here by Cyril Pahinui), are almost as impeccable as the music.
Mountain Apple Co., 1999
The track that stands out here is the Maui singer / musician’s breathtaking take on âO Holy Night,â his crystal-clear baritone and falsetto hovering front and center. This Christmas is a Hawaii radio staple. The rest of the leads on Willie Kalikimaka, however, are hardly disposable. Willie brings the same emotional vocal punch to “What Child Is This / Greensleeves” and “Silent Night”, and has fun with a wacky ukulele with “Mele Kalikimaka”. Exchanging acoustic and steel guitar hits with Willie Nelson, another Maui resident, on “Away in a Manger?” “Priceless.