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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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Looking for a list of tropical themed swing and big band music from the 30s-50s. Not Exotica, I've got plenty of that

Pappa Loves Mambo - Perry Como 1954
Banana Boat Song (Day-O) - Harry Bellafante 1956
Rum and Coca Cola - Andrews Sisters 1945
Copa Cabana - Barry Manilow 1978 (yes, out of the time period but I think it was written as a retro song)
Iko Iko - Dixie Cups 1967 (technically New Orleans, not "tropical")
Maybe some songs from the South Pacific musical? (I've never listened to it)

Have you heard Kahulanui? I saw them at Oasis this year and got a couple CDs - I think they fit what you're after. I like them a lot.

If you look them up on Amazon, you can listen to song samples.


I have a list of Polynesian-inspired songs by popular big band artists, if that's what you're looking for. They definitely have more of a pre-WWII Hawaii feel than a traditional swing/big band feel, but maybe they fit?

The list includes a number of Bing Crosby recordings - there is a whole album he recorded of such songs.

Sammy Kaye recorded a version of Harbor Lights with lap steel guitar that has a great South Seas feel.

Here's a few others on my list:
My Isle of Golden Dreams, by The Andrews Sisters
Pagan Love Song, by Glenn Miller
Good Night, Aloha, by The Andrews Sisters and Alfred Apaka
Diamond Head Sword Dance, by Sammy Kaye
Nalani, by The Andrews Sisters and Alfred Apaka
Down Among the Sheltering Palms, by Sammy Kaye
Red Sails In The Sunset, by Guy Lombardo
Makalapua, by Jerry Byrd
Hawaiian War Chant (Ta-Hu-Wa-Hu-Wai), by The Ames Brothers

Mike, I've posted this here before, but bears repeating: The Great 78 Project has quite a huge selection of vintage Hawaiian songs (mostly hapa haole stuff) but also calypso, mambo, etc. There's a lot of stuff I consider period-appropriate for a tiki bar, and I like to go back every few months to see what new music they've added.

Note that these are recovered off vintage shellac records, so the sound quality isn't up to modern standards (even with top notch noise reduction software). I just say it lends to the period feel and go with it.

Thanks so much for your input guys!

HotelCharlieEcho wins the prize for deciphering what I was looking for without me really being able to express it :lol:
I was able to find most of your suggestions including a handful of Bing Crosby songs

Bamalamalu, Kahulanui is great. Sounds like they put on a good show

Prickli Pear, what a excellent resouce of good old songs!

Thanks again

Hamo posted on Wed, Oct 24, 2018 10:49 PM

Rudy Valee’s version of Hawaiian War Chant is pretty “big band.” Bob Crosby did Pagan Love Song. The Mills Brothers’ My Little Grass Shack is great. Guy Lombardo did a whole album, Hawaiian Songs for Dancing; George Liberace and His Orchestra’s album Hawaiian Paradise might fit your criteria, and Lawrence Welk put out the album, Song of the Islands (although it’s pretty authentic, rather than champagne music). And Bert Kaempfert’s A Swingin’ Safari album is more African but incredibly plush.

Glad I could be useful!

Here is my list of the Bing Crosby songs I referenced, although please note that the album track listings are not exhaustive as there is crossover between the albums listed (i.e., I listed each song only once even if it appears on multiple albums):

Begin the Beguine

From the Album "My Favorite Hawaiian Songs"
Hawaiian Paradise
Palace in Paradise
Dancing Under The Stars
Song Of The Islands

From the Album "Bing Crosby's Hawaii"
My Isle of Golden Dreams
Sweet Leilani
Blue Hawaii
Paradise Isle
To You Sweetheart, Aloha
Aloha Oe
When You Dream About Hawaii
In A Little Hula Heaven
A Song Of Old Hawaii
Sweet Hawaiian Chimes
Remember Hawaii
South Sea Island Magic
Now Is The Hour
Red Sails in the Sunset
Moon of Manakoora
Some Enchanted Evening
Trade Winds
Sail Along, Silvery Moon
Sing Me A Song of the Islands
Bali Hai
Harbor Lights
Beyond the Reef

From the album "Return to Paradise Islands"
Return to Paradise
The Hukilau Song
The Old Plantation (Kuu Home)
Lovely Hula Hands
Love and Aloha
Keep Your Eyes on the Hands
Adventures in Paradise
Frangipani Blossom
Farewell My Tane
Beautiful Kahana
Home in Hawaii (King's Serenade)
My Little Grass Shack
The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai
Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula
Ukulele Lady
King's Serenade

I also think the following songs, while not Hawaii/Polynesia-influenced, have a sort of big band/tiki vibe that is hard to put my finger on:

Fever by Peggy Lee
Teach Me Tiger by April Stevens
Summer Samba by Billy May
Nature Boy by Nat King Cole

Wow great suggestions, thanks! I will see what I can find of those.
I think some of Don Ho's music will fit what I'm looking for also.

Big Kahuna used to great live shows back in the Swing Revival era:


Teach Me Tiger!!! I need a cold shower! :o LOL
I will check out Big Kahuna, thanks

Since nobody has answered the South Pacific soundtrack question yet, I'll give my two cents on that topic too.

If you're looking for songs to add to a high-brow, literate tiki bar playlist, I think the whole soundtrack fits just fine. I know the musical isn't considered strictly tiki by purists (are there any tikis used in the movie? can't remember), but in my mind it's one of the three legs of the Hollywood stool inspiring the mid-century Polynesia frenzy that in turn pushed tiki culture to its golden era, the other two being From Here to Eternity (1953) and Blue Hawaii (1961). Tiki nerds will enjoy the reference.

But if you're looking for something to blend in with a more diverse playlist of Bing Crosby, Don Ho, etc., then in my opinion the only song from the soundtrack that really works is Bali Hai (a whole thread on the song here: http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=25123&forum=11&hilite=south pacific). That said, you don't want Bloody Mary's version from the actual soundtrack - you want one of the solid early covers that were done by Bing, Peggy Lee or Sinatra. For my money I would take Peggy Lee's, but I have always been a sucker for her music.

TL,DR: Your South Pacific soundtrack idea is a good one, and Bali Hai is the best of the bunch.

Hamo posted on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 10:07 PM

I'm with HotelCharlieEcho. Bali Hai is the only South Pacific track worth including here. I haven't heard Peggy Lee's version (but now I want to). The Sinatra version is good, and I like Andy Williams' haunting take on it, too.

I realize there's a lot of Bing Crosby suggestions already (no such thing as too much Bing, in my opinion), but I don't see one of my favorites: Along the Way to Waikiki.

A few songs featured in the Betty Grable movie Song of the Islands might fit; my favorite is Down on Ami Ami Oni Oni Isle.

And here are a few by Louis Armstrong: On a Coconut Island; On a Little Bamboo Bridge; To You, Sweetheart, Aloha; and Hawaiian Hospitality. (The latter by Dorothy Lamour is another good option).

[ Edited by: Hamo 2018-10-26 22:08 ]

Thank you for all your help. I had listened to the OST version of Bali Hai and didn't care for it. You were right, I found and Andy Williams version and it's a beautiful song.

Thank you all for your input, I have plenty of new and old Exotica but wanted a different vibe occasionally. Here's what I was able to find;
1.Andy Williams - A Song Of Old Hawaii (2:34)
2.Bing Crosby - Aloha Oe (3:17)
3.Andy Williams - Bali H'ai (2:59)
4.Harry Belafonte - Banana Boat (Day O) (3:04)
5.Bing Crosby - Blue Hawaii (2:05)
6.Barry Manilow - Copa Cabana (5:44)
7.Bing Crosby - Dancing Under The Stars (2:37)
8.Peggy Lee - Fever (3:21)
9.Sammy Kaye - Harbor Lights (3:23)
10.Bing Crosby - Hawaiian Paradise (2:44)
11.Ames Brothers - Hawaiian War Chart (2:29)
12.Elvis Presley - Hawaiian Wedding Song (2:51)
13.Dixie Cups - Iko Iko (2:01)
14.Elvis Presley - Ku-U-I-Po (2:22)
15.Mills Brothers - Little Grass SHack (2:35)
16.Bing Crosby & Andrews Sister - Mele Kalikimaka (2:56)
17.Marty Robbins - My Isle of Golden Dreams (2:45)
18.Andrews Sisters - Pagan Love Song (2:30)
19.Bing Crosby - Palace in Paradise (3:08)
20.Perry Como - Papa Loves Mambo (2:40)
21.Burl Ives - Pearly Shells (2:25)
22.Perry Como - Red Sails in the Sunset (3:09)
23.Andrews Sisters - Rum & Coca Cola (3:11)
24.Bing Crosby - Song of the Islands (3:15)
25.Bing Crosby - South Sea Island Magic (3:01)
26.Don Ho - Tiny Bubbles (2:49)
27.Andy Williams - To You Sweetheart, Aloha (2:50)

Hamo, those are some great suggestions too, I will check them out. Listened ti the Armstrong songs, they're great

Hawaiian War Chant was one of the most popular songs of the time period. I love Big Band in general and have about half a dozen versions of it... One of my favourite is the hotter-than-hot version by Tommy Dorsey from the film Ship Ahoy (incidentally, if you're looking for another fun film from that period, Honolulu is one of my favourites). Dorsey also has a cooler version out there.

Thanks for posting your list... it gives me something to pilfer too! :)


Some of these are a stretch, but worth a listen...

  • Bell Sisters are great, especially Bermuda and The Dance Of Love
  • Mel Torme - Again
  • Xavier Cugat with Dinah Shore - Yours
  • Nelson Riddle - Love Tide (and other songs, for a lush orchestral sound)
  • Vaughn Monroe - They Were Doing the Mambo
  • Artie Shaw - Frenesi (or other versions if clarinet breaks the mood)
  • Kay Kyser with Harry Babbitt & Trudy Irwin - On a Slow Boat to China
  • Various versions of Sukiyaki (Kyu Sakamoto, Kong Ling are good)
  • Spike Jones - Hawaiian War Chant


Hamo posted on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 7:09 PM

Not sure if it quite fits your playlist's vibe, Mike, but another Andy Williams song I love is House of Bamboo, from Sven's The Sound of Tiki album.

Digitiki did a whole Quiet Village Podcast episode once featuring only versions of the titular song; an entire playlist of different Hawaiian War Chant covers might be interesting, too.

Hamo posted on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 8:34 PM

Another good Andy Williams cover from South Pacific is Some Enchanted Evening. And another fun thing by Bing (but not Polynesian) is Bing & Kathy's African Safari, which recounts a hunting trip with Trader Vic.

I see you've got Pearl Shells by Burl Ives on your list; his On the Beach at Waikiki has some pretty good tracks. Werner Muller's Hawaiian Swing is really good, too.

Now back to Hawaiian War Chant: Ella Fitzgerald's version is great. And like aquarj suggests, Spike Jones' version should really help mix things up....

Hamo posted on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 9:09 PM

Oh! I just found out that Lawrence Welk's "honky tonk pianist" Jo Ann Castle put out an album of covers entitled Hawaiian Ragtime.

"Hawaiian Ragtime"? Hmmm... :lol:
Cool suggestions Hamo, will check them out

[ Edited by: MadDogMike 2018-11-08 08:04 ]

I was watching White Christmas again a couple of days ago and was reminded of another Bing Crosby song that I think fits in this category: Heat Wave. In the movie he sings it as a duet with Danny Kaye, but in looking around it seems most of the commercially available versions feature Bing singing solo. Definitely Caribbean rather than Polynesian, but I think it still works.

Cool, will check that out HCE

Cool, will check that out HCE

Hamo posted on Sat, Jan 5, 2019 11:26 PM

You might also consider "Blue Gardenia" by Nat King Cole. It's less swinging and more of a ballad, which he sings in the film noir and Hollywood club of the same name where Anne Baxter gets drunk on Polynesian Pearl Divers with Raymond Burr.

Hamo posted on Sun, Jun 23, 2019 4:28 PM

Not quite big band, but Dean Martin's "Makin' Love Ukulele Style" is good.

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