Bali Ha'i

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"Bali Ha'i"
Song from South Pacific
Published 1949
Writer Oscar Hammerstein II
Composer Richard Rodgers

"Bali Ha'i", also spelled "Bali Hai", is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.

In South Pacific[edit]

In the musical, Bali Ha’i is a volcanic island within sight of the island on which most of the action takes place. The troops think of Bali Ha’i as an exotic paradise, but it is off-limits – except to officers. The matriarch of Bali Ha’i, Bloody Mary, does a lot of business with the troops, and she meets Lt. Joseph Cable right after he arrives. She sings her mysterious song that has a haunting choral accompaniment Bali Ha’i to him because she wants to entice him into visiting her island. She doesn’t tell him that she wants him to meet, and fall in love with, her young daughter, Liat.

In 1949, Perry Como recorded the song as a single. Sergio Franchi included this song on his 1965 RCA Victor tribute to The Songs of Richard Rodgers.[1] Andy Williams released a version on his 1958 album, Andy Williams Sings Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Connections to Aoba/Ambae, Tioman, Kauaʻi, and Treasury Islands[edit]

Bali Ha'i was based on the real island of Ambae (formerly Aoba Island). Ambae is located in Vanuatu (known as New Hebrides at the time the song was written).[citation needed]

Ambae is visible on the horizon from Espiritu Santo island, where James A. Michener was stationed in World War II. Michener is the author of Tales of the South Pacific which is the basis for the musical South Pacific. The author used the tranquil, hazy image of the smoothly sloping island on the horizon to represent a not-so-distant but always unattainable place of innocence and happiness. Hence the longing nature of the song.[citation needed] In his 1992 memoir, The World Is My Home, Michener writes of his time in the Treasury Islands: "On a rude signboard attached to a tree, someone had affixed a cardboard giving the settlement's name, and it was so completely different from ordinary names, so musical to my ear that I borrowed a pencil and in a soggy notebook jotted the name against the day when I might want to use if for some purpose I could not then envisage: Bali-ha'i."

Rodgers and Hammerstein were inspired by the way that James Michener described the island, so they wanted to include a song about it when they began work on the musical. When Richard Rodgers first read Oscar Hammerstein II's lyrics to this song over lunch with Joshua Logan, he "could hear the music to go with the words".[2] He knew that this song should evoke a mystical, languorous, Oriental quality that the story called for. This can be seen in the many chromatic notes in the melody.[citation needed]

The song inspired an extra touch in the scenic designs of Jo Mielziner, who drenched the top of his design for the island with water to evoke mist.[3] This in turn prompted Hammerstein to write an extra lyric for the interlude in the song, about the "low-flying cloud" that covers the island.[citation needed]

In the 1958 film version, Bali Ha'i is portrayed by the real-life island of Tioman in Malaysia. However, the scene[clarification needed] was filmed on the north shore of Kauaʻi and Mount Makana was used as Bali Hai which is still known as Bali Hai today. Tunnel's Beach is often referred to as "Nurses' Beach" and the scene where Bloody Mary sings of Bali Ha'i takes place on Hanalei Bay.

Subsequent uses of name Bali Hai[edit]

Several products have adopted the name.


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ Rodgers, Richard (1975, reissued in 2002). Musical Stages: A Biography. New York: Da Capo Press. 
  3. ^ Fordin, Hugh (1995). Getting to Know Him: A Biography of Oscar Hammerstein II. New York: Da Capo Press. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lusitain. "Bali Hai Cocktail Drink Recipe ¤ 1001 Cocktails". Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  6. ^ p.134, Mendelson, Richard, From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America, 2009, University of California Press
  7. ^ "Free company financial check on BALI HAI CONSULTANCY LIMITED. Free company accounts. Companies House information". 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
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