Hawaiian War Chant

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"Hawaiian War Chant"
Written 1860s
Writer Prince Leleiohoku
Language Hawaiian
Recorded by Crowel Glee Club, Tommy Dorsey, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Bill Haley & His Comets, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys
Performed by Hilo Hattie, Shinji Maki, Sandi Griffiths and Sally Flynn

"Hawaiian War Chant" was an American popular song whose original melody and lyrics were written in the 1860s by Prince Leleiohoku.[1] The original title of the song was Kāua I Ka Huahuaʻi or "We Two in the Spray." It was not written as a chant, and the Hawaiian lyrics describe a clandestine meeting between two lovers, not a battle. The English title therefore has nothing to do with the song as it was originally written and performed in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian lyrics are unusual because they are often written with the letter "T" appearing where a "K" would be expected by many modern readers. However, the spelling reflects an older pronunciation preserved to a large degree in the more northern islands, such as Niʻihau and Kauaʻi, as well as in other Polynesian languages (hence, e.g., several Polynesian languages' continuing use of tanaka rather than kanaka to mean "man").

Under the original title, the song was recorded around June 1911 by the Crowel Glee Club, and released by Columbia Records.[2]

English lyrics by Ralph Freed were written in 1936 and the melody changed somewhat at that time by Johnny Noble. Tommy Dorsey recorded it on November 29, 1938, and it was released on Victor Records in the United States and Canada.[3] In a 1942 performance, Dorsey's band featured drummer Buddy Rich and trumpeter Ziggy Elman for this song.[4] The song was featured in the 1942 film Ship Ahoy starring Eleanor Powell, Red Skelton and the Tommy Dorsey Band.

A huge success and a crowd favorite in Hawaiian resorts for many years. Singer Hilo Hattie used it extensively in her own shows, singing it at three different speeds with the claim that Leleiohoku wrote it about two palace lovers who met in secret (The identity of the people Leleiohoku may have been writing about—if not himself—is not currently known).

She also credited comedy bandleader Spike Jones for popularizing an uptempo comedic version of the song. Jones' February 1946[5] Victor recording, with Carl Grayson on vocal, reached number eight on the charts, according to Joel Whitburn.

Les Paul and Mary Ford recorded a version of this piece, which is included within the Les Paul Show segment on the Capitol Masters compilation CD: 90th Birthday Edition.

Since 1963, the Hawaiian War Chant has served as the finale in the Enchanted Tiki Room attraction at Disneyland.

In 1957, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded the comedic "Me Rock-a-Hula" which was based upon the "Hawaiian War Chant" melody.

In 1961, The Ventures recorded an instrumental version of the song on their self-titled album, The Ventures.

In the early 1960s, Japanese popular vaudevillian Shinji Maki used this melody with his social satire performance "Yan-na-chatta-bushi".

In 1968 and 1972 on location in Hawaii, Sandi Griffiths (née Jensen) and Sally Flynn sang the song together on The Lawrence Welk Show.

The song was performed by The Muppets in an episode of The Muppet Show.

In the 1994 Disney animated film The Lion King, the character Timon (voiced by Nathan Lane) performs this song with changed lyrics.

The University of Hawaiʻi Rainbow Marching Band plays the Hawaiian War Chant at all Pre Game shows at Aloha Stadium. It is the showcase song for the baton twirler.

The Michigan Marching Band regularly plays this song, usually following the song Temptation, as part of its post-game performances because (as band announcer Carl Grapentine says) "You can't have one without the other." In addition, the major chorus of the song is played by the Michigan Hockey Pep Band when the goalie makes a particularly challenging save.

Since 2003, "Weird Al" Yankovic included a segment from the song into his "Yoda Chant", a chant he performs in the middle of the song "Yoda" (parody of "Lola" by The Kinks) during concerts.

This song is featured in the 2007 major motion picture Surf's Up performed by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.

From 1985 until it closed in 2008, the Adventurers Club of Downtown Disney's Pleasure Island, have played this song. The maid comes out in the library in an orange hula skirt and sings the song.



  1. ^ "William Pitt Leleiohoku". Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 
  2. ^ Rockwell, T. Malcolm (2007). Hawaiian & Hawaiian Guitar Records 1891 - 1960. Kula, Hawaii: Mahina Piha Press. p. 184. 
  3. ^ Rockwell, T. Malcolm (2007). Hawaiian & Hawaiian Guitar Records 1891 - 1960. Kula, Hawaii: Mahina Piha Press. p. 220. 
  4. ^ Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854.  Tape 2, side A.
  5. ^ Rockwell, T. Malcolm (2007). Hawaiian & Hawaiian Guitar Records 1891 - 1960. Kula, Hawaii: Mahina Piha Press. p. 552. 

Further reading[edit]

Young, Jordan R. (2005). Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music. (3rd edition) Albany: BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-012-7.