A New “Hapa Haole” song from Ukulele Mike Lynch – “Underneath The Leaves Of The Banyan Tree”
Underneath The Leaves Of The Banyan Tree – Words & Music by Ukulele Mike Lynch (Dedicated to “THE SUN CITY STRUMMERS”)
Hapa Haole” songs are songs written referring to Hawaiian culture but with English lyrics. They initially became popular in the 1910s. One of the major figures in the Hapa Haole song movement was A.R. “Sonny” Cunha. He wrote and published such songs as “My Waikiki Mermaid”, “My Honolulu Hula Girl” and “My Honolulu Tomboy” The Henry Kailimai’s hit “On The Beach at Waikiki” was featured at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. Soon after that exposition and the introduction of the ukulele to state side visitors, the New York publishing industry jumped on the bandwagon. . . and in a short time the list of “Hapa Haole” songs exploded to include such iconic tunes as: “Lovely Hula Hands”, “Sophisticated Hula”, ‘Harry Owens “Sweet Leilani” made famous by Bing Crosby and Jack pitman’s “Beyond The Reef” and of course, “Ukulele Lady”.
Typically, most of these songs have a fairly predictable template. They generally describe a visitor to the Islands hoping for a romantic encounter with a ukulele playing hula girl. Sheet music covers typically show a hula girl and a white male tourist in western clothing, often on a beach or under the moonlight.
It was in this tradition that I decided to try my hand at writing a Hapa Haole song.
Last spring while teaching on a Hawaiian ukulele cruise, the ship stopped in Lahaina for a day and I spent a wonderful afternoon roaming around the streets of the old whaling town and I soon discovered that the “center of gravity” of this old town was the over 130 year old Banyan Tree that resides in the middle of the town. It’s branches and leaves spread out over more than half an acre and provide a tropical umbrella from the afternoon sun. Tourists roam all about the courtyard and many just quietly sit on the park benches soaking in the sights, sounds and sweet fragrance of the Maui ambience. That historic Banyan Tree became the centerpiece of my attempt at composing a Hapa Haole tune. Hope you like it. I had fun writing it.
Below is the You Tube video of the song.
I’m simply playing this with a swing shuffle strum and below is a Lyric/Chord sheet for your enjoyment.