As you may have read already, Hawaii, and the rest of the world, lost Don Ho. Not just a famous singer, but the biggest Hawaiian singer ever. Although he was wasn’t a strictly Hawaiian act – ‘Tiny Bubbles’ is more loung-pop than anything else – he was definitely of the Islands. He was the undisputed King of Waikiki.
Without him we have truly reached the end of an era. Waikiki was once home to many headliner acts that had their own room at one of the hotels or a residency at one of the sit-down style nightclubs. Danny Kaleikini, Arthur Lyman, Martin Denny, Hilo Hattie – they’ve all passed on or retired. You can still catch Genoa Keawe at the Marriott (and you really should if you ever come to Hawaii), she doesn’t do it in that old showroom style or environment.
This is part of the declining ability of Waikiki’s marketer’s to come up with something unique. Instead of bringing up new local entertainers or producing Hawaiian-themed shows, they’ve allowed them to die. You can still catch good Hawaiian music – on the beach every night at 6:00PM for example. However, the Hawaiian acts at hotels are usually put in as atmosphere. They play at the bar while people drink or in the restaurants as they eat. But they’re not the focus. And they should be.
Where are the real local marketers today? Don Ho, on purpose or not, was one of the best. And now he’s gone. He truly was one of those few who put Waikiki on the map.
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