Es Gibt Kein Bier auf Hawaii? Update on the Oktoberfest song project

29 10 2009

Mehana_product_of_hawaiiThe month of October is just about over and done, and with it, the German Oktoberfest drinking song, Es Gibt Kein Bier auf Hawaii, “There is no beer in Hawaii.”

We don’t expect to be hearing this musical travesty again until February’s Karneval, the German-speaking world’s Mardi Gras celebration, when once again German speakers will prove they are more than a century out of date when it comes to Hawai’i beer. ( The original Primo was brewed in 1898.)

Earlier this month, we put out a call for participation for an effort to re-write the song.

Keola Donaghy has graciously taken up the challenge to write to defend Hawaii’s honor with a chant. We are honored by the participation of a distinguished scholar. You can follow him on Twitter @KeolaDonaghy.

Donaghy is an Assistant Professor of Hawaiian Studies at Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

He is very active in the Hawaiian music community. Professor Donaghy is a voting member and a member of the Board of Governors for the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (“Na Hoku Hanohano Awards”. He is also a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (“Grammy Awards”). He is webmaster of, a Hawaiian music news site.

Professor Donaghy has about 50 mele (Hawaiian language compositions) to his credit. About 20 of them have been recorded by artists such as Keali‘i Reichel, Kenneth Makuakāne, Kainani Kahaunaele, and the De Lima ‘Ohana.

Here are the lyrics he has drafted on his blog, CultureHacks:

He Guiness ko ka ‘Ailiki [The Irish have Guiness]
No Holani ka Heineken [And Heineken is from Holland]
He pua Tahiti ka Hinano [Hinano is a Tahitian flower]
He aha ko Hawai’i nei? [What does Hawai’i have to offer?]

He mau pia no ko Hawai‘i [Hawai‘i indeed has beers]
He mau pia hu’ihu’i a ‘ono! [There are cold and delicious beers!]
He aha ko Kelemania? [What does Germany have?]
Ko’eko’e ka ‘aina, ko’eko’e ka pia [The land is cold and the beer is tasteless]

Verse 2
E ko Hawai‘i nui akea [To all across great Hawai‘i]
Malo‘o i ka mehana la [Parched in the heat of the day]
E kena i ka wai hu’ihu’i
[Quench your thirst in the cool]
‘amepela no Hawai‘i nei. [amber waters, from Hawai‘i]

In response to a question about the rather pointed lyrics, Professor Donaghy explained the direction he’s taking from a cultural standpoint:

“In many Polynesian cultures, if not all, there is a tradition of using song to express love for and pride in your land. In some, there is a good-natured (usually) teasing of other places as well. If your home is disrespected in someone else’s song, you reply in kind, you don’t say “come and visit and we’ll show you how beautiful our home is”. It’s a war of words, sometimes done tongue in cheek but still with pride. I’ve tried to capture some of that. It’s still a work in progress, so nobody try to record it yet.”

We think this is very cool!

The music that Professor Donaghy has in mind is very similar to the melody and chord changes of Es Gibt Kein Bier Auf Hawaii. It’s in 3/4 time as well. “It’s almost a Hawaiian parody of Es Gibt Kein Bier Auf Hawaii,” he says.

A similar tune and time signature will make it easier for German speakers to get the message.

Before we start looking for artists to record the song, I’d like to propose two steps:

  • Public comments on the lyrics for Professor Donaghy’s consideration…say by the end of November?
  • Translation of the final lyrics into German (so we end up with verses in Hawaiian, English and German)

Aloha, Nina Lytton

01-08 187_2

Mahalo, Keola Donaghy




One response

23 08 2011
Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

Hi _ I am the leader of the Royal Elephant Brass Band, which is at this time, Honolulu’s only Oktoberfest Band. (we just started this year, but i am using arrangements I owned for many years on the mainland…) I laughed to find this blog entry. It turns out, I have felt duty bound to play this tune ( the original lyrics) and have initiated a search for a brass band arrangement….

Joe Niemczura

call me (808) 352 1714

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