Mayor Mufi Hannemann never misses a beat. Whether he’s heading
the hoopla of Honolulu’s 100th anniversary celebration or directing
day-to-day municipal matters, this soft-spoken public figure
remains in tune with the rhythm of Oahu.
A natural leader even as a child, Hannemann’s grades and sports
prowess garnered a scholarship to Harvard University. In fact, he
was the first person of Samoan ancestry to graduate with honors
from the famed Ivy League institution.
Halfway through his four-year term, the mayor notes that the
reward in leading the City and County of Honolulu lies in people
“No one is really a minority here,” he explained. “Anyone can
aspire to reach the highest place, whether it’s in politics,
medicine, law or anything else.”
With a political resume that sings praise to his
accomplishments, Honolulu’s man in charge does a little singing of
his own: Hannemann is a karaoke buff.
For those not in the know, the karaoke craze kicked off in Japan
20 years ago, making its way to Hawaii soon after. Videos display
words and visuals prompting songbirds to sing along, but vets like
the mayor work from memory.
The sixth of seven children, the crooner comes from a musical
family where everyone played an instrument except for him, so his
voice became his vehicle.
“Singing has always been a part of me,” he said. “I loved Elvis
and would stay at his movies until I could leave singing one of his
He finds lyrical expression relaxing, bringing levity and humor
to his life.
“It teaches you to not take yourself so seriously,” he said.
In his limited free time, Hannemann craves karaoke. With his
hectic schedule, however, vocal ventures are somewhat sparse.
“These days, karaoke is spontaneous. I’ll go depending on who’s
with me at the time.”
Naturally, his microphone moments were more frequent prior to
“It was definitely one of my favorite past times when I was
campaigning for mayor,” he says. “At the end of the day, I’d head
to Walter’s in Kalihi to sing a few songs and unwind before heading
The mayor also enjoys the Side Street Inn for the mood and the
“I always start with the Nalo Greens, and I like the fish
selections. Then, of course, I have to enjoy the pork chops, kalbi
or spicy chicken,” he said.
As for his top tunes, Hannemann prefers to belt ballads.
“I’ll sing Engelbert Humperdinck, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Tony
Bennett, Nat King Cole and Bobby Darin,” he said, “always ‘Mac the
Knife’ and ‘Somewhere Beyond The Sea.’”
He’s always quick to share his golden karaoke moments.
“I competed at Hawaii Stars in a government competition that
paired us with other singers,” he said.
Hannemann’s partner suffered an off night, forcing the mayor to
hit a perfect 10 for a vocal victory. Thanks to his competitive
nature and great pipes, Hannemann hit the mark to thrust his team
to the top.
Another favorite tale describes his stint working for Hawaii’s
former governor John Waihee.
“I know he wouldn’t be mad at me for saying that he doesn’t have
the best singing voice,” Hannemann laughed. “He used to pick a hard
song and start it out, then flip the mic for me to finish. That was
always a challenge.”
As for taking the show on the road, Hannemann has tapped into
American favorites in Hanoi, bopped to Beatle picks in China and
vocalized “Edelweiss” and “Wooden Heart” by Elvis in Germany in
“When I sang ‘Wooden Heart’ in German, it really impressed the
crowd. I had memorized the lyrics from his ‘GI Blues’ movie,”
Hannemann now has his own DVD that was produced in conjunction
with Honolulu’s 100th anniversary. An idea sparked by Mona Wood of
Ikaiki Communications, the mayor sings “I Fell In Love With
Honolulu” the perfect pick for a man who loves his home, his job
and his music.
Oahu’s karaoke hot spots:
Banana Patch Lounge Miramar at Waikiki
2345 Kuhio Ave.
930 McCully St.
Club Ohsama, Waikiki Resort Hotel
130 Liliuokalani Ave.
GS Studios, Waikiki Joy Hotel
320 Lewers St.
Karaoke Hut & Lounge
909 Kapahulu Ave.
Karaoke Room 2
1150 S. King St.
Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka St.
Top of the Hill
3579 Waialae Ave.
1020 Auahi St.
2337 N. King St.