Bali Ha'i

"Bali Ha'i", also spelled "Bali Hai", is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein) musical "South Pacific".

"Bali Ha'i" is sung by Bloody Mary to Lt. Joseph Cable. It is the name of a fictional island with two volcanoes where Cable meets Bloody Mary's daughter, Liat. It is to be sung mysteriously, as Bloody Mary is trying to entrance Cable into coming to the island, which is off limits to American service personnel. In 1949, Perry Como recorded a single.

Bali Hai is based on the real island of Ambae. It sometimes appears on maps as Aoba, but that name is considered archaic. It is located in Vanuatu (known by its pre-Independence name of the New Hebrides at time the song was written). Ambae is visible on the horizon from Espiritu Santo island, where James A. Michener was stationed in World War Two. Michener is the author of "Tales of the South Pacific" which the musical "South Pacific" is based on. The author used the tranquil, hazy image of the smoothly sloping island on the horizon to represent a not-so-distant but always unattainable place of innocence and happiness. Hence the longing nature of the song.

Rodgers and Hammerstein were inspired by the way that James Michener described the island that they wanted to include a song about it when they began work on the musical. When Richard Rodgers first read Oscar Hammerstein II's lyrics to this song over lunch with Joshua Logan, he "could hear the music to go with the words" cite book
last=Rodgers
first=Richard
title=Musical Stages: A Biography
location=New York
publisher=Da Capo Press
year=1975, reissued in 2002
] . He knew that this song should evoke a mystical, languorous, Oriental quality that the story called for. This can be seen in the many chromatic notes in the melody. As such, he scribbled the melody on the reverse side of the page and played the song on the piano. The song also inspired an extra touch in the scenic designs of Jo Mielziner, who drenched the top of his design for the island with water to evoke mist. cite book
last=Fordin
first=Hugh
title=Getting to Know Him: A Biography of Oscar Hammerstein II
location=New York
publisher=Da Capo Press
year=1995
] As such this inspired Hammerstein to write an extra lyric for the interlude in the song, about the "low-flying cloud" that covers the island.

In the 1958 film, Bali Ha'i is portrayed by the real-life island of Tioman. The film, however, was shot on-location the north shore of Kauaokinai. Kauaokinai's beaches were also the locations for several other well-known songs in the film. Lumahai Beach, was where Nellie sings "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy". Tunnel's Beach is often referred to as "Nurse's Beach" and the scene where Bloody Mary sings of Bali Ha'i takes place on Hanalei Bay.

Bali Hai is also a brand of clove cigarettes or kretek produced by Djarum.

References


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