Sounds of Hula

Men's feet dancing Hawaiian hula

Hula songs are as important as the dance itself.

Interwoven in this traditional mele inoa (name chant) are Hawaiian poetic expressions honoring King David Kalakaua. In praise of Kalakaua, we present selected verses from this chant, entitled “Kawika“.


Hula Song

‘Ae, Eia no Kawika.
Eia no Kawika ei hei
Ka heke a’o na pua ei hei,
Ha’ina ‘ia mai ka puana ei hei
Ka lani Kawika he inoa la
Ea la, ea la, ea, a-i-e-a.
He inoa no ka lani Kawika Kalakaua.

Translation

Yes, here is David.
Here is David
The greatest of flowers,
Tell the refrain
In the name of David the royal one,
Tra-la-la-la.
In the name of David Kalakaua the royal one.


Instruments

Hawaii instruments for the hula

Hawaii instruments for the hula

Rattling with the motions of the hula, the ‘uli’uli (gourd rattle) creates a sound much like a baby’s rattle. This instrument is fabricated by attaching a handle to a coconut shell or gourd that is partially filled with small seeds or pebbles. Usually on top of the handle is fastened a circular disk of tapa with decorative feathers that flutter in the wind when shaken with the hand.

Tapping the ipu heke (gourd drum) with the palm and fingers of the hand, the hula dancer creates a rhythmic beat that accompanies the dance. This instrument is an assemblage of two gourds attached one on top of the other, forming a single hollow chamber.

Pounding a melodic beat for the hula, the ho’opa’a (chanter and drummer) uses both the pahu hula (hula drum) and puniu (coconut knee drum) to produce alternating tones for the chant. The pahu hula is constructed from a partially hollowed-out tree trunk with a shark skin stretched over the top while the puniu was made from a sectioned coconut shell covered with a fish skin.

E. Kalani Flores has a background as a teacher and lecturer, researcher and consultant, artist and business owner, and has an in-depth knowledge of Hawaiian culture and historical affairs.

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