The Fascinating History of Hawaiian Music: From Ancient Times to the Present

Hawaiian Music has a long history from its ancient roots to its modern-day influences. Learn about its evolution from traditional folk songs to modern rock & hip hop.

The Fascinating History of Hawaiian Music: From Ancient Times to the Present

Hawaiian music has a long and captivating history, from its ancient beginnings to its modern-day influences. With the arrival of outsiders, Hawaiian musicians adapted new sounds to their own style. Of the Christian hymns, or hymeni, Hawaiians incorporated Western chords into their songs. The first major advancement came with the influx of immigrants, who brought their music with them on steamboats.

European missionaries introduced Christian hymns at the end of the 18th century, but it was the Portuguese and Spanish who brought the guitars. Mexican cowboys, or paniolos, taught Hawaiians how to catch cattle and how to play. It was the Portuguese who brought the cavaquinho, mini-guitars that served as the precursors of the ukulele. Traditional Hawaiian music mainly consisted of singing and dancing (hula) accompanied by percussion instruments. As in other parts of the world, Hawaiians used music for religious ceremonies, celebrations, and entertainment.

In the 1880s and 90s, King David Kalakaua promoted Hawaiian culture and also encouraged the addition of new instruments, such as the ukulele and steel guitar. Kalakaua's successor, her sister Lili'uokalani, composed music herself and wrote several songs, such as Aloha 'Oe, that are still popular today. During this period, Hawaiian music evolved into a new distinctive style, using those derived from European instruments; in addition to extended string instruments, bands such as the Royal Hawaiian Band performed Hawaiian songs, as well as popular marches and ragtimes. Hawaiian popular music is largely based on American popular music, but it has distinctive retention from traditional Hawaiian music. Hawaiian music includes a variety of traditional and popular styles, ranging from native Hawaiian folk music to modern rock and hip hop.

Like the folk music of other early civilizations, ancient Hawaiian music was a form of oral history and storytelling. A musical scale that is unique to Hawaiian music imbues it with its unique touch, which is why it is aptly called the Hawaiian scale.Musician Sol Ho'opii emerged during this era, playing both Hawaiian music and jazz, western swing and country, and developing the pedal steel guitar; his recordings helped to establish the Nashville sound of popular country music. Hawaii has its own regional music industry, with several distinctive styles of recorded popular music. This type of Hawaiian music, influenced by popular music and with lyrics that are a combination of English and Hawaiian (or totally English), is called hapa haole music.

A number of Hawaiian musicians led a musical revival during the Hawaiian Cultural Revival of the 1970s to revive music and cultural traditions, such as Slack Key, Leo Kiʻekiʻe, traditional hula, the Hawaiian language, and other suppressed cultural practices. Tahitian and Samoan music influenced Hawaiian music during this period, especially its faster and more intricate rhythms. Hawaiian folk music includes several varieties of song (mele) and music intended for highly ritualized dance (hula). A Broadway show called Bird of Paradise introduced Hawaiian music to many Americans in 1912 and the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco followed in 1915; a year later, Hawaiian music sold more recordings than any other style in the country. Elizabeth Tatar divided the history of Hawaiian music into seven periods, beginning with the initial arrival of Europeans and their musical cultures. In the 1920s and 1930s, Hawaiian music became an integral part of local tourism, and most hotels and attractions incorporated music in one form or another.

This trend was reversed in the last period of Hawaiian music history - the modern period that began with the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970s - which continued with the founding of a variety of modern musical scenes in fields such as indie rock, Hawaiian hip hop, and Jawaian. Hawaii's musical contributions to U. S. music are disproportionate to its small size; with their children The Tau Moe family did a lot to spread the sound of Hawaiian folk music and hapa haole music around the world.