Traditional hula music paints the air with powerful voices and beautiful island sounds that kindle the spirit of Hawaii. Take a brief tour of some of the classic instruments heard in Hawaii’s Merrie Monarch Festival, an annual celebration that offers family activities for Hawaii visitors and residents alike.
Important hula instruments:
Percussive instrument made from two joined gourds. The ipu is one of the simplest instruments to craft, but it remains an important rhythm-keeper in Hawaiian music, especially chanting. (Variation: ipu hele ole, a single gourd with a cut above the neck.)
Hardwood sticks used to hold rhythm.
Popular instrument made from bamboo, musicians strike these split sticks together to create a rustling noise.
Iconic Hawaiian rattles made from gourd and adorned with layers of feathers. Filled with canna, or alii poe, seeds.
Smooth stones, oval-shaped and usually made from lava rock. Used in pairs to make a clicking sound, and are sometimes known as Hawaiian castanets.
Important Hawaiian words relating to hula & the Merrie Monarch Festival:
Traditional hula, excludes “modern” instrumentation and dance styles. Performers wear traditional costumes and are backed by chants and songs of old Hawaii, usually predating the 1890s.
Contemporary dance that gives performers the opportunity to creatively expand upon the art of hula.
Literally, “hula teacher.”
“Student.” In this case, a person who learns hula from their kumu hula.
A hula school. During the Merrie Monarch, group of dancers compete while representing their halau hula.
The Merrie Monarch Festival runs from April 24-30, 2011. Free activities throughout the week offer crafts, arts exhibits and performances. Tickets are available for the hula competitions held from April 28-30.