Before Westerners arrived in the Hawaiian islands, Hawaiian folk music, like much other “pre-contact” music from Polynesia, featured many kinds of chant-songs, known as mele, and much spiritual dance, known as hula. Even after Western settlement, music was so much at the essence of Hawaiian life that the royal family was also one the nation’s most musical families. Hawaiian Queen Lili’uokalani was a prolific composer; in 1878 she wrote her most famous song, the beloved “Aloha ‘Oe.”
Hawaii’s classic folk songs proudly celebrate the love Hawaiians hold for their beautiful island home. Songs like “Wai Hu’ihu’i O Ke Aniani,” which we sing as “Konikoni,” offer lush lyrical images of the islands’ fragrant flowers. A song now known as “Hawaiian War Chant,” written by Prince Leleiohuku, brother of Queen Lili’uokalani, tells the tale of a secret nighttime meeting with a girl he loves in the misty spray of the ocean (we sing it as “In the Ocean Spray”). In her “Pa Mai Ana Ka Makani” Lydia Nawahine Kekuewa lovingly recalls the natural beauty of Hawaii’s Big Island.