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Music of Hawaii

Photo by Brett Uprichard


Enjoying Island Music in the Islands – And Back Home!


Little Hawaii has a big voice when it comes to music. From classic Hawaiian songs to ukulele and slack key guitar, the music of Hawaii has enchanted the world for more than a century. It’s now in high demand not only in Hawaii, but also outside Hawaii. Island musicians are performing to huge crowds on the Mainland. Local boy Israel Kamakawiwoole’s single “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” has sold more than 3 million copies across the US, plus topped the charts in Europe. In 2005, the Grammys created an awards category just for Hawaiian music. And, it seems everyone these days is playing the ukulele; in fact, the Guinness title for the largest ukulele ensemble is currently held in Sweden—not Hawaii!

Yes, Hawaii’s brimming with incredible music—and at PERFECT DAYS HAWAII, we’re ready to help you get into the rhythm. Read on for more about Island music, where to enjoy it while you’re here, and how to start your own fabulous Island-music collection back home. And, don’t miss our Perfect Partners listing at the end of the story.


Music Track used with permission: “Kawika” – Peter Moon, Robert and Roland Cazimero (Sunday Manoa) – courtesy of Hula Records –http://HulaRecords.com
• Some Images Provided byhttp://www.PhotoResourceHawaii.com



Island music encompasses many different genres of music. Some date back to the traditions of ancient Hawaii, such as chanting, which is still performed today mostly as accompaniment to traditional hula. Some are new on the scene, such as the mellow “Jawaiian” (Hawaii-style reggae), which has exploded in popularity among younger generations. Between the two, we find what you might call “classic” Hawaiian music: melodic songs from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as ukulele, falsetto singing and slack key acoustic guitar.

How is it that these diverse styles and sounds can all be called “Island music”? It’s not the “Made in Hawaii” sticker. Rather, it’s that each is in some way a unique creation of the Islands. Think of the guitar, for example. It may not be indigenous to Hawaii, but the distinctive slack key style of playing is, and many people consider it part of the history of music of Hawaii.

Island songs, too, blend old Hawaii traditions with Western influences, creating an original repertoire that is easily recognizable as Hawaiian music. Whether the songs were written yesterday or 150 years ago, in English or Hawaiian, most feature life in Hawaii or even Hawaii itself as a central theme. Someone’s always singing about the virtues of local boys, how they miss the landscape of Waialua, or the fragrance of a tuberose lei (and flirty metaphors abound!).

Ukulele - Music of Hawaii


If you’re interested in learning more about the music scene in Hawaii, stay tuned to PERFECT DAYS HAWAII. We’ll be adding more stories about Island music to our MUSIC IN HAWAII segment, plus covering Hawaii’s world-class jazz, classical, rock and other types of music.



Enjoying Live Island Music
Buying Island Music


Hula Records
Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Mountain Apple Co.
Hawaii Theatre
Hilo Palace Theater
Neil S. Blaisdell Center


3 Responses to “Music of Hawaii”

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  2. Flip McDiarmid

    Fantastic piece featuring the photos and videos of the Islands and the music of the Sunday Manoa, well done.

    • Winona

      Thank you Flip. You provided the music and our video person really did a great job bringing the music and the slides together. Hope you pass it on.
      Aloha, Winona


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