Hawaiian History

Hawaiian Music

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The world's source of Hawaiian music since 1995, with thousands of Hawaiian music CD titles, thousands of sound samples, Hawaiian music event calendar, and links to Hawaiian musicians' websites
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ancient art of surfing

Surfing: A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport
By Ben Finney, James D. Houston

Surfing traces the history of the sport from its beginnings in ancient Hawaii through the mid-1960s. This revised edition of the 1966 classic features extensive illustrations, a new introduction, and articles by Mark Twain and Jack London recounting their observations on surfing.
Surfing: A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport»

ancient hawaiian warriors

Warrior Arts and Weapons of Ancient Hawaii
By Sid Campbell

Until recently, the cultural lore of the ancient warriors of Hawaii was considered lost. This absorbing history documents the complex customs and military traditions of the ancient koa warriors, and the deadly tools they used in battles among the rival chieftains and kings.
Warrior Arts and Weapons of Ancient Hawaii »

Ancient Hawaiian History

Hawaiian history before the time of modern explorers is shrouded in mystery and legend. The first settlers most likely landed on the shores of Hawaii around 600 AD, and migration from elsewhere in the Pacific, mainly Polynesia, continued through 1100 AD. Hawaii is the apex of the Polynesian Triangle, a region of the Pacific Ocean anchored by three island groups: Hawai'i, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and Aotearoa (New Zealand). Anthropologists believe that all Polynesians have descended from a South Pacific proto-culture created by an Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) people that had migrated from Southeast Asia. It is amazing to think that these early Polynesian seafarers navigated through vast oceans with only the stars and currents as their guides!

The people of Hawaii do not have a written history, so little is known about the origins of the culture, except for what has been passed down orally through generations in songs, chants and folklore. A well-known Hawaiian word "Kahuna" actually refers to the wise men whose function in society was to pass on the knowledge of history and traditions. Some Kahunas merely taught ancient crafts like canoe building, and others passed along mystical practices akin to sorcery. These shaman-like men were highly respected and revered until the coming of Christian Missionaries in 1820, who were disdainful of their practices and succeeded in outlawing the tradition. But the kahunas, although diminished in number, maintained an underground practice of ancient ways, and today there are people who still call themselves Kahuna.

The coming of missionaries, explorers and other immigrants has shaped the history of the Hawaiian Islands for hundreds of years. For many years, Hawaiian political life mirrored that of a medieval caste system, and not until the year 1810 was there a single political leader, the King of all Hawaii, Kamehameha. It was during his reign that Captain James Cook arrived on the shores and "discovered" the island chain. He landed on the Island of Kauai on January 20, 1778 and renamed the islands "The Sandwich Islands" after a British Earl who was sponsoring his journey of exploration. Cook is famous for being the first European to set foot in Hawaii, and he is also held responsible for changing the face of Hawaiian history forever. Captain Cook died in 1779, only a year later, in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. During a quarrel between Hawaiians and the European visitors Cook was attacked by the natives and beaten to death on the shore. This spot is marked today by a monument and is visited by many tourists who are also drawn to Kealakekua Bay for its amazing snorkeling and sheltered waters.

The people of Hawaii are a mixture of many heritages from around the world, and the influences of these varied cultures can be seen in the culinary traditions, in music and in dance. Some of the larger groups of immigrants who settled in Hawaii are the Japanese, Portuguese, Koreans, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans and Samoans. Of course many citizens of the United States are attracted to Hawaii, especially since it became a state in 1959. Since the late 1800s The United States has been involved in Hawaiian politics and the decision to become a state rather than remain a territory was widely popular among the people of Hawaii.

Hawaiian Culture - Music and Dance

Traditional Hawaiian folk music is a major part of the state's musical heritage. The Hawaiian people have inhabited the islands for centuries and have retained much of their traditional musical knowledge. Their music is largely religious in nature, and includes chanting and dance music. Hawaiian music has been largely influential to the music of other Polynesian islands.

Historical documentation of Hawaiian music does not extend prior to the late 18th century, when non-Hawaiians arrived on the island. From 1778 onward, Hawaii began introducing numerous styles of European and other music, including the hymns introduced by Protestant missionary choirs, Spanish-speaking Mexican cowboys introduced string instruments such as the guitar and possibly also the technique of falsetto singing, while Portuguese immigrants brought the ukulele-like braguinha.

Presently the music of Hawai'i includes an array of traditional and popular styles, ranging from native Hawaiian folk music to modern rock and hip hop.

The tradition of Hula was originally a religious one, a dance honoring the gods and political leaders known as Chiefs. The patron goddess of hula is called Laka, and legend tells of her bringing hula as a gift to the people of Hawaii. Both men and women dance hula, and their styles are distinct from one another. But the most commonly known image of the hula dance is that of a soft and sensual female hula dancer who sways to the beat of the music and keeps the rhythm with her hips. The hand and arm movements of hula dance are particularly meaningful, like a sign language they tell stories and share lessons and histories with the audience. The lesser-known male hula tradition is characterized by more vigorous and aggressive dance styles, reflecting the iconic warrior spirit.

Hula has become widely popular, and it owes some of this fame to the cultural revolution of Hawaii that took place in the 1970s. When foreigners first came to Hawaii, especially the missionaries, they were not pleased by the erotic hula dance styles and attempted to destroy the tradition by outlawing its practice. Hula survived just barely, thanks to the instructors who illegally kept the tradition alive. Today hula is celebrated in all of its original glory, and can be found at many cultural festivals and authentic Luaus.