The Hawaiian music is a combination of both traditional Hawaiian folk and the modern rock and hip hop music. Hawaiian music is among the most influential types of music not just in the United States but in the entire world. Most of the traditional Hawaiian music consists of dancing which is weaved into the culture of the people. Over the ages, Hawaiian music has changed and evolved with the rest of the world and has brought in new techniques. This paper is going to discuss the evolution of Hawaiian music and the impact it has had on popular music and culture.
The Role of the Guitar in Shaping Hawaiian Music
Hawaiian music is almost synonymous with the guitar. The sounds themselves are weaved around the guitar. The Hawaiian music was originally void of the guitar sounds until the Mexicans who were under the Spanish rule traveled to the island with their guitars. The Hawaiians heard the sounds being produced by the guitars and took an interest in them. The Mexicans then taught the Hawaiians to play the guitar. The guitar was still new to the Hawaiian people. As much they liked the sounds they thought that it needed a few modification. This would see the strings of the Hawaiian guitar loosened to produce the bass while they would use the treble strings to go along with the melody. Their finger picking style provided a steady rhythm that would go along with the Hula dancing. The tuned the guitar sounds to go along with their music. This was in the first stage that saw the evolution of Hawaiian music from the traditional chants to the integration of the guitar which would go along with the song (Tatar 34).
Yet it would not stop there. Hawaiian music would later further modify the guitar to form one of the most iconic musical instruments, The Steel guitar. It has been identified to have been invented by three different individuals. Hoa, Davion, and Kekuku. Although not, clear most evidence of the steel guitar indicates the steel guitar was invented by these three independently of each other. The steel guitar comprises of a steel object and later a steel bar to slide along the strings. This would produce a unique sound and tone that was suitable for the style and music of the Hawaiians. The steel guitar became famous through Queen Liliuokalani and King Kalakaua. The former was a skilled musician who produced the Hawaiian hit song Aloe Oe that was composed in San Francisco. During the early 1900s, the rest of the United States population got dragged into the Hawaiian craze that had begun during the late 1800s. The steel guitar was a symbol of a land that was exuberating romance.
Integration of Other Musical Instruments
Hawaiian music by itself has been influenced by the rest of the world. During the early 1800s when people from the rest of the world traveled to the island and brought with them other musical instruments such as violins and the flutes (Tatar). These musical instruments would later be adapted in the music, but they were integrated with the guitar. The blend between Hawaiian music and other musical instruments was among the third stages of its evolution. The majority of the travelers would return home with some adaptation of the Hawaiian music. Hawaiian music just like many other types of music around the world would gain prominence among the other dwellers of the world.
During the 1930s and 1920s, the evolution and spread of Hawaiian were the groups known as the Aloha Four which was composed of The Tau Moe family. The group carried out various performance Asia, Europe, and Americas. The group was known for their mastery the steel guitar. Art they mastered from M.K Moke who is regarded as one of the best steel guitar players ever to live. Another instrument that was used to spread the Hawaiian music was the radio station, Hawaiis calls. The station was formed for the purpose of showcasing Hawaiian music played by Hawaiians in Hawaii. The majority of the shows broadcasted were sung in the English language so as to increase the audience base in the mainland. The radio station would reach its peak in the 1950s.
This spread of Hawaiian music would inadvertently gain footing in other forms of music such as gospel, American pop like Stephen foster. The influence of Hawaiian music found its way into gospel because of the message of the two genres. The majority of Hawaiian music is mostly religious and therefore are in line with the religious nature of gospel music. The sounds of Hawaiian music have been contributed by a range of various cultures, and now various cultures are embracing the sounds of Hawaiian music.
Impact of Hawaiian Music on Popular Culture
The influence of Hawaiian music can be seen in the surrounding islands of the Caribbean. Various music genres such as reggae have some sound of Hawaiian music in them thanks to the presence of sounds produced by the Ukelele. An instrument thats a modification of the guitar. The reggae music in Jamaica has borrowed a lot of its sounds from the Hawaiian music. Remove the instruments, and all thats left is something similar to a chant. Introducing a rhythm brings the strong use of the guitar. It is this similarity between Hawaiian music and reggae that brought rise to what is known as Hawaiian reggae.
The same can be found in some of the American rock music mostly soft rock. Soft rock music adopts the soft tones and sound of the Hawaiian music and makes it synonymous with the guitar. Most of the modern rock and hip hop are every similar to the modern Hawaiian music. It can be said that one of the biggest influences of Hawaiian music has been its adaptability. Because of its openness and to influences of other types of music from the world, they become easy to adopt. The majority of the instruments used such as the ukulele, slack key guitar, and slide guitar is adaptations from other music genres that have been made to fit into Hawaiian music.
It is this adaptability that has resulted into Hawaiian being associated with one of the good musicians when it comes to jazz. Gaby was a jazz musician that was able to adapt and fit into the Hawaiian music industry. With his mastery of the steel guitar and more than magical vocals, Gaby was able to captivate the souls of many Hawaiians. Many who ever got the chance to listen to him would agree that he had a way of breathing life into music. Gaby who was originally a jazz musician captivated the hearts of many people by his mastery of the steel guitar. Gaby Pahinui and Tao are identified as among the people that greatly contributed to the evolution of Hawaiian music from a family music that was greatly guarded to an international form of music that could be openly enjoyed by anyone (Schroeder 67).
Although traditionally religious Hawaiian music has been used to pass various messages. A further proof of its evolution. Modern Hawaiian music touch on various topics such as love and nature. The Hawaii islands have been identified as among the most beautiful destinations in the world, and nothing shows this more than the Hawaiian song. The Hawaiian people are proud of their homeland and are welcoming to the rest of the world. The Hawaiian songs have since the 1800s been identified with bringing visitors to visit the island and they still do so. The music gives Hawaii the exposure it needs to the rest of the world, and in the modern world, this is good for tourism.
Hawaiian Music as a Cultural Ambassador
Hawaiian music has also been adopted by some movements who are fighting for various rights such as the environmental protection or human rights (Lewis 23). Most of Hawaii has yet to be contaminated by pollution, and their songs speak volume about the importance of protecting the environment. Because they advocate for peace and represent a peaceful people, Hawaiian music is used to preach peace to the rest of the world. The Hawaiian music has also influenced people by giving them hope and inspiration in life. Over the rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwoole is an example of such a song.
There have been several other musicians that have helped Hawaiian music to hit the airwaves. The likes of Ozzie Kotani, Denis Kamakahi and also George Kuo are among the many world class musicians that have made an impact in Hawaiian music (Kanahele 56). However judging from the history of Hawaiian music it is obvious that the music itself is highly adaptable and it evolves with the rest of the world, yet still maintaining that traditional identity. With its evolution comes influence.
Schroeder, Jonathan E., and Janet L. Borgerson. "Packaging paradise: Consuming Hawaiian music." NA-Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26 (1999).
Tatar, Elizabeth. Strains of change: The impact of tourism on Hawaiian music. No. 78. Bishop Museum Press, 1987.
Lewis, George H. "Storm blowing from paradise: social protest and oppositional ideology in popular Hawaiian music." Popular Music 10.01 (1991): 53-67.
Tatar, Elizabeth. Nineteenth-century Hawaiian chant. No. 33. Department of Anthropology, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, 1982.
Kanahele, George S. Hawaiian music, and musicians: An illustrated history. University of Hawaii Press, 1979.
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