Mai Pele

Hula, the Heartbeat of Hawaiʻi

A lovely hula girl sways with the rhythm of the palms as the music of steel guitars fills the soft night air. . . While this is a popular image of the hula, this ancient dance form is far more.

Hawai`i’s King David Kalakaua said, “Hula is the language of the heart, and therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.”

The hula is almost synonymous with Hawai`i. Anywhere one travels, as soon as people learn that Hawai`i is home, they ask, “Can you do hula?” Most of them picture the hula of the Steamer Days, “grass” skirts swaying to Little Grass Shack and the piercing sweetness of the steel guitar. Yes, that is hula, but it is one small part of hula.

Hula is the literature of the Hawaiian people. Walk into a library. The shelves will hold books on agriculture, astronomy, religion, genealogy, and hundreds of other topics. On one shelf will be The Holy Bible. On another will be The Little Red Hen. On another will be Princess Diana.

Hawaiians had, and still have, the same interests as everyone else. The Hula served, and still serves, the same purposes as other literature, both sacred and profane. There are ancient hula which tell of the creation of the world and its creatures. There are hula which tell stories. There are hula which tell about heros, chiefs, and chiefesses. To watch a hula is to read a book about Hawai`i.

Interested in learning more about the hula? We recommend the following books:


Of course, you will also want a dictionary. We recommend these:


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