Nā Mele Hula, Beamer – These compilations by the late Nona Beamer are an excellent foundation for the study of traditional hula. Required reading for Kumu Leilehua’s haumāna.
Looking for out-of-print, hard to find, limited edition, and really wonderful books about the islands? Our favorite bookstore is Basically Books in Hilo.
Sacred Hula Hula: The Historical Hula ‘Ala’apapa, Stillman – This should be the next book studied after the Beamer compilation. Dr. Amy Stillman presents this hula genre of the Kamehameha dynasty which predates “modern” hula ku’i of the Kalākaua era. In ʻalaʻapapa, the mele is chanted and movements are vigorous and bombastic. The Instrumental accompaniment is provided by the ipu-heke, the indigenous double-gourd drum. This provides an excellent foundation in understanding the foundations of hula as performed today.
Hula Pahu, Kaeppler – Kaeppler’s research focuses on material culture and the visual and performing arts in their cultural contexts, including traditional social and political structures and modern cultural identity. After reading both Stillman’s and Kaeppler’s works, the student should never again make the mistake of thinking that ipu and pahu are interchangable.
Hula Kiʻi: Hawaiian Puppetry, Luomala – An anthropological overview of traditional Hawaiian puppetry, this book is indispensable to those interested in this more esoteric tradition of the hula.
Unwritten Literature of Hawaiʻi: The Sacred Songs of the Hula, Emerson – A valuable resource, but remember the era from which Emerson was writing.
Hula, Historical Perspectives, Barrere, Pukui, Kelly – This compilation by various authors gives a valuable overview of the culture and context of the hula. Wonderful photos.
Recommended Videos on Hula
Keepers of the Flame, Kamae – The words of three of Hawaiʻi’s most iconic kumu / hula dancers. Get it.
The Haumāna – Fiction, but gives a pretty good feel for what it’s like to be in a hālau.