Cultural Workshops to Focus on Hawaiian Musical Instruments


Media Release:

Attaching a handle to a small gourd or coconut, filling it with seeds, the rattle becomes an extension of the hand.  The rhythm of the ancient chant echoes in the wind.   The sounds of the gourd rattle enhancing each motion…

The uliuli or gourd rattle is one of the most popular Hawaiian musical instruments to survive through centuries of change. As a percussion instrument it offers the hula kahiko dancer additional tempo measurement, and its silhouette is an aesthetic part of the choreography. In both traditional and contemporary dance, the uliuli offers syncopation. The gust of wind or the ebb and flow of the water on the rocky shore, the extension of the hula dancer’s limbs, illustrates the poetry.

Cultural workshops are part of the 2009 Moku O Keawe International Festival to be held November 5-8, at Waikoloa Beach Resort.  The annual event, now in its fourth year, celebrates hula and its related arts through its educational workshops on hula, including traditional protocol.  “In addition to the classroom, we offer excursions to wahi pana, our sacred sites, to further enhance the hula as the student experiences the winds and the rains mentioned in the lines of the chant,” according to the Moku O Keawe Festival.

Widely popular in today’s music, this year‘s festival offers a nose flute making workshop that will use Hawaiian bamboo.  Thin-walled with long nodes, the Hawaiian variety is found on the island of Hawaii in Waipio Valley. The class will teach the students how to select the proper kind of bamboo, prepare the flute, and play a song of Waipio Valley.

It was noted in 1836 by the Frenchman Adolphe Barrot, visiting the Kona district, that “the islanders were playing flutes with two holes. Instead of the lips, the nose is used in blowing this instrument made from the bamboo. The notes given forth by this instrument are not more varied that those of their vocal music.”  Barrot continued, “the ohe hanu ihu (bamboo nose flute) appears to have been chiefly an instrument for lovers. Its clear, soft, and sweet tone could nevertheless carry considerable distance with the right atmospheric conditions…”

Another instrument that has its roots in Hawaii, is the puniu. The coconut knee drum is uniquely Hawaiian and was traditionally used as an accompaniment with the pahu drum for heiau ceremony. Dances today utilize the puniu for the many of the traditional chants and it is often included as part of the choreography of the mele.

Dr. Taupouri Tangaro of Unukupukupu has taught classes making the puniu. “The niu that will be used for the workshop come from trees his from father-in-law’s home in Panaewa.  Each participant will open their own niu–a process likened to giving birth to a cherished loved one. They will drink its sweet water and taste of its flesh. They will clean, polish, lash, and when finished, it will become an extension of their total being. We celebrate this birthing process,” says instructors of this year’s workshop Lehua and Kanani Kaulukukui, students of Dr. Tangaro.

This year’s Moku O Keawe International Festival at the Waikoloa Beach Resort will offer a competition for the Women’s Division in hula kahiko and auwana.  There will also be a night of competition with the Kupuna Wahine, including group and solo. The Sunday evening event will be a special concert at the Waikoloa Bowl at Queens’ Gardens with Amy Hanaialii.

The Moku O Keawe International Festival was founded on the principle that hula is a lifestyle. The commitment involves training in the dance discipline, ritual of ceremony, and the protocol in gathering from the forests. The Foundation believes that, “Through educational workshops, the practitioner is taken to a deeper level of understanding the chants and the dances. All that is learnt is applicable to life in general. The profound will present itself within the dancer’s lifestyle.”

The non-profit Moku O Keawe Foundation sets the guidelines for all events and continually challenges that the bar is lifted to enrich the community. Through sponsorships, grants, and fundraising efforts, the Festival broadens the experiences of dancers on an international level.  In the past four years, many halau from Hawaii, Japan, and Tahiti, have shared their hula. As a private nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing, enriching and educating the practice and development of hula and its associated arts, its focus is to build, strengthen and inspire the living cultural traditions of Hawaii.

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