[Red Dirt BLOG]
The Birth of Hawaiian Music


The birth of Hawaiian Music was in part thanks to tourists traveling to Hawaii in the early 1800's.  With these visitors came such instruments as the violin, guitar, and ukulele.  Yes, that's right; the ukulele was not invented by Hawaiians, just made popular by them!

The slack key method, Ki ho' alu, was invented by Hawaiians, however. When early Hawaiian musicians took the guitars brought to the islands by Mexican cowboys and loosened the strings, they made it possible to play bass and melody at the same time. 

Steel guitar style was also invented in Hawaii.  The use of a steel bar slid across the strings of a guitar quickly became a signature Hawaiian sound. 

Combining these uniquely melodic instruments with traditional Hawaiian chants, mele oli, gave us the earliest form of Hawaiian music.  Over the years, other musical genres have found their way into this traditional island music, such as country and reggae.  Today, you are quite likely to hear a popular Hawaiian song with a country twang or rasta melody.  Either way, Hawaiian music has embraced and encompassed various "soulful" genres.

The musicians who have graced us with their beautiful island sounds have done so with passion and raw talent.  Early musicians, such as the Tau Moe family, and resurgent musicians, like Gabby Pahinui in the mid-1900's, gave Hawaiian music its staying power; paving the way for modern Hawaiian musicians, such as IZ, to bring the tropical sounds from the islands to the mainland.

A long and rich history of melodic sounds and Hawaiian chants has landed here at our very own Red Dirt Coffee House in Arroyo Grande.  We proudly host a monthly jam session, known in Hawaiia as Kanikapila, on the last Sunday of every month. We are also in the process of planning our 4th Annual Coffee & Cultural Festival. Visit our website for more information! 

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