As part of Hawaiian Music Week in the Whalen School of Music, ICACDA arranged for Kumu Hula Victoria Holt-Takamine to present the film "Hawaiian Rainbow," which is about the evolution of Hawaiian music. Due to some technical difficulties, we were unable to screen the movie, so instead, Ms. Takamine shared some of her own favorite videos, and we got to ask her lots of questions about her culture. We ended up having a great time and learning a lot!
We began by watching a 20-minute clip that gave us an overview of Hawaiian music history. We learned that Hawaiian music is driven by text, and that the earliest Hawaiian compositions were all single-line chants with texts about cultural legends. The elements of harmony and accompaniment were introduced later by immigrants and missionaries. In fact, the ukulele, an instrument that has become an integral part of Hawaiian heritage, was originally imported to Hawaii by Portugese immigrants. Ms. Takamine talked about how Hawaiian music has changed throughout history, but also how the spirit of the music has remained constant; the music is meant to celebrate the earthbound traditions of Hawaiian culture.
Ms. Takamine also shared several videos of performances from Hawaiian music and hula competitions, and as we watched, she talked about the language of their movements, how every single motion is tied to the lyrics of the piece. I thought it was interesting that two or more choreographers could feasibly interpret the same piece of music, and the performances could be completely different. It all depends on how the text speaks to an individual.
We talked a little bit about how Hawaiian music is taught, and we learned that it is typically passed on through oral tradition. It's so beautiful to think that anyone who studies the music of this culture becomes connected to generations past through a long line of musical communication. Everything about Hawaiian music, including the way it is taught, has its roots in tradition.
This session was very engaging and interesting. We learned so much about the culture of Hawaiian music, and got to enjoy some terrific recordings with live commentary by a hula master! We are so grateful to Victoria Holt Takamine and her friends who came all the way from Hawaii to give us all of the wonderful experiences we've had this week!
Below are a couple of the videos we watched!
-Juliana Child, '18
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