Hawaiian Essentials

Apple Music
Hawaiian Essentials

Hawaiian music can get pigeonholed as kitschy, but in fact it’s just the opposite: it's the stunning achievement of a culture that fought its way back from the brink of decimation. Native Hawaiian music is rooted in stately, ritualised mele chants—a remnant of the culture’s Polynesian past. But after Europeans began to arrive in the late 1700s, Hawaiian artists adopted their instruments and began to try new things. By the early 20th century, they'd made striking innovations: Sol Ho’opi’i invented the pedal-steel guitar, whose unearthly twang immediately seduced Nashville. The ukulele emerged from the Portuguese braguinha. And the expansive slack-key guitar style took its cues from traditional Hawaiian singing. The global craze for these sounds subsided somewhat after the 1930s, but by the '70s, a whole new generation were embracing their ancestors’ spirit of innovation, bringing longtime slack-key artists like Gabby Pahinui back into the spotlight, and launching a slew of young guns including Kapena, Keali’i Reichel and Keola Beamer.

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