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Musical Instruments That Help To Shape Hawaiian Culture

Music is one of the most important aspects of Hawaiian cultural expression. Hawaii is a state defined by the fusion of many different cultural influences, and the traditional music of the archipelago reflects this beautifully.

The chances are high that you will have heard Hawaiian music even if you have never stepped foot in the Aloha State.

A great deal of Hawaiian music is played on instruments that are fairly unique to the culture of the area. Polynesian, Portuguese, American, Asian, and Mexican influences are all present in the songs and chants practiced there.

Here is a very brief guide to some of the musical instruments that have helped to shape Hawaiian culture as we know it today.

Major Musical Instruments Being Used in Hawaiian Culture:

Some major musical instruments that are being used in the Hawaiian culture are discussed in the information given below:


The ukulele is by far the most famous instrument to have emerged from Hawaiian culture. The roots of the ukulele are fascinating.

The ‘uke’ is actually a relatively new instrument. In the 19th century, Portuguese traders commonly stopped on the archipelago.

One such trader bought with him a braguinha – a stringed instrument that originated in Madeira.

The instrument was adapted by Hawaiian artisans and incorporated into traditional musical forms.

The world first got a taste of this new instrument at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition, where a royal Hawaiian band exhibited the music of the island.

In the following year, Hawaiian music fever raged in the continental USA. Hawaiian music outsold any other genre in 1916.

Tourists visiting Hawaii for the first time should expect to hear the sweet sound of the ukulele as they relax on the beach or at one of the Kona, Hawaii resorts.

The ukulele, although a modern innovation, slotted neatly into previously existing musical cultures on the island, which explained its rapid success.

Niau Kani

The Niau Kani is one of the simplest instruments to be played in Hawaiian music but also one of the most important. It is made of coconut fibers and resembles a jews harp – being played by manipulating tones with one’s mouth. It is associated with a specific form of hula dancing.


The pahu is a drum usually made from the stump of a coconut tree.

Sharkskin was used to form the strikable surface of the drum.

It is extremely significant in Hawaiian culture.

Pahu drums were traditionally used in religious ceremonies. They are also used in the accompaniment of the hula, which is an important form of narrative dance, chant, and music.

Steel Guitar

The steel guitar was invented by Hawaiian Joseph Kekuku while he was still in school.

Allegedly, Kekuku had a stroke of genius: learning that smooth sounds could be created by running a railroad spike over the strings of a guitar.

Music instruments

The steel guitar evolved into a distinct instrument. It is played flat across the legs of the guitarist, who gently strums the instrument while running a metal or glass slide over the strings.

The steel guitar is now an absolutely essential part of almost all instrumental music in Hawaii.

Read more: Hosting a Silent Disco Party: The Basics Explained.


Conch, or as Hawaiians call it, Pu, is a musical instrument made with a seashell. It’s not as dominant in the music culture of Hawaii as the other ones that we have discussed above, but it still holds some value.

This instrument was used for communication in the old days. It also holds some religious significance in the area.

It is helping the Hawaiian music culture indirectly. That is because musicians mainly use it to create a sense of tradition and local connection to the area.

Why Hawaiian Music Culture is Getting Famous?

The Hawaiian music culture is becoming famous around the world for several reasons. However, some of the most important ones are discussed below:

  • The melodies of this culture help people have a relaxed feeling. It’s just like a vocational escape from tense routines.
  • The ukelele has been of great importance in this fame. It’s interesting and affordable. Many musicians around the world are integrating it into their artistic work.
  • Hawaiian musicians have used modern musical instruments with traditional ones. This has helped them create unique and interesting music.
  • The music from this culture is also featured in several movies and shows. This has provided it a global exposure.


To conclude, Hawaiian music is becoming famous throughout the world. The musical instruments used in it have a big role in it. Some of the famous ones include Ukelele, Niau Kani, and Pahu.

These instruments are being used by global artists as well. It has become the reason for the fame of this music culture. We have discussed details about these instruments in the information given above. It will help you understand the nature and importance of these tools.

We have also discussed some points that can help you understand why this music culture is famous throughout the world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Why conch shell is used in the Hawaiian music culture?

This instrument holds traditional values for Hawaiians. So, they integrate it into their music culture.

Where can I listen to Hawaiian music?

You can listen to this type of music anywhere on the Internet. Many artists upload such music that you can enjoy.

Is this music type being used in films also?

Yes. This type is being used in films and TV shows as well. This is the reason for its global exposure.

Is it easy to learn Hawaiian music?

Learning Hawaiian music can be a little difficult. That is because it has a unique style. However, you can learn it if you practice it enough.


I am a passionate content writer and blogger. Compiling the knowledge of Information Technology to pursuing present technological solutions through the writings.

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