There’s a special kind of hula, called hula ‘ili’ili, that’s done with the dancer tapping smooth river stones together as part of the rhythm and the dance.
Hula is a rich and beautiful tradition from Hawaii that actually originated with the Polynesian people who first settled in this region. Hula can be done sitting or standing and can be accompanied by chants or song. And it incorporates many unique and wonderfully simple instruments – such as pu’ili (bamboo sticks cut to sound as rattles) or ‘ili’ili, smooth stones held in the hand in a manner similar to castanets. You can read more about pu’ili in the posts below. Here’s more about the river rocks.
‘Ili’ili are two smooth stones, approximately the same size, that are held in a dancer’s hand. The hand movements tap the stones together for the percussion sound and that becomes part of the overall arm movements incorporated into the dance. If that sounds too complicted, here’s a short video by Kuma (Kuma is a respectful title meaning teacher or source of knowledge) Rachel that shows how to master the basics of playing ‘ili’ili.
What kind of stones are used as ‘iliili? Most seem to be the dense smooth stones that come from volcanic rock and have been worn perfectly smooth by water. They are often dark in color and are the same type of stones (basalt) used in hot stone massage therapy. A set of 4 rocks is required to play ‘ili’ile.
Can you try this at home if you don’t live in the Hawaiian islands? Absolutely. Choose four smooth rocks and practice the techniques above to create your own version of this perfectly natural percussion instrument!
Resources And Related Posts
Make Your Own Pu’ili Rhythm Sticks
The Ukulele – Four Strings and Jumping Fleas
Ka `Imi Na`auao O Hawai`i Nei – Website Exploring Traditional Hawaiian Culture
Kuma Rachel’s Hula Information And Tutorials
Hawaiian English Concordance of Hula-Related Terms