The Ultimate Make Your Own Hawaiian Instruments Book!

Screen shot 2014-11-03 at 12.55.05 PMIf you’ve ever seen authentic traditional music or dance from Hawaii, you’ve probably been struck by its beauty, grace and uniqueness. Although some of the instruments and traditions share roots in Polynesian culture, the islands of Hawaii have developed musical traditions and instruments that are deeply distinctive and singularly beautiful. And so many of the instruments are truly unusual – such as a knee-pad drum covered with the skin of a unicorn fish, gourd nose flutes, coconut bullroarers and even pairs of smooth river rocks used in a manner similar to castanets.

For a wonderful exploration of the percussion pu'ili on blueinstruments used in Hawaiian music, check out the book: How To Make Hawaiian Musical Instruments, by Jim Widess. The book has detailed explanations of each instrument, historical background and many photos of the instruments being used by traditional players. Although the book is set up as a series of tutorials, the information is so good and so beautifully photographed that it serves as an exceptional introduction into the world of Hawaiian music.

What are the instruments detailed in the book? Take a look at the names plus brief descriptions below and hopefully it will make you curious enough to delve deeper into traditional Hawaiian Culture.

Ipu heke ‘ole and Ipu heke – (single and double) gourd percussion

‘Uli’uli – small gourd rattle

Pu’ili Split – bamboo rods split at one end and struck together

‘Ohe ka’eke’eke – stamping tubes made from bamboo

Ili’ile – river rocks used by dancers as percussion

Kala’au – hula sticks

Papa Hehi – footboard or treadle board (stepped upon to play)

Bell Stone – large stone which resonates like a bell when struck

Puniu – coconut knee drum

Ka – beater for coconut drum made from ti leaves

Pahu hula – large standing drum from a coconut palm

‘Ukeke – musical bow

Oeoe – bullroarer made from a coconut

‘Ohe hano ihu – bamboo nose flute

Ipu hokiokio – gourd nose flute

Pu kani – conch shell trumpet

Links And Resources

Make Your Own Hawaiian Instruments Book – New Or Used on On Amazon

How To Make Hawaiian Musical Instruments Widess

Playing River Rocks As An Instrument – Hawaiian `ili`ile (Post in Making Multicultural Music)

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/playing-river-rocks-as-an-instrument-hawaiian-iliile/

cardboard pu'iliPlay Some Pu’ili (Post in Tiny Tapping Toes)

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/make-your-own-puili-hawaiian-rhythm-sticks/

E-books, CD’s and more Musical Fun from DARIA’s TeachersPayTeachers Store
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Daria-Marmaluk-Hajioannou

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Playing River Rocks As An Instrument – Hawaiian `ili`ile

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
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/make-your-own-puili-hawaiian-rhythm-sticks/

The Ukulele – Four Strings and Jumping Fleas

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/the-ukelele-4-strings-and-jumping-fleas/

Ka `Imi Na`auao O Hawai`i Nei – Website Exploring Traditional Hawaiian Culture

http://www.kaimi.org/

Kuma Rachel’s Hula Information And Tutorials
http://www.hulajustforyou.com/

Hawaiian English Concordance of Hula-Related Terms
http://www.trussel2.com/haw/haw-hula.htm