Hawaiian Studies 478: Mele o ke Hou: Music in Hawaiian Identity

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Course Description

For more than a millennium Hawaiian poets, genealogists, and composers celebrated their heroes, leaders, and gods, recorded the births and deaths of their great chiefs, represented the vibrant human stories of love, lust, jealousy, and grief, and, in short, told the history of their people. Before missionaries introduced the Native to the alphabet, this orator was preserved through careful memorization, as well as by the official protection and patronage of great nobles and ruling chiefs.

While reading and writing enabled the Hawaiian to express their views and record their histories, the loss of the Hawaiian Nation to American occupation in 1898 signaled a period of tremendous oppression of the Native culture and point of view in every way but for music. Even during the most politically repressive territorial years, Hawaiian composers continually represented a powerful and defiant Native persona that heralded the political and cultural explosiveness of the past 30 years. This course will explore Hawaiian music as it has been an avenue for Native social, cultural, and political expression--traditionally, historically, and in contemporary society.

The course is also about the performance of that music and poetry and as such will explore how our music relates to hula, formal protocols, and daily life, through creative projects that will showcase our music at the end-of-year Hōʻike. While this course will not require every student to sing, dance, or play and instrument, every student will find a way to contribute to the performance of music and dance in some capacity, and part of your grade will depend upon it.


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