Instruments and Implements
Most traditional Hawaiian instruments were percussive rather than melodic and this is true of hula's musical accompaniment until the introduction of western instruments like the guitar and `ukulele. The primary accompaniment for dancing is the pahu drum, a large, deep-voiced drum made from the trunk of a coconut tree with a drumhead of sharkskin. Introduced from Tahiti for formal hula, the pahu is closely associated with religious worship. The ipu, or gourd, drum is also a common accompaniment. Made of a single gourd or two gourds joined together, the ipu rhythm is kept by pounding it on a horizontal surface and slapping its side with the hand.
Dancers accompany themselves using a variety of other implements. The `uli`uli is a gourd rattle usually decorated at one end with feathers. The pu`ili is a split bamboo rattle that is struck against itself or against the dancers’ shoulders. Ka`eke`eke is another bamboo instrument, simply a cylinder of bamboo left open at one end and struck on the floor to produce a tone; different lengths produced specific tones. Kala`au are wooden sticks, short (six to nine inches) and/or long (five-foot staff) that are struck together or pounded on the ground to keep time. Papa hehi is a wooden treadle board played with the foot. Pairs of smooth water-worn stones called `ili`ili are held between the fingers of both hands and played like castanets.
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