Kahiko or traditional Hula is a chant dance.
The Kahiko (also spelled Kaviko) is chanted in Hawaiian. It is danced to the beat of the Pahu, a drum instrument made out of coconut for the trunk. The drum follows a rhythmic song beat that sounds like, “Ooh – tay, Ooh tay – tay,” which is the same beat that is used for playing the dance implement, the Ipu.
Chants can range from very sacred in nature to depicting every day life and perspective of stories. One particular relevant but lesser known to the mainstream, O Lanakila Ke Ka’a Ahi A’lihi is a train chant dedicated to Princess Lili’u (later on in her life known as Queen Lili‘uokalani). It is part of a trio of train chants and also the least famous. I enjoy it and enjoy performing it. When explained to the audience, my hopes are that they see the magic that Princess Lili’u saw when she was a child and embarking on her first train rides.
Other mainstream chants are often showcased in films. In recent years, He Mele No Lilo by Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu made waves on the big screen with Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. Disney movies are timeless so, hopefully the younger generations will get a chance to experience the music and sound of the movie. Ho’omalu also produced the same chant but instead of about Lilo, it was about Hawaii.
In a Hawaiian dance presentation or a Polynesian luau, I hope that you experience the magic of both modern and tradional Hula!