Hula as a Way of Knowing

Sarah Watts


This article describes the author’s personal journey as a trained classical musician beginning from early childhood.  The subsequent study of hula as an indigenous Hawaiian form of communication is further examined against the backdrop of Western musical knowledge and ways of doing.  Hula as an ancient art form is discussed with regard to its classifications, uses, and multiple layers of meaning communicated through gesture.



hula; Hawai’i; Hawaiian; dance; gesture; movement; music; chant; indigenous; instruments


Emerson, Nathaniel B. 1998. Unwritten literature of Hawai’i: The sacred songs of the hula. Honolulu, HI: Mutual Publishing. Harden, M.J. 1999. Voices of wisdom: Hawaiian elders speak. Kula, HI: Aka Press.

Ho’omāka’ika’i Staff. (2007). Explorations! Ho’omāka’ika’i, 4th ed. Honolulu, HI: Kamehameha Schools Press.

“Na leo Hawai’i: Musics of Hawai’i.” n.d. Smithsonian Folkways.

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