Hula as a Way of Knowing

  • Sarah Watts Assistant Professor, Music Education Pennsylvania State University
Keywords: hula, Hawai'i, Hawaiian, dance, gesture, movement, music, chant, indigenous, instruments


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.


Author Biography

Sarah Watts, Assistant Professor, Music Education Pennsylvania State University
Sarah H. Watts, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Music Education at the Penn State University School of Music. Her teaching and research interests concern early childhood and elementary music education, music pedagogy, personal experience story in music, and musics of the Pacific.


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.

Board Reviewed: Other Ways of Communicating