When most people think of Hawaii, they think of tropical beaches, palm trees and ukuleles. While the ukulele is often associated with mainland America, its origins actually come from the islands of Hawaii. In this blog post, we'll take a look at some traditional Hawaiian ukulele songs. We'll also discuss the importance of these songs to the culture of Hawaii. So put on your lei and get ready to learn about some amazing Hawaiian music!
Table of Contents
25 Hawaii Traditional Ukulele Songs
Blue Hawaii by Elvis Presley
Song's Chord: G#, C#, A#, D#
Elvis Presley's love for Hawaiian songs is evident in the number of Hawaiian songs he recorded for his 1961 film, Blue Hawaii. One suchsong is "Blue Hawaii", which actually dates back to 1937. The song is a bit difficult to play on the ukulele because it uses chords from G# major. However, one helpful trick to playing this song the "easy way" is simply to take off all the sharps from the chords. Voila! You will now have a beautiful Hawaiian song with just four simple chords. Thanks, Elvis, for introducing us to this fantastic tune!
E Huli Mākou by David Chung
Song's Chord: F, G7, C7
E Huli Makou is a cheerful, bright ukulele song that’s incredibly easy to play. Composer David Chung was working as a bellhop at the Kona Inn when he wrote this famous hula song in 1949. Today, it’s a favorite all over the islands – and it’s one of the easiest Hawaiian ukulele songs to play and sing along to! Check out the lyrics and learn the meaning of E Huli Makou. The phrase “e huli makou” means “let’s turn around” or “let’s change direction.” In the context of the song, it’s a call to put aside our differences and come together as one. The lyrics are full of images of nature, which is often used as a metaphor for harmony in Hawaiian culture. E Huli Makou is the perfect song to play when you want to set a positive, uplifting mood. It’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face – and maybe even get you singing and dancing along!
Hula Dance by Lion King
Song's Chord: C, D, G
When people think of Hawaii, they often think of hula dancing. Hula is a Hawaii traditional dance that is usually accompanied by Hawaii traditional ukulele songs. The Lion King is a movie that features hula dancing in one of its most popular scenes. In the scene, Simba and Nala are celebrating their marriage with a traditional Hawaiian hula dance. The dance is performed to the song "Aloha Oe," which is a Hawaii traditional ukulele song. The hula dance in the Lion King is a great example of how hula can be used to express joy and happiness.
Island In The Sun by Weezer
Song's Chord: Em, Am, D, G, C
Island in the Sun is a song by American rock band Weezer. It was released on October 7, 2001 as the second single from their self-titled fourth album. The song was written by frontman Rivers Cuomo while the band was on vacation in Hawaii. Despite its title, the song is not strictly about Hawaii; Cuomo has said that it is more about "the kinds ofernand island feelingsyou get when you're on vacation." The song's music video, directed by Marcos Siega, features the band performing on a beach in front of a resort hotel. Since its release, "Island in the Sun" has been included on several of Weezer's greatest hits albums. In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it number 9 on their list of the 100 Greatest Weezer Songs of All Time.
E Ku’u Morning Dew by Eddie Kamae
Song's Chord: F, Gm, C7, Bb
The song "Aloha ʻOe" is a popular Hawaiian song that has a repeating ii-V-I style progression. It's somewhat jazzy, which makes sense given that this chord progression is common in jazz tunes. The song can be played by beginners, and as they gain more experience, they can add in more challenging elements. The song is also great for casual jamming and can feature some modulation, too, depending on the version. Overall, "Aloha ʻOe" is a great choice for anyone who wants to learn a popular Hawaiian song or wants to play a relaxing, jazzy tune.
Helpful read: Top 50 Ukulele Love Songs To Enjoy With Your Beloved
Hele On To Kaua’i by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Song's Chord: A, D, E7, A7, G7, C, C7, F
IZ's voice and playing are front and center in "Hele On To Kaua'i." This song is basically a tribute to island life, and if you listen carefully, you'll notice that it's got a bit of a country flavor to it. The main reason there are so many chords in the song is because there's a key change towards the end. For the most part, it's kind of a three-chord wonder, but the key change is a good challenge for the beginner. Overall, this is a great song for beginners to learn, as it offers a good mix of simple and complex elements. And who knows, maybe after you've mastered it, you'll be inspired to write your own ode to island living.
Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride by Mark Keali’I Ho’omalu
Song's Chord: E, C, F, Am, G
The song "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" was written by Alan Silvestri and Mark Mancina for the 2002 Disney film Lilo & Stitch. The song is performed in the film by the character of Lilo, voiced by Daveigh Chase. The song is a mix of styles, starting with an a cappella section before transitioning into a more uptempo melody. The main riff of the song is based on a I – IV – vi – V chord progression, which is a very common pattern in popular music. The original recording of the song does not feature any ukulele, but that doesn't mean you can't come up with your own version!
He Mele No Lilo by Mark Keali’I Ho’omatu & Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus
Song's Chord: G, C, D, G#, C#, D#, A, E, A#, F#
This song, of course, is also from Lilo & Stitch. "He Mele No Lilo" is a fun and upbeat song that is perfect for any Lilo & Stitch fan. The song features a catchy melody and simple lyrics that are easy to sing along to. While the song does not feature any ukulele, it is still possible to add one in. The chords in the song can be a little challenging for beginners, but with some practice, it should be no problem. Overall, "He Mele No Lilo" is a great choice for anyone looking for a fun and easy-to-sing song.
About You by Cecilio & Kapono
Song's Chord: G, Bm, Em, Am, D, C, A, E
The opening to “About You” certainly has a 70s pop and rock vibe to it. But its relaxed vibe makes it a fun song for the ukulele nonetheless. Just be careful of all the chord changes and try to place them correctly! If you’re intermediate to advanced, see if you can come up with some licks to play over this tune as well. This will take your cover to the next level! As always, have fun with it and make it your own.
Learn more: Love Like You Ukulele Chords by Rebecca Sugar
Aloha Oe by Queen Liliuokalani
Song's Chord: C, D7, F, F7, G, G7
Stepping away from the Hollywood influence, let's look at some lesser known, but very traditional Hawaiian songs. This song dates back to 1878 and is by the Queen of Hawaii at the time. Many call it Hawaii’s most famous composition.
The song has a beautiful story. The Queen composed it after witnessing a lingering embrace between a woman and man at the Edwin Boyd Ranch in Maunawili. The Queen herself said, “It’s a poem about love and passion, man and woman. It’s much, much more than just goodbye.”
The song is very simple to play on the ukulele using only three chords. However, its beauty lies in its simplicity. The lyrics are emotive and invoke images of Hawaii’s lush landscapes. It is a truly beautiful song that captures the essence of Hawaiian culture.
Waimanalo Blues by Liko Martin and Thor Wold
Song's Chord: G, F, C, D, G7
Originally released in 1974, this song is a fun tune. Nanakuli Blues was originally a protest song against development throughout Hawaii. Later, it became a political protest song. A nice flat-7 chord appears in the turnaround of this simple song. The lyrics are about the beauty of Hawaii and how it is being destroyed by the greed of developers. This is a classic Hawaiian song that everybody should know.
You Don’t Write by Ka’au Crater Boys
Song's Chord: G, Bm, C, Am, D, D7
In "You Don't Write", ukulele players will find a great upbeat groove, along with a catchy chord progression and melody. The verse follows a G - Bm - C - C pattern, which is easy for a beginner to pick up. The best part of the song, though, is probably the solo. If you're intermediate and above, give it a try! You'll find that the solo is both fun and challenging to play. So what are you waiting for? Learn "You Don't Write" today!
Read more: What is the Best Baritone Ukulele?
Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u by Olomana
Song's Chord: E, A, B, G#m, F#m
"Ku'u Home O Kahalu'u" is a Hawaiian classic that is easy for beginners to pick up. The song starts with the hook in "Hawaiian," but the rest of the song is in English. This makes it a great choice for beginners who want to learn to sing in Hawaiian. The lyrics are simple and easy to understand, and the melody is catchy and easy to remember. As a result, "Ku'u Home O Kahalu'u" is a great choice for anyone who wants to learn to sing in Hawaiian.
Lava by Kuana Torres Kahele, James Ford Murphy & Nāpua Greig
Song's Chord: C, F, G7
The song “Lava” was originally written for the 2014 Disney musical short film of the same name. The song tells the story of a lonely man who is watching couples and wishing he could meet someone special. The ukulele plays a central role in the song, providing a catchy melody that helps to carry the emotional message of the lyrics. Although the song’s tempo is moderate, there are tempo changes throughout, so it is important to pay attention to the rhythm when playing this song. With its simple chord progression and memorable melody, “Lava” is a great song for beginners to learn on the ukulele.
Read more: 25+ Easy Baritone Ukulele Songs
Love And Honesty By Hawaiian Style Band
Song's Chord: G, Bm, C, Am, D
"Love And Honesty" by legendary singer-songwriter Bill Withers is a beautiful, relaxing song about being in love. The lyrics are simple and honest, and the melody is easy to follow. This makes it an excellent choice for beginners who are looking to learn a new song. The moderate tempo and straightforward rhythm make it easy to keep up with, and the overall sound of the song is very soothing. Bm might present a slight challenge for some, but it's definitely worth learning if you want to be able to play this lovely tune. Whether you're serenading your significant other or just enjoying a moment of reflection, "Love And Honesty" is a great song to have in your repertoire.
Maori Brown Eyes by Palolo
Song's Chord: C#, D, Dm, Em, G, C, Am, A
Maori Brown Eyes is a great song for beginners who are looking to learn more chords. The song includes several chords, such as C#, D, Dm, Em, G, C, Am, and A. While this may seem like a lot of chords for a beginner, don't worry! The song is easy to follow and the licks are fun to play. If you're a fan of bluesy songs, then this is the perfect song for you. The blues licks in the song will make you sound like a pro! So grab your ukulele and get ready to jam out to Maori Brown Eyes.
Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Song's Chord: C, G, Am, F, Em, E7, Dm7, D
Hawaii is well-known for its beautiful beaches, lush vegetation, and warm weather. However, the island state is also home to a rich musical tradition. The ukulele is one of the most iconic Hawaiian instruments, and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Over the Rainbow" is one of the most popular Hawaiian ukulele songs. The song combines elements from two traditional songs: "What a Wonderful World" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." With a little practice, this tune is sure to become one of your favorites.
Palehua by Amy Hanaialii Giliom and William Kahailii
Song's Chord: D, G, Em, A
Palehua was recorded and composed by Amy Hanaialii Giliom and William Kahailii in the place where it was named. D, G, Em, and A make up this beautiful composition, allowing even beginners to play it. The story goes that the pair were trying to come up with a melody for a different song entirely when they suddenly heard a nearby stream flowing over rocks - which served as the inspiration for their new tune. Ever since, the song has been a popular choice for those hoping to capture the unique beauty of Hawaii.
Fish & Poi by Sean Na’auao
Song's Chord: C, Am, F, G7
“Fish & Poi” is a fun, Hawaiian-themed song that will appeal to anyone who loves good food. The song follows a typical I – vi – IV – V chord progression, but there are a few licks and interesting chord changes thrown in for good measure. The lyrics are all about craving Hawaiian food, and the song has a great reggae vibe that will make you want to get up and dance. If you’re a fan of good food and good music, “Fish & Poi” is definitely worth a listen.
Hawaii ’78 by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Song's Chord: A, F, G
The Hawaiian demonstrators’ clashing over land problems in 1978 was a turning point in the history of the Hawaiian Islands. The song reflects the events of that time, with its slow, melancholy melody and lyrics that speak of the demonstrators’ pain and frustration. The song is easy to learn, as it only requires the picking of the chords A, F and G. It is a reminder of the Hawaiian people's fight for their land and their culture, and it will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled for what they believe in.
Island Style by John Cruz
Song's Chord: C, F, G7
The ukulele is a four-stringed Hawaiian instrument that is known for its mellow, cheerful sound. Though it is often associated with Hawaiian music, the ukulele can be used to play a variety of genres. "Island Style" is a popular ukulele song that uses the chords C, F, and G7. If you are new to playing the ukulele, these three chords are a good place to start. Listen to how the song is played and then try it yourself. After you get the hang of it, you might want to add in some finger picking to give the song your own island style!
Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai by Hapa
Song's Chord: D7, G, C, Gmaj7
In Hawaiian, "Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai" means "the beauty of the sea." The song is a celebration of the island lifestyle, and its cheerful melody is a reflection of the Hawaiian people's love of the sea. The lyrics describe the waves crashing on the shore, the shining sun, and the feel of the sand between your toes. While the song is primarily in English, there are also some Hawaiian words sprinkled throughout. For example, "aloha" is used to say hello and goodbye, and "mahalo" is used to express gratitude. If you're lucky enough to hear "Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai" performed by a native Hawaiian, you might even catch a glimpse of the hula being danced along with the music. There's no doubt that this song will put a smile on your face and make you long for the warm sand and clear blue waters of Hawaii.
Home In The Islands by The Brothers Cazimero
Song's Chord: F, Bb, C
“Home in the Islands” is a song about a gypsy musician who is missing his significant other. The song is written in the key of G major, and it has a moderate tempo. The strumming pattern is distinctive, and it is easy to play. The lyrics are simple and easy to understand. The song is about the longing for home, and the feeling of being lost without someone you love. The song is perfect for beginners, and it is also a great song for more advanced players to try.
Kauanoeanuhea by Keali’I Reichel
Song's Chord: G, C, Cm, D/F#, D7
“Kauanoeanuhea” is a ballad at its core. Its timing is straightforward, and most chord changes last for a bar or two, making it easy to follow for adults or kids. As you get comfortable strumming along to the song, you might want to try picking along to it as well. This can broaden your rhythmic playing options and add an extra layer of interest to the song. When learning how to play “Kauanoeanuhea,” take your time and enjoy exploring the different ways you can interact with the music. Whether you’re strumming, picking, or just singing along, this song is sure to bring smiles and good times.
Hi’ilawe by Gabby Pahinui
Song's Chord: F, Bb, C7
Hi'ilawe is one of the most popular Hawaiian hula songs, and it is also one of the easiest ukulele songs for beginners. This song is about a love affair, so it is important to take it slow and easy. The lyrics are very simple and the melody is very catchy. The chords are also very easy to play. This song is a great choice for beginners because it is easy to learn and it sounds great.
Mahalo for reading our blog post about Hawaiian-influenced songs. We hope you enjoyed listening to them and that they have inspired you to learn more about the culture of Hawaii. A big mahalo goes out to all of the artists who contributed their music to this playlist. Aloha!