Nalani’s Deep Connection to Hula & Hawaiian Music & Culture

The hula dancer Nalani has danced with many of Hawaii’s most respected musicians. She is admired by many because of her grace, and ability to convey the meaning and intent of a Hawaiian song. She is now devoting a good portion of her time to promoting Hawaiian culture and giving visitors to the islands the opportunity to experience elements of that culture. If you are a visitor or intend to visit the Honolulu area look into taking a lesson from Nalani. She offers group and private lessons. Many visitors are particularly interested in taking a hula lesson or an ukulele lesson from Nalani. Contact Nalani HERE and learn more about her on this website.

Two of the musicians that Nalani has danced for have had a particularly long and illustrious association with Hawaiian music. I am referring to Analu Aina and Mel Amina. If you have ever watched a video of the Hawaiian musician, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, affectionately known as “Bruddah Iz”, you have probably seen Mel and Analu accompanying the great Hawaiian icon.

Bruddal Iz was so important, not only to Hawaiian music, but to Hawaii itself, that when he died his body lay in state at the state capital in Honolulu. Few others have received this honor.

Bruddah Iz was a great musician and spiritual presence. His music was pure and completely honest. Everyone who is familiar with Iz’s music and personality recognizes that this was an individual with no pretensions who was exactly as he presented himself. Iz was a Hawaiian, and an advocate for Hawaiian rights. But he was also someone whose music appealed to people from all cultural backgrounds.

And here is where Mel Amina and Analu Aina come in. Both are virtuoso instrumentalists and fine singers. Analu was a member of the legendary “Sons of Hawaii” first started by Eddie Kamai and Gabby Pahinui. Mel is a first cousin to Iz He is married to Lealoha Lim Amina the widow of Skippy Kamakawiwo’ole, Skippy was Iz’s brother. Mel was also an early member of the “Makaha Sons of Niihau” along with Iz, Skippy and Moon Kauakahi .

After Iz passed on in 1997 Analu and Mel eventually performed with another Hawaiian musical great, Moe Keale. Moe, himself, was Israel’s uncle. Nalani often danced for Moe, Mel and Analu. When Moe left the scene, Nalani danced with Analu and Mel and their group “Three Scoops of Aloha”. You can experience the great musicianship of Mel and Analu on youtube. Mel Amina’s version of “Hawaiian Suppa Man” and Analu”s version of “Kaleohano” are embedded below.


As for Bruddah Iz’s uncle Moe Keale, he had a long and distinguished career as a musician, actor and lomi massage therapist. Moe joined the “Sons of Hawaii”early on and played with Eddie Kamae. Gabby Pahinui, Feet Rogers and Joe Marshall. Later he played alongside Dennis Kamakahi when Dennis replaced Gabby Pahinui . Moe was also featured in the original version of “Hawaii Five-O”, playing the role of Truck Kealoha.

So you can see Nalani’s deep connection to Hula & Hawaiian Music & Culture and that the her career is interwoven with some of Hawaii’s most important musicians. Get in touch with Nalani HERE.

By Paul Gordon

Nalani’s Unique Connection With Hawaiian Culture, Music & Entertainment

If you are visiting Hawaii, particularly the island of Oahu, I strongly suggest that you look into taking a hula lesson or an ukulele lesson with the lovely hula dancer and instructor Nalani. Nalani offers both group and private lessons. When I first arrived in Hawaii, I was deeply impressed by Nalani’s unique connection with Hawaiian culture, music & entertainment. One can find more information by contacting Nalani HERE.

I first stepped onto Oahu’s magic sands in 1995. I was drawn to Hawaii and Honolulu in particular because I wanted to get away from the long, frigid winters in the state of Vermont where I lived. I was also dealing with some significant health issues at the time. I thought that because Honolulu was a large city in the tropics it would be good for my health and offer employment opportunities also. I was correct on both counts.

Having lived and worked in Honolulu, I came to know and understand both the climate and the culture. Hawaii offers as perfect a year-round climate as I could imagine. Hawaii is a “feel good” place, and yet for the locals, as people born on the Islands are referred to, and for those of us fortunate enough to spend a full year in Hawaii, one comes to realize that Hawaiian weather does change through the seasons and that variations do occur from place to place. For a visitor, the elements of Hawaiian culture most visible and noteworthy are its music and the hula, which is closely tied to the music.

One of my first experiences with Hawaiian music took pace one evening when my wife and I were walking along Waikiki Beach. We set out in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village and headed “Diamond Head.” On the island of Oahu people do not refer to north, south, east and west when giving directions. Instead you would be told to go mauka, makai, Ewa, or Diamond Head. Going mauka means heading toward the interior mountains. Going makai means toward the ocean. Going Ewa means in the direction of the town of Ewa. And going Diamond Head means toward Oahu’s famous landmark. On our beach walk, my wife and I passed through the poolside area at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel and heard some exceptionally beautiful music being played by the legendary Moe Keale Trio. The hostess and hula dancer that evening was the beautiful and graceful hula dancer Nalani.

Nalani grew up on the Island of Kauai and began dancing at a very early age. One song, “My Sweet Pikake Lei” , written by the great Robert Cazimero, literally brought tears to my eyes because it was so beautiful. During the intermission I went up to tell Moe and the band how beautiful their music was and received a round of hugs and alohas. Not only are Hawaiian musicians virtuoso performers but they are extremely approachable and welcoming.

Hawaiian music is both beautiful and unique. It is unique because many songs follow strict, pure rules of construction. Often a single melody is repeated from beginning to end without a chorus or secondary melody. The theme is usually very simple and having to do with things such as a beautiful place or a deep love. The song is often concluded with the words” Ha’ina ia mai ana ka puana”. These words say “And so my story is told”. For example: And so my story is told about my yellow ginger lei for whom my heart is yearning.” Often the object, yellow ginger lei in this case, stands for the beloved one. I love my yellow ginger lei. My yellow ginger lei stands for my beloved. My beloved is my yellow ginger lei.

There is so much to learn about Hawaiian music and dance . If you have the desire and time start with a fine teacher. I give my highest recommendation to Nalani.

By Paul Gordon

Hula in Honolulu & Hawaii

aaIMG_7254_1Hula dancing and Hawaii have become synonymous. We envision beautiful dancers in lovely hula dresses gently swaying to music depicting island themes. In fact, hula has its roots in distant times before European colonial powers discovered the Hawaiian islands. Contemporary hula dancing is accompanied by instruments that originated in Europe such as the guitar, ukulele, bass and steel guitar. However the dancing style developed by the Polynesians who originally discovered and settled in Hawaii was more severe and less graceful. The dances were accompanied by chants and native instruments that were mainly percussive. These instruments include gourd drums, fish skin covered drums, split bamboo sticks and gourd rattles.

The ancient style of hula dancing now referred to as the Hula Kahiko was danced for the religious purpose of praising Hawaiian deities and to honor the nobility. The costumes worn were usually made from native leaves and grasses such as palm leaves or ti leaves.

Hawaiian mythology relates that hula dancing was first performed for Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, by her sister Hi’iaka. The guardianship of the hula was entrusted to the goddess Laka.

In the early 1800’s Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii. Among the many Hawaiians who converted to Christianity was Queen Ka’ahumanu. The queen ordered the Heiaus or temples, where Hawaiian gods were worshiped, to be torn down. Hula dancing was prohibited as contrary to Christian morality. The missionaries regarded hula as a sinful and vulgar display of the human body. For a time hula was taught and danced only secretly. When the missionaries realized that the dance could not be completely suppressed, they insisted that the dancers wear modest costumes that covered their bodies.

King David Kalakaua, whose reign began in 1874, wanted to restore traditional Hawaiian culture. He encouraged the dancing of hula. During his reign, many new songs, expressive movements, and costumes were added to the hula repertoire. He attended many festivals. Often hula dances were performed in his honor.

Hula dancing, as most contemporary viewers know it, appears to be smooth, fluid and very graceful. Modern hula dancing is referred to as Hula Auana. Auana means to drift or wander and is pronounced ah-wahna. The movements of the hula dancer’s body, arms and hands tell a story and depict such visual images as the swaying of palm trees, the motion of waves breaking on the beach, and of rain falling from the heavens.

Hula dancing is taught throughout the islands and in many places around the world. The schools in which hula is taught are called halaus. Each school is led by a teacher who is called the Kumu Hula. The whole process of learning hula is rich in tradition and ceremony. Most halaus have an entrance chant which students chant in order to gain permission to enter. When the Kumu Hula  responds with his/her chant, the students may enter and begin their instruction.

Hula in Hawaii today is strong and vibrant. It is perpetuated by the many halaus throughout the islands and is taught to young and old. Each year The Merrie Monarch festival named for King Kalakaua, who was referred to as the merrie monarch, allows the halaus of Hawaii to compete in both the ancient style and the modern style. It is a great honor to be declared the best. Visitors to Hawaii can learn the basics of hula by signing up for group or individual lessons.

The lovely hula dancer, Nalani, who performed at the most prestigious hotels in Waikiki and throughout the island of Oahu, now devotes her time and energy to teaching visitors to the islands the art of hula. Her website is You can e-mail Nalani at

The Ukulele’s Journey to Honolulu

08011277The origin of the ukulele is not known with any certainty, however Europe seems to be the area where the instrument evolved. The early version of the ukulele eventually immigrated to Portugal, where it was called the braghuina. The instrument was especially popular on the Portuguese island of Madeira; where it was often played at gatherings such as fiestas,weddings, and dances.

During the colonial period the Portuguese were considered the world’s master sailors, and many took their braghuinas to sea in order to relieve the monotony of long voyages. When they went ashore they brought their braghuinas and introduced the instruments to native populations, which, in many cases, became enamored of its sprightly sound. This happened in Brazil, where the Brazilians gave the instrument their own name. They called the ukulele the cavaco.

Although the Portuguese empire declined, the ukulele continued to be popular in its former colonies; and when some Portuguese left their country to find better economic opportunities, they brought their instruments. Thus did the Portuguese braghuina arrive on the shores of Hawaii, where many Portuguese contracted to work on the sugar plantations. In 1879 over four hundred Portuguese arrived at the Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiians, who were impressed by the dexterity of the finger movements, named the Portuguese braghuina the ukulele, which means “jumping flea”.

The Ukulele’s Journey to Honolulu became complete when the Portuguese sugar plantation workers fulfilled their contracts, some moved to other areas such as the city of Honolulu, where some became woodworkers and opened shops where they made furniture and repaired musical instruments, including the braghuina. As these craftsmen became known the braghuina began to achieve notice and eventually the court of King Kalakaua adopted it as one of the royal instruments. It then began to be more widely called the ukulele, its new Hawaiian name. King Kalakaua, an accomplished musician, began to study and play the instrument, himself.

The making of ukuleles by hand was very difficult and time-consuming. Eventually machines and forms were developed to cut and shape the wood used to form the instrument. Koa wood, which comes from a tree that grows in the Hawaiian high lands, was selected because of its attractive grain, its light weight, and its resonant sound. Steel strings were replaced by gut strings by one of the leading innovators, Manuel Nunes, and a new tuning pattern was developed making chord formations easier.

Ukuleles are most often made of wood. In contemporary times some have been made of plastic or other non-wooden materials. Less expensive ukes are made from laminated wood. Sometimes the soundboard is made from wood that has superior acoustics, such as spruce. Higher priced ukuleles are made of hardwoods, such as mahogany. Some of the highest priced ukuleles are made from Hawaiian koa wood.

The typical ukulele has the same shape as a guitar, but it is smaller. There are three standard-tuned ukuleles: the soprano, the concert, and the tenor. The baritone ukulele is the largest ukulele, but it is tuned like the four higher strings of a guitar. The strings of ukuleles used to be made of gut. Now they are made from synthetic materials, such as nylon. Whatever size ukulele you choose to play, a lot of fun is guaranteed.

Some of the information in this article can be found in “Ukulele, The World’s Friendliest Instrument” by Daniel Dixon, Wikipedia, and