The Lack Of Hawaiian Ukulele Material

I’ve been playing ukulele off and on for just over a year now and I haven’t really ever played anything Hawaiian during that time. I’m not one of these people that think you should only play Hawaiian music and that everything else is sacrilege but I would like to learn a few songs.

So I started my trawl of the internet and honestly I was hugely disappointed with the amount of Hawaiian material out there to learn from. There’s a few videos on YouTube here and there and there are song sheets with the chords marked on but there’s not an awful lot more unless I’m looking in the wrong places (which I may well be).

No Reference

What I really want to do is get a few relatively basic songs down but I’d like to get a real feel for the music too. This is where the song sheets aren’t a great deal of use to me, because I don’t know the songs I don’t really know how they should be played. I know I can jump on Youtube for reference but even then my knowledge of the music is so limited that I’m never really sure if I’m listening to what is considered a traditional performance or not.

Diving around in various Ukulele forums I found numerous people mentioning the book He Mele Aloha as the best book to get but I also found several people who had bought the book also struggling as they had no reference to how the songs should sound. He Mele Aloha is pretty difficult to get your hands on in the UK anyway, I can’t find anywhere selling it for a reasonable price.

If you’re a reader of this blog and you know of a resource that could help me then please do either drop me an email or leave a comment it would be hugely appreciated!

The search continues…

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8 thoughts on “The Lack Of Hawaiian Ukulele Material

  1. Hawaiian Ukulele: The Early Methods, by Ron Middlebrook is exactly what it says: a repackaged set of reprinted old methods, having lots of early Hawaiian songs (and a lot of overlap in between them). Over 400 pages, big format, over 200 songs (2/3 hawaiian, the rest either jazz, folk or Christmas standards) and info on the writers of those methods.

    Famous Solos and Duets for the Ukulele by the late John King contains extremely nice instrumental arrangements of mainly Hawaiian music (11 out of 14 songs are Hawaiian, mainly compositions by Ka’ai and Kailimai).

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Karl – I appreciate that. For some reason Hawaiian Ukulele: The Early Methods appears to be another book that is difficult to buy in the UK. It’s currently listed at £51 used on Amazon!

      Famous Solos and Duets however looks like it’s easier to get hold of. Thanks for the help!

  2. It’s interesting – I think you are right – this current boom seems to be leaving the traditional stuff behind a bit. Natural I suppose

    I think if you float about in the UU forums you will def find people with links to share for this kind of material.

    For me though – never had ANY desire to play it – mainly because I’m from the rainy north west UK, not Maui!

    1. Just a few months back I was of the same opinion Baz. I’m getting a little bit bored of my own playing though so looking to other types of music to get some inspiration – tips, techniques – anything to give my playing a bit of a kick. I’ve found a few bits now, still not a huge amount though!

  3. Hey Dave, just came across this site while poking around… I was looking a while ago for the exact same thing.

    So here’s what I found, hope it helps. It seems like He Mele Aloha is the gold standard, it was expensive even here in the US, but I have to say, worth every penny. Just suck it up and buy it, you will most likely get a lot of use out of it. Luckily for those of us who have no idea what the songs are supposed to sound like, some very kind folks have linked up videos and midi files for almost all of the book. The beauty of the midi is you’re able to bring it into Logic (or garage band, or whatever you use a sequencer) and change the instrument from that god-awful default cat getting squeezed sound, and slow things down if you need to. At the very least, you get an idea of the melody.

    http://www.mondoymusic.com/MM_Mele/list_HeMele_text.htm (click on the Soundclips link to bring up the files)

    And better, here is the list of youtube links to every song in the book:
    http://www.taropatch.net/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=9603

    And a few misc links I’m sure you’ve already seen for Hawaiin tabs etc…
    http://www.ukulele-tabs.com/uke-songs/genre/hawaiian,92.html
    http://ukulelehunt.com/2007/10/24/hawaiian-turnaround/
    http://808ukejams.com/ukulele-basics/instructional-play-along-videos/na-mele-o-hawaiʻi/
    http://liveukulele.com/easy-beginner-ukulele-songs/ (Hawaiian down at end of page)

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for the comment. I have to admit I haven’t made the purchase yet (it’s currently listed at over £100 on Amazon UK) but if I spot a copy appearing on ebay any time soon I’ll go for it.

      Also thanks for the links – I’ll check them out, there’s a few I’d not seen before.

      1. Wow! £100 is crazy. I’m seeing $25 used copies here and $35 new (I think I remember paying about $40 with shipping from HI, so I must have purchased a new copy before). There is an older version that’s spiral bound that is going for $130, that must be what you’re seeing there.

        A quick search turned up this link:
        http://www.nameahawaii.com/product/he-mele-aloha-hawaiian-songbook/
        Looks like they ship internationally, maybe give them a try… there are probably others in Hawaii that will do the same… But maybe shipping is exhorbitant? Good luck with your search, hopefully you find a copy that won’t break the bank.

        1. That’s more like it – I’ll check out the shipping and customs charges (I keep getting hit with customs charges lately). Really appreciate your help!

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