‘Ukeke: The Indigenous String Instrument of Hawai’i

Jun 25, 2014

'Ukeke made by artisan/cultural practitioner Mahi La Pierre
Credit noe tanigawa


Mahi La Pierre playing an 'ukeke
Credit noe tanigawa


  The ipu and ukulele are familiar Hawaiian music instruments, but few remember that Hawai’i had a string instrument in ancient times before the ‘ukulele.  The  ‘ukeke,  is the subject of an upcoming talk at Bishop Museum, and HPR’s Noe Tanigawa offers this chance to hear the instrument.

Learn more about “ ‘Ukeke, the indigenous stringed instrument of Hawai’i” at the Bishop Museum this Thursday, June 26th, 6pm. 

Description from the Bishop Museum:

The History behind the ‘Ūkēkē: The Indigenous Stringed Instrument of Hawai‘i

Bishop Museum unveils the history and culture of the ‘ūkēkē, Hawai‘i’s only indigenous stringed instrument, with multi-media artisan Mahi La Pierre. Consisting of a thin, bent piece of wood and one or more strings of gut or sennit (coconut fiber), the ‘ūkēkē was traditionally used to accompany mele (song) and oli (chant). Mahi will trace the history of the 'ūkēkē, and share historic excerpts and collection highlights from the academic works of celebrated cultural historians like noted Bishop Museum researcher Helen H. Roberts and anthropologist and former museum director, Sir Peter H. Buck. Mahi will also explore the controversy and negative views of the ‘ūkēkē held by Hawai‘i’s early missionaries. Additionally, Mahi will also discuss his experiences in constructing the ‘ūkēkē from traditional materials, as well as the instrument’s present-day usage in Hawaiian music. Audience members will receive a rare demonstration of a full traditional mele ‘ūkēkē learned from James Ka‘upena Wong Jr. and Mary Kawena Pukui. Some audience members will even have the opportunity to try out the instrument firsthand.

‘Ūkēkē: The Indigenous Stringed Instrument of Hawai‘i

Thursday, June 26, 2014 

6-7:30 p.m.

Bishop Museum, Atherton Halau

Members FREE; General Admission for Lecture $10

RSVP online at www.bishopmuseum.org or call (808) 847-8296