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Hawai’ian Praise Music and Christian Hula

The once-banned Hawaiian language and the ancient sacred dance, hula, are given roles in modern worship at Wai’oli Hui’ia Church in the town of Hanalei on the Hawai’ian island of Kaua’i.

[SINGING IN HAWAIIAN] I’m Naomi Yokotake. I’m the vice moderator as well as the choir director. My grandfather was the music director, and my grandmother sang in the choir, and it is said that she was the musical genius, as opposed to my grandfather. When he passed on, my mother took over for him. Then it was my turn, so here I am. 

When Kahu came, he wanted us to have an ukulele band, so to speak, for worship, and so then we started bringing a ukulele. You have to understand that the ukulele and all those things were not instruments that we normally use. 

The hula has been a recent addition to the worship service. If our grandparents were here, it would not be a thing that would happen in church. 


Hula was a religious practice in the old days, and it was done in the heiau, where they worship the temples of the ancient Hawaiians. But it was always in praise of the gods, in praise of notable kings and queens and chiefs and chiefesses. And so in our kupuna, these are our elders. But when they became Christians, they put all those things aside because they were taught that there was one true God, and that those things were not within the realm of the missionaries in Christian faith. 

However, we’re a little bit more progressive in saying, well, this is a way to worship God, and this is the way that we can do it from a Hawaiian perspective. And so we do Christian hula, and we do songs that refer to Christianity and to Jesus. 


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