I Observe a Native Dance at Kailua…

On the morning of the 14th, we found ourselves becalmed to the southward of Kailua, several leagues from the shore. The snow-covered tops of the mountains were distinctly seen at sunrise, but they soon after became enveloped in clouds, and continued so through the day. A light breeze carried the vessel towards the land, and at nine A. M. the boat was lowered down, and I proceeded to the shore. On my way I met the governor Kuakini, and Messrs. Goodrich and Harwood, who were coming off in the governor’s boat. We returned together to the shore, where I was gladly received by Messrs. Thurston and Bishop, whom I found waiting to proceed on the tour of the island. In the afternoon, a party of strolling musicians and dancers arrived at Kailua. About four o’clock they came, followed by crowds of people, and arranged themselves on a fine sandy beach, in front of one of the governor’s houses, where they exhibited a native dance, called hula araapapa. The five musicians first seated themselves in a line on the ground, and spread a piece of folded cloth on the sand before them. Their instrument was a large calabash, or rather two, one of an oval shape about three feet high, the other perfectly round, very neatly fastened to it, having also an aperture about three inches in diameter at the top.

Each musician held his instrument before him with both hands, and produced his music by striking it on the ground, where he had laid the piece of cloth, and beating it with his fingers, or the palms of his hands. As soon as they began to sound their calabashes, the dancer, a young man, about the middle stature, advanced through the opening crowd. His jet-black hair hung in loose and flowing ringlets down his naked shoulders; his necklace was made of a vast number of strings of nicely braided human hair, tied together behind, while a paraoa (an ornament made of a whale’s tooth) hung pendent from it on his breast; his wrists were ornamented with bracelets, formed of polished tusks of the hog, and his ankles with loose buskins, thickly set with dog’s teeth, the rattle of which, during the dance, kept time with the music of the calabash drum. A beautiful yellow tapa (cloth) was tastefully fastened round his loins, reaching to his knees. He began his dance in front of the musicians, and moved forwards and backwards, across the area, occasionally chanting the achievements of former kings of Hawaii. The governor sat at the end of the ring, opposite to the musicians, and appeared gratified with the performance, which continued until the evening. (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)

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