We Attend Another Native Dance…

About four o’clock in the afternoon, another party of musicians and dancers, followed by multitudes of people, took their station nearly on the spot occupied yesterday by those from Kaʻū. The musicians, seven in number, seated themselves on the sand; a curiously carved drum, made by hollowing out a solid piece of wood, and covering the top with shark’s skin, was placed before each, which they beat with the palm or fingers of their right hand. A neat little drum, made of the shell of a large cocoa-nut, was also fixed on the knee, by the side of the large drum, and beat with a small stick held in the left hand. When the musicians had arranged themselves in a line, across the beach, and a bustling man, who appeared to be master of the ceremonies, had, with a large branch of a cocoa-nut tree, cleared a circle of considerable extent, two interesting little children, (a boy and a girl,) apparently about nine years of age, came forward, habited in the dancing costume of the country, with garlands of flowers on their heads, wreaths around their necks, bracelets on their wrists, and buskins on their ankles. When they had reached the centre of the ring, they commenced their dance to the music of the drums; cantilating, alternately with the musicians, a song in honor of, some ancient of Hawaii.

The governor of the island was present, accompanied, as it is customary for every chieftain of distinction to be on public occasions, by a retinue of favorite chiefs and attendants. Having almost entirely laid aside the native costume, and adopted that of the foreigners who visit the islands, he appeared on this occasion in a light European dress, and sat on a Canton-made arm chair, opposite the dancers, during the whole exhibition. A servant, with a light kihei of painted native cloth thrown over his shoulder, stood behind his chair, holding a highly polished spittoon, made of the beautifully brown wood of the cordia in one hand, and in the other a handsome kahiri, an elastic rod, three or four feet long, having the shining feathers of the tropic-bird tastefully fastened round the upper end, with which he fanned away the flies from the person of his master. The beach was crowded with spectators, and the exhibition kept up with Great Spirit, till the overspreading shades of evening put an end to their mirth, and afforded a respite to the poor children, whose little limbs must have been very much fatigued by two hours of constant exercise.

A messenger now invited us to sup with the governor, and we soon after joined him and his friends around his hospitable board. Our repast was not accompanied by the gladsome sound of “harp in hall” or “aged minstrel’s flowing lay,” yet it was enlivened by an interesting youthful bard, twelve or fourteen years of age, who was seated on the ground in the large room in which we were assembled, and who, during the supper, sung, in a monotonous but pleasing strain, the deeds of former chiefs, ancestors of our host. His fingers swept no “classic lyre,” but beat, in a manner responsive to his song, a rustic little drum, formed of a calabash, beautifully stained, and covered at the head with a piece of shark skin. The governor and his friends were evidently pleased with his lay, and the youth seemed repaid by their approbation. (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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