Hula Dancer with a bamboo stick
called the Ka'eka'e

Many of the Hula instruments used today to dance the Hula Kahiko, have survived from ancient times. Here are a list of the most common Hula instruments that are used today performing Hula Kahiko or Hula Auana.

1) The Pahu are usually made from hollowed out coconut tree trunks and are intricately carved and covered with shark skin. This is used to accompany the movements and chanting.

2) The puniu or kilu is a much smaller drum made from a coconut shell and covered with the skin of the kala fish. Dancers often tied these drums to their legs and struck them in rhythm or counter rhythm to their movements.

3) The puili is a piece of dried bamboo approximately two feet long that has been split into strips down most of the length. Dancers strike two puili together or against their bodies to create a rattling accompaniment.

4) The ‘ohe is a simple bamboo flute that produces a soulful sound. Unlike other flutes this one is played by blowing air across the opening from one nostril and is often times called a nose flute.

5) The uli’uli is a grapefruit sized gourd from the La’amia tree was dried, hollowed out and after a few pebbles were put inside, were decorated with bright red and yellow feathers. This instrument is kind of like maracas and are still used today for Hula Kahiko as well as Hula Auana.

6) Ipu are dried Hawaiian gourds which have had the top cut off and the insides removed. Dancers hold the ipu in one hand by it’s throat and carefully strike it with the palm of fingers of the other hand, or it is struck against the body or a pad on the ground, in rhythm to the Hula. Sometimes two gourds were glued together to create an ipu heke.

7) Ili’ili are tow small flat river rocks that the dancers make percussive sounds with like Spanish castanets.

8) Kala’au are two sticks that the dancer strikes together to make percussive sounds. Most kala’au are short, but some dancers use one short and one staff- like long one.

9) Ka’eka’e are varying lengths of bamboo that are open on one end. The Hawaiians strike the Ka’eka’e on the ground to make a drum like sound. Different lengths make different sounds so the Ka’eka’e are called a bamboo organ.

10) The Kulili is a triple gourd rattle that uses a pull string to rotate the individual parts.

11) The Pu is a trumpet that is made from a seashell, such as a conch shell.

12) The Ukulele and Hawaiian steel guitar are the most famous modern Hula instruments. Both were adapted by Hawaiians from early European instruments. The Ukulele is perhaps another of the best known Hawaiian words in the world. This instrument is relatively easy to learn and play. The Hawaiian or steel guitar was invented in Laie, the home of The Polynesian Cultural Center, by Joseph Kekuku. His descendants still live there. Kekuku figured out that he could make beautiful sounds by sliding a steel bar across the guitar strings.

This Hula dancer is
using an instrument
called poi balls

The dancer in the photo above is using poi balls. She swings the poi balls in different directions during the dance and the illusion is that of an airplane propeller. They move so fast the eye only sees a streak. She will use multiple balls and really amaze the audience.

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Copyright 2007

Some Hula







Puniu or Kilu



Pu (conch shell horn)