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In Hawaiian music and dance performances, poetry, rhythm, melody, and movement serve multiple functions ranging from entertainment to prayer.

In the popular dance form hula, song lyrics are especially important, communicating descriptive and historical information, and reminding local people of their shared identities. Today, music and dance knowledge is passed along in selected hula schools on the islands and in Hawaiian communities on the mainland.

Hula songs are accompanied by highly valued traditional instruments such as the decorated pahu drum, double-gourd ipu heke, and small Puniu knee drum. In addition, dancers play gourd and bamboo rattle instruments and ka'eke'eke rhythm sticks to provide both rhythm and sound for this sung poetry. Guitars and ukuleles, introduced during the 19th centry, often accompany hula and other Hawaiian performances.


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