Hula Instrument - ʻulili and ʻukēkē

It was always amazing to watch Merrie Monarch. Besides hula, I can learn about Hawaiian mele (songs) and also the hula instruments. I’ve been watching Merrie Monarch for 3 years, and I’m still learning about the hula instruments that I’ve never seen. In Merrie Monarch 2019, there are two interesting instruments - ʻulili and ʻukēkē.


I thought it was some kind of ʻuliʻuli while watching TV. But kumu Noe told us that it was ʻulili. It made from the fruit of laamia (Crescentia cujete). The end gourds contain alii poe (canna) seeds, and when dancers pull the cord to make the gourds spin, the result is a whirring sound. Besides insterement ʻulili also stand for a shorebird!

ʻulili photo from


Kumu told us that there was only one person knows how to play the ʻukēkē, but now it’s amazing to see a group of people playing it in Merrie Monarch. I don’t know if that’s the reason that the group won the first place of Kane hula Kahiko.

“The ʻukēkē is made of koa wood, 16 to 24 inches long and about 1½ inches wide with two or three strings fastened through and around either end. The strings were strummed with one hand while the other hand kept the ʻukēkē in position. The mouth would then act as a resonating chamber. The ʻukēkē is the only stringed instrument indigenous to Hawaii, with other Hawaiian string instruments like the ukulele and slack-key guitar having been introduced by European sailors and settlers.” from Wikipedia

The music with ʻukēkē:

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