Learning Hawaiian Words: Ipu

1 12 2015



A gourd, an all purpose container used for food and water, or as a hula implement.



20 11 2015

The hula is a dance formed by body movements combining with pictorial hand and arm gestures and rhythmic lower-body patterns that are named. It is accompanied by chant or song. and was developed in the by the Polynesians who settled in Hawaii. The chant is called a mele the hula dancer dramatizes the story told by the mele.


There are many styles of hula. They are commonly divided into two broad categories: Ancient hula, (which was practiced only by men), as performed before Western encounters with Hawaiʻi, is called kahiko.

Hawaiian history is an oral history. It was codified in genealogies and chants that were memorized and passed down through the generations. Chants told the stories of creation, mythology, royalty, and significant events and important people.


Hula is taught in schools called halau. The teacher of hula is the kumu hula, where kumu means source of knowledge. Hula dancing is a complex art form, and there are many hand motions used to signify aspects of nature, such as the basic Hula and Coconut Tree motions, or the basic leg steps, such as the Kaholo, Ka’o, and Ami.


Instruments that may accompany the hula:

  • Ipu- single gourd drum
  • Ipu heke — double gourd drum
  • Pahu — shark skin covered drum; considered sacred
  • Pūniu — small knee drum made of a coconut shell with fish skin cover
  • ʻIliʻili — water-worn lava stone used as castanet like instrument
  • ʻUlīʻulī — feathered gourd rattles
  • Pūʻili — split bamboo sticks
  • Kālaʻau — rhythm sticks

The dog’s-tooth anklets worn by male dancers can be considered instruments, as they underlined the sounds of stamping feet.


Hula dancers: in traditional kahiko costume

Hula as History

20 09 2015

The easiest way to memorize our history is by doing it through the hula. Hula keeps our history alive, and without it one cannot truly identify oneself as being Hawaiian. -Al Makahinu Barcarse

A Flower Lei and a Kiss…

18 04 2015

Aloha Spirit

The tradition of giving a kiss when presenting a lei was said to have begun by a USO dancer in World War II. She was dared by her peers to kiss an attractive Navy man and when she did she gave him her flower necklace and told him it was a Hawaiian tradition and made it so from that point forward. Hard to know if this is the true beginnings of this tradition but it certainly makes a great story!


13 03 2013

Hula teaches you everything about life. It teaches you about nature, respect, and about God.

-Kamalei Sataraka

The Heartbeat of the Hawaiian People

5 02 2011

Hula dancer at Volcanoes National Park

The Hula is the heartbeat of the Hawaiian People. ~ David Kalakaua

Stories told by Movement

5 10 2010

hula hula

Hula, which is used to impart ancient Hawaiian history and myths,

appeals to me because you tell stories with your hands.

~ Mahealani Uchiyama

The Hands of the Hula Dancer

5 08 2010

The hands of the hula dancer are ever going out in gesture, her body swaying and pivoting itself in attitude of expression. Her whole physique is a living and moving picture of feeling, sentiment, and passion. ~ Nathaniel B. Emerson