Looking for some authentic Hawaiian ukulele songs? We’ve compiled a list of seven awesome Hawaiian songs that everyone will enjoy. Whether you want to play these songs or just listen, each of them are popular hits with strong connections to the beautiful state of Hawaii.
We’ve included each song’s history, tips on how to play them, and videos of each song. We hope you enjoy listening and reading about the stories of these beautiful Hawaiian songs – in the spirit of Hawaii, “Aloha!”
7 Hawaiian Songs Featuring the Ukulele
1. “Blue Hawaii” – Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger
Elvis Presley loved Hawaiian songs and recorded many of them for his 1961 film, Blue Hawaii. However, this song actually dates back to 1937.
The song is a bit difficult to play on the ukulele because it uses chords from G# major. However, one helpful trick to playing this song the “easy way” is simply to take off all the sharps from the chords. Voila! You will now have a beautiful Hawaiian song with just four simple chords.
2. “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
This song is a classic and a staple in any ukulele players’ repertoire. It’s a two-song medley that Hawaiian native, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, made famous. This particular version is so popular that it’s licensed 111 times in movies, TV dramas, commercials, and even websites.
The song utilizes many chords but they are all simple and, with some practice, easy for a novice ukulele player to pick up.
3. “Aloha Oe” – Queen Liliuokalani
Stepping away from the Hollywood influence, lets look at some lesser known, but very traditional Hawaiian songs. This song dates back to 1878 and is by the Queen of Hawaii at the time. Many call it Hawaii’s most famous composition.
The song has a beautiful story. The Queen composed it after witnessing a lingering embrace between a woman and man at the Edwin Boyd Ranch in Maunawili. The Queen herself said, “It’s a poem about love and passion, man and woman. It’s much, much more than just goodbye.”
The song is very simple to play on the ukulele using only three chords.
SEE ALSO: 10 Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners
4. “Hiilawe” – Gabby Pahinui
This song is an ancient hula standard about a love affair at a Big Island waterfall. The composer and date are unknown however the artist Gabby Pahinui transformed it into an anthem for slack guitar players.
Pahinui is known as a “folk hero” of the Hawaiian Renaissance. This is another easy song to play for any ukulele enthusiast!
5. “Hawaii ’78” – Mickey Ioane
This is one of our favorite Hawaiian songs. It’s a melancholy song that dates back to 1978.
This song was written in response to Hawaiian demonstrators clashing with the National Guard at Hilo Airport over land issues and resort development, which was crowding the island’s oceanfronts. The song is a slow song and uses only four repeating ukulele chords.
6. “Waimanalo Blues” – Liko Martin and Thor Wold
This is a fun tune from back in 1974. Its original name was “Nanakuli Blues.” It later became a political protest about the developments taking place all around Hawaii. The song is a simple form which uses a nice flat-7 chord in the turnaround.
7. “Palehua” – Amy Hanaialii Giliom and William Kahailii
This last song is a beautiful piece written in 1998. The song was inspired, composed, and recorded in Palehua. It is an easy song to play on the ukulele using mainly just two chords.
All the information about these songs was taken from the article “50 Greatest Songs of Hawaii” written by Ronna Bolante and Michael Keany.
Post Author: Christopher S. teaches bass guitar, guitar, and composition in Jamaica Plain, MA. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Humboldt State University. Christopher has been teaching students since 2004. Learn more about Christopher S. here!
Photo by Oliver Degabriele