Scroll Top

ʻŪkēkē: E Kani Hou (To Resonate Once Again)

ʻŪkēkē: E Kani Hou (To Resonate Once Again)

Before the Portuguese braguinha was transformed into the ukulele in the 1870s by immigrant sugar workers, the ʻūkēkē, or Hawaiian musical bow, was the stringed instrument known to Hawaiians.

Hawaii’s only indigenous stringed instrument, the ʻūkēkē is believed to have evolved from its cousin, the ʻūtētē, of the native Marquesans. This obscure and unfamiliar Hawaiian instrument is used in song, chant, and hula. Today, most people have not seen, heard, or know how to make and play this once-treasured chordophone.

This project is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). E Kani Hou works in conjunction with the agency’s goal to Promote Lifelong Learning for people of all ages through continuous learning for families and individuals with diverse backgrounds and needs; and the Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program (NANH) goal to provide opportunities to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge through strengthened activities in educational services and programming. This project will bring museum services to communities and classrooms to engage students in museum programming thus strengthening museum services. This project will service students in public, charter, and Hawaiian language immersion schools. Students and community will engage in museum services and meet cultural practitioners and professional educators who also provide services at the Bishop Museum.  It will address the need for knowledge and understanding of Hawaiian traditions and practices related to the ʻūkēkē through the provision of classroom presentations, hands-on-activities, and community workshops conducted by cultural practitioners within the community. For more information about ʻūkēkē please contact us at

Hawaiian man playing the ʻūkēkē (a musical bow) at Lunalilo Home; Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.
Photo by Alonzo Gartley
ca. 1910
Hawaiian man playing the ʻūkēkē (a musical bow); Hawaiʻi.
Photographer unknown
Peter K. Kaawa playing the ʻūkēkē (a musical bow); Kukuiohiwai, North Kona, Hawaiʻi.
Photo by Helen Roberts
Fall 1923
Mary Kawena Pukui playing the ʻūkēkē with Lokalia (Rosalie) Montgomery; Hawaiʻi.
Photographer unknown

Hui ʻŪkēkē Aʻo

The mission of Hui ʻŪkēkē Aʻo is to learn and share about ʻūkēkē, the only indigenous stringed instrument of Hawaiʻi, to ensure that the traditional Hawaiian art, science, and practice of ʻūkēkē lives on for generations to come. 

Hui ʻŪkēkē Aʻo is comprised of nā hoa pili: Lance Genson Mahi La Pierre of Kapālama and Maunalua, Oʻahu; ʻIliahi Shawn Doo of Wailua and Kapahi, Kauaʻi; and Kunāne R. A. Wooton of Mānā and Hanalei, Kauaʻi – who all share a love for ʻāina and kānaka, and a passion for learning and sharing about nā mea Hawaiʻi that are not-so-well-known.

Photo Credit: Hui ʻŪkēkē Aʻo

A Guide to Preserving and Perpetuating the Art of ʻŪkēkē

E Kani Hou (To Resonate Once Again) will advance the perpetuation, preservation, and practice of the Hawaiian culture by providing opportunities for the Hawaiian community to learn from cultural practitioners the Hawaiian traditions and practices to address the need for knowledge and understanding of the ʻūkēkē; an art that is relatively obscure today.

Traditional Hawaiian Knowledge & Materials (Part 1)
Traditional Hawaiian Knowledge & Materials (Part 2)
Your ʻŪkēkē Kit
Creating Your ʻŪkēkē: Tools, Cutting & Sanding
Stringing Your ʻŪkēkē
Mele ʻŪkēkē: Holding the instrument, Strumming & Playing
Composing Your ʻŪkēkē Song
How Museums Preserve Hawaiian Culture

This digital booklet has been created featuring the work of student participants. Students composed mele (songs) about various topics as a culminating project for E Kani Hou. Access is limited to the participants of this project. 


Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.