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12 Passed into the Present Women in Hawaiian Entertainment Amy Ku‘uleialoha Stillman Since the late nineteenth century, Hawaiian music and dance have been enjoyed by residents and visitors to Hawai‘i and have served as a promotional tool for performers who toured and played nightspots outside Hawai‘i. Women were an integral part of Hawaiian entertainment. Yet, on close examination, women’s contributions cluster into two principal areas: featured soloists and caretakers of knowledge. In this chapter, my purpose is to provide a historical overview of women in Hawaiian entertainment, particularly in the twentieth century, in order to show how women’s contributions have been absolutely essential to the perpetuation of Hawaiian music and dance. Hawaiian entertainment is inscribed in the historical record of Hawai‘i’s peoples. Indigenous legends attribute the hula tradition to Hi‘iaka, favored younger sister of the volcano goddess Pele. The opening scene in the epic tale of Pele and Hi‘iaka takes place on the beach at Puna, where Hi‘iaka’s friend Hopoe and her companion Ha‘ena are engaged in a dance. Upon Pele’s request for a dance from her sisters, Hi‘iaka responds, dancing to a song that, according to the legend, marks the invention of the hula.1 Ke ha‘a la Puna i ka makani Ha‘a ka ulu hala i Kea‘au Ha‘a Ha‘ena me Hopoe Ha‘a ka wahine ‘Ami i kai o Nanahuki la Hula le‘a wale i kai o Nanahuki e! Puna dances in the breeze The pandanus groves at Kea‘au dance Haena and Hopoe dance The woman dances Hip-swaying in the waters of Nanahuki Dancing with enjoyment in the waters of Nanahuki!2 The saga of Pele and Hi‘iaka details how the sisters confront love, betrayal, loyalty, and vengeance, as Hi‘iaka is sent on a journey to fetch Pele’s lover from Kaua‘i island. 205 Throughout her journey, Hi‘iaka’s adventures are memorialized in both narrative prose and poetry. The epic is a foundational text for hula students, both in its relating of the genesis of hula and in its encasing of numerous pieces of hula repertoire,many of which have passed into the present. Out of this episode emerged the hula tradition, the performance of which combines dance movement,poetic composition,vocal recitation,and percussive instrumental accompaniment . Other legends relate the arrival of the sharkskin-covered temple drum with the chief La‘a-mai-Kahiki at around the twelfth century. The religious system associated with these settlers and the sacred drum required the observation of elaborate ritual practices, among them the safeguarding of sacred and esoteric knowledge. The hula’s mythic origins were encompassed by restrictions surrounding the training of performers and the transmission of sacred repertoire. While specific details of how the elaborate state religious system intersected with gender in Hawaiian society are beyond the scope of this essay, what is important here is that women were involved in hula performance from its beginnings. After the arrival of Europeans in 1778 and the subsequent success of American Calvinist missionaries in converting Hawaiians to Christianity by the mid-1820s, Hawaiian society underwent radical social transformation throughout the nineteenth century. Hawaiian performance was transformed as Hawaiians embraced Anglo-American Christian hymns, and missionaries promoted musical literacy in the use of musical staff notation ; yet, despite missionary-inspired prohibitions of the hula, adherents quietly took it underground until later in the nineteenth century, when its performance was once again encouraged. The visual record throughout is rich with images of women performers , in drawings, photographs, and postcards. By the late nineteenth century, women composers were enriching the historical record with songs, and the advent of sound recording added the dimension of women’s voices by the start of the twentieth century. The contrast of foreground and underground provides a convenient conceptual frame for considering two areas of women’s contributions to Hawaiian entertainment that I wish to focus on here. As featured soloists, whether as singers or dancers, women are foregrounded by virtue of being onstage. Likewise, in photographic sources, women are foregrounded in a purely statistical manner, outnumbering men performers on postcards by a landslide, for reasons that are elaborated below. Although the notion of foreground is usually contrasted with background, I suggest that“underground”offers greater nuance. Over the course of the twentieth century, the primary lens through which Hawaiian music and hula have been openly accessible, especially outside Hawai‘i, has been...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814790977
Related ISBN
9780814736326
MARC Record
OCLC
794701046
Pages
448
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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