He Mele Aloha: A Hawaiian Songbook – Review

he mele aloha book coverBased on everyone’s favorite Hawaiian kani ka pila songs, He Mele Aloha is THE resource for every ukulele strummer with a love for Hawaiian music. If you play lots of Hawaiian music or just want to learn some of the tunes, you should have this on your shelf.

There are a lot of songs to chose from – around 260 (about 40 of which are hapa-haole). Many are obscure and can’t be found anywhere else. Others are popular and give a reference for correct pronunciation.

What makes this book most valuable is the fact that it shows very accurate chords and even more accurate Hawaiian lyrics of each song. If you’re going to sing Hawaiian you should have access to the right words, spellings, and diacritic marks. Singing from incorrect lyrics might completely change the meaning of the song!

The Hawaiian lyrics in He Mele Aloha have been researched very well. It’s my go-to source. Not many books are “approved” by Hawaiian language speakers, but this one gets their endorsement. I’ve yet to hear of any errors found in He Mele Aloha.

In the front of the book there is a chord section, and the transposition chart is very handy. These basics lay a brief foundation for a typical Hawaiian music kani ka pila where keys change according to the singer.

The layout of each song page is great. At the top, all the chords used in the song are shown. Above each line of lyrics, the chord changes are shown in blue (a bit hard to see in the dark sometimes, but otherwise a helpful contrast). There is also a translation which will inform you about what you are singing as well as some info about the song (composer, date, etc…).

Night after night of weekly jams have tested this book thoroughly. The spiral bound version is sturdy as heck and lays nice and flat. The pages are thick so a bit of water won’t shrivel them all up. There is plenty of room for notes and extra chord diagrams in the margins. A well thought out format for the kani ka pila long haul.

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Unfortunately, new versions of He Mele Aloha are perfect bound like a standard book. Usually this is considered an upgrade, but for such a large songbook, the spiral binding was really great. I’ve seen people struggle with getting the new version to lay flat at jams.

Though this book is missing some great kani ka pila pieces, there is plenty to offer to anyone who has an interest in learning some great Hawaiian songs. Here’s hoping for a volume two!

5 stars

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