Since I live only miles from the home of the late Sam Li’a, his signature song, Hi’ilawe gets played a lot at local events.
It’s a beautiful Hawaiian piece about love and gossip in Waipi’o valley. Every hula dancer in the area knows how to dance Hi’ilawe and everyone else loves to watch and listen.
The song has 13 original verses, but they are almost always abbreviated to six or seven so these are the ones people know and I’ve included here. I learned all 13 for Hawaiian language class many years ago, but you don’t remember that many verses if you never sing them! For those who are interested, the He Mele Aloha book has them all.
If you need a reference to how the song goes, Gabby Pahinui’s version on Pure Gabby is the most well known and, as far as I know, is where the iconic “Hi’ilawe riff” came from. His words are different from what I’m familiar with in some places, but Hawaiian music is like that. The lyrics I’ve included here are the ones that Puakea Nogelmeier vetted in the above-mentioned book, minus web-unfriendly diacritics.
Also included is the vamp riff that Gabby plays, albeit in a different key. You’ll need a low-G string for this to work right. Otherwise, you might see how the key of F fits your voice and transpose from there to get the same riff in a new key.
F Bb F Kumaka ka 'ikena ia Hi'ilawe C7 F Ka papa lohi mai a'o Maukele F Bb F Pakele mai au i ka nui manu C7 F Hau wala'au nei puni Waipi'o F Bb F 'A'ole no wau e loa'a mai C7 F A he uhiwai au no ke kuahiwi F Bb F He hiwahiwa au na ka makua C7 F A he lei 'a'i na ke kupuna F Bb F No Puna ke 'ala i hali 'ia mai C7 F Noho i ka wailele a'o Hi'ilawe F Bb F I ka poli no au o Ha'i wahine C7 F I ka poli aloha o Ha'inakolo F Bb F Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana C7 F Kumaka ka 'ikena ia Hi'ilawe Vamp: A |-------------0--- E |-------0h1-----1- C |-----0----------- G |-2/3-------2-----