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Event highlights little-known Hawaiian musical bow


Image courtesy of Mahi La Pierre

Learn about Hawai‘i’s only indigenous stringed instrument on April 5 at ‘Ūkēkē Ho‘ōla Hou: A Hands-On Talk-Story Experience featuring ‘ūkēkē artisan Mahi La Pierre with ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i narrative by University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu assistant professor Kaua Neumann.

The event — from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, April 5, at the Nāulu Center on campus — highlights the ‘ūkēkē, an obscure instrument used in song, chant, and hula.

Before the Portuguese braguinha was transformed into the ukulele in the 1870s by immigrant sugar workers, the ‘ūkēkē, or Hawaiian musical bow, was the stringed instrument known to Hawaiians, according to the Papahana Kuaola website. Hawai‘i’s only indigenous stringed instrument, the ‘ūkēkē is believed to have evolved from its cousin, the ‘ūtētē, of the native Marquesans.

Mahi La Pierre
Mahi La Pierre

“This will be a great opportunity to learn about the little-known ‘ūkēkē instrument from a master of arts, Mahi La Pierre,” Neumann said.

La Pierre is an educator and mixed-media artisan who is passionate about exploring, perpetuating, and sharing the art and science inherent in Hawaiian indigenous knowledge, practices, and material culture. Working in the fields of education, conservation, and cultural resource management, his creations are inspired by symbolism, shapes, and textures of akua, ‘āina, and kānaka narratives.

Neumann is an educator and Hawaiian language advocate who is always looking for opportunities to perpetuate and re-normalize the Hawaiian language in the community. Neumann has experience in the fields of food sustainability, conservation, and cultural resource management.

“It is important to have more events like this where students and community can gather and mingle to learn, enjoy, and perpetuate different forms of Hawaiian arts and culture,” Neumann said. “‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i cannot be separated from anything Hawaiian. This will be another opportunity to see how ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i is utilized in different domains and styles.”

The event is presented by the UH West O‘ahu Humanities Division Music Certificate and ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i Certificate with funding support from SEED Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Success (IDEAS).

UH West O‘ahu students, faculty, and staff, and the general public are welcome to attend ‘Ūkēkē Ho‘ōla Hou. Please contact Dr. Jon Magnussen for more information at 808-689-2357 or email

Image courtesy of Mahi La Pierre