The Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco in 1915 to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, as well as support San Francisco’s recovery from the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire.
The Exposition looked to the future for innovation. Things we take for granted today – cars, airplanes, telephones, and movies – were in their infancy and were shown off at the fair, and some well-known technological luminaries were involved in the fair.
The San Francisco Exposition was also the launching site for broader awareness of hula ‘auana, contemporary hula – it was featured in the Hawaii exhibits.
There, ‘Princess Lei Lokelani’ performed traditional foot movements – ku‘i and ‘uwehe – to modern ‘ukulele and steel guitar songs – this also launched the hapa-haole (half “foreign”) hula phenomenon into broader markets. (Wianecki)
Traditional Hawaiian music was based upon mele oli and mele hula as performed in the pre-Western-contact era. Mele oli means plain chanting, while mele hula signifies chanting accompanied by hula.
There are many different types of hula. Today, hula has been divided into two main categories; hula ‘auana and hula kahiko, also known as modern hula and ancient hula.
Within the ancient hula, or hula kahiko, there are several different type; to begin with, the three basic ancient dances hula pahu, hula ku‘i and hula ‘āla‘apapa provide the starting point for the kahiko dances we see today.
The hula pahu dances were, originally a part of heiau, or temple, rituals and were danced in honor of “the akua – Kāne, Kanaloa, Kū and Lono – the ‘state gods’, who had been recognized by all Hawaiians and were intimately involved in Polynesian cosmology and the ordering of Hawaiian society”. (Kaepple)
After the overthrow of the Hawaiian religious system in 1819, by the Hawaiians themselves, the rituals were transferred to honor ‘aumākua (deified ancestors) who had not been overthrown, such as Pele, Laka and Kapo.
The hula pahu dances are defined by a certain rhythmic pattern and by certain chants. They are danced to the beats of the pahu drum.
The movements of the hula pahu originally objectified or embodied the work of kahuna (priests or spiritual mentors) and was according to legend, brought to Hawai‘i, along with the pahu drum, from Tahiti by La‘amaikahiki.
The hula ku‘i originated in the Kalākaua era, and had its first public appearance during the coronation ceremonies of King Kalākaua in 1883. The hula ku‘i is accompanied by mele, and usually instruments like the guitar or the ‘ukulele. The dance style is softer than the hula pahu, yet not as soft as the modern ‘auana
The hula ‘āla‘apapa is an ancient hula that is accompanied by chant, and danced to the rhythm of the double gourd ipu, ipu heke, with “vigorous and bombastic” movements. The dance is performed in a standing position, and the ho‘opa‘a is responsible for both the rhythm and the chanting.
The ‘ōlapa/ku‘i dances and the ‘āla‘apapa dances are very much alike to the untrained eye, but differences lie in the movement and rhythmic patterns and the flow of the chants.
Mele hula kuʻi – chant and dance style with western influences – developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries from mele hula. These three forms served as the foundations of authentic Hawaiian music. (Torgersen)
At the corner of what is now Baker Street and Marina Boulevard in San Francisco’s Marina District was where the Hawaiian Pavilion stood during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
These Hawaiian shows had the highest attendance at the entire fair and launched a Hawaiian cultural craze that influenced everything from American music, to movies, to fashion. (Mushet)
“The hugely popular Hawaii pavilion … showcased Hawaiian music and hula dancing, and was the unofficial launching pad for ukulele-mania.” Hapa-haole songs were featured in the Hawaii exhibits.
The ‘Princess’ was 15-year old Elizabeth Jonia Leilokelani Shaw; she and her family were a hit at the Exposition – Shaw had moved from the Islands to Portland with her family. Her first professional performance was at the exposition; she later danced contemporary hula in vaudeville.
Hula ‘auana are always accompanied by mele, and have soft and floating movements. The ‘auana is also inspired by the hula of the 20th century up until the late 1960s, including the hapa haole styled hula. (Torgersen)
The costumes of the hula ‘auana are different from the kahiko costumes, which usually involve a pā‘ū (hula skirt) and a top to match the pā‘ū for female dancers, and a malo (loincloth) for the male dancers, as well as anklets, wristlets and a headpiece made from traditional hula plants and flowers.
The ‘auana costumes often involve mu‘umu‘u (long dress or gown) for women and black pants, a shirt and sash for the men. The women often have large headpieces made from flowers and greens and may wear shoes as part of the costume.
The kahiko dances must always be danced barefoot, and the dancer is not allowed any jewelry or excessive makeup. (Torgersen)
By 1916, there were hundreds of Hapa Haole tunes written. That same year, reportedly more Hawaiian records were sold on the mainland than any other type of music. And they came in all the popular styles of the day: in ragtime, blues, jazz, foxtrot and waltz tempos, as “shimmy” dances and–even–in traditional hula tempos, but jazzed up a bit.
In 1935, a radio program began, broadcasting live from the Banyan Court of the Moana Hotel on the beach at Waikīkī, and radios nationwide tuned in to hear “Hawaii Calls.” Not only did nearly every island entertainer cut his or her teeth on the program, many went on to become well known.