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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2021

Hawaiian Music Authenticity: Preservation and Representation

Margaret Grewal

Senior, Music Education


This project investigates Hawaiian music history, genres, and traditions to define “authentic” Hawaiian music with the goal of preservation and proper representation. The first section is a comprehensive outline of Hawaiian music history, including both ancient and modern forms of music. Many parts of Hawaiian music history are widely influenced by the continuous colonialism by Europeans and Americans. The second section traces the musical history of the song, “Aloha ‘Oe.” By tracing its evolution through time, it is easy to understand the many changes, modifications, and influences that shaped it over throughout history since its creation in 1884. The two sections, in conclusion, highlight the important aspects of authentic Hawaiian music and how that translates into preserving Hawaiian musical traditions and proper representation.

Project Background 

This December I completed the largest and most influential project I had ever started. After months of research, analyzing, listening, and writing, I present my essay “Hawaiian Music Authenticity: Preservation and Representation,” The implications of this work is to reinvent how we, non-Hawaiians, view, receive, and perform Hawaiian music. I hope that this work will inspire the world to evaluate how we represent and preserve cultural musics, especially outside of the western tradition that is so widely accepted. What the essay is at its core is a reflection of me, the obstacles I had to overcome, and the many things I learned that were so important that they had to be included in this essay.The original proposal for this project is drastically different from the product I have today. Right after I submitted my proposal, the whole nation shut down due to COVID-19. Most of my project was dependent on my ability to travel to Hawai’i. My original trip was in May, which was then postponed to August, and then eventually canceled. To this day, you still can’t travel to Hawai’i. The project I proposed was no longer possible so I had to reinvent and rely on the sources I could access around me. Having to continuously change my plan and cancel my trip to the islands was an extreme obstacle. Not only did it affect the physical product but affected me personally as well. I had a lot of visions I wanted to accomplish with my original proposal but never came to be. Over September, I had to evaluate and decided what I could still do, even though it wasn’t going to be as grand as I had planned. After revaluating my circumstances, I was able to learn so many things about myself and Hawaiian music. Coincidentally, it somewhat became an obstacle. When learning about other cultures that are not my own, I am continuously amazed by their beauty. On the other side of the beauty, I see the damage and hurt white cultures have enforced over the years, even today. After each document I read, the more I realized our understanding of Hawaiian culture and history was been whitewashed. I realized I also had a hand in this too. I will admit, it was difficult and most certainly an obstacle. Out of the obstacle came this essay. A project that was completely unplanned, but full of purpose and passion.

What Do You Think? 

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  1. Abby Shreve

    This is beyond cool Maggie! Thank you so much for your research, and for teaching me so much. 🙂

    • Joshua Kriegl

      Wow, Maggie! It looks like you poured a lot of effort into this project. Its too bad you weren’t able to go to Hawaii during the research process, but you made due with the resources that you did have and produced a mighty fine product in the end! Super job!

    • Ken and Peggy Giacoletto

      Maggie, your genuine love and passion for authentic Hawaiian music is so apparent in the all the effort you put into researching this topic. We know you were so disappointed that you couldn’t do some of your research in Hawaii. But we are so proud of you for discovering creative ways to overcome your original plans and still produce an excellent final work!

  2. Elsa Zank

    Wonderful job, Maggie!! You clearly put a lot of hard work and passion into this project in spite of the unforeseen circumstances you faced. There is so much value to this research. Thank you for helping to bring it to the attention of our community!

  3. Alison Shaw

    Nice job, Maggie!

  4. Ed and Karen Willson

    Great job, Maggie. We’re so proud of how you overcame many obstacles to present your work. We learned so much about the Hawaiian culture and history.

  5. MZ Yazel

    WOW, thanks for teaching me all of these things about Hawaiian music Maggie! Things I never would have thought about or learned about. Great job!

  6. Julia Chybowski

    Congratulations, Maggie! You should be proud of your research!

  7. Molly Hennig

    Absolutely love this presentation, Maggie. Thank you for your thorough research on such an important ethnomusicological topic. I sincerely hope you can travel to Hawaii again and continue in your studies!

  8. Shayla Elaine Menter

    I couldn’t be more proud of you and your research, Maggie. I know how much passion you have for this topic, and it truly shows! Congratulations on such a fantastic conclusion to your college career!


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