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Top Jawaiian Music/Songs: Hawaiian Reggae

Updated on January 28, 2018

Ka'au Crater Boys and Robi Kahakalau's "Leather and Lace" (Hawaiian Style)

Estelle "Come Over Love"

What is "Jawaiian Music"?

Jawaiian music is music that is made in Hawaii and heavily influenced by reggae. Hawaiian music has evolved over time since the days of Queen Liliokalani to Don Ho. In the seventies, Hawaiian music was influenced by funk, which led to many Hawaiian hits. Since that time, Hawaiian music has been influenced by reggae, which became popular in Hawaii at the time Bob Marley was famous.

Jawaiian music uses the harmonies and sweet melodies of a Hawaiian song, but have the instrumental elements of reggae.

A lot of the most famous Jawaiian songs are covers of popular, American rock and soft rock songs. Hawaiians performing for tourists would often play covers of American music to relate to the foreigners. For example, the popular song, "Leather and Lace", originally performed by Stevie Nicks and Don Henley was made popular in Hawaii through the Ka'au Crater Boys and Robi Kahakalau's version (click on the video to the right to hear this song). But this song is not considered to be "Jawaiian", since it lacks the reggae element.

The song below is performed by up-and-coming Hawaiian artist, Anuhea. The song, "Come Over Love" is written and performed by British artist Estelle (listen to her version by clicking on the song to the right). Anuhea allows her Jawaiian sound to enhance the song.

Anuhea "Come Over Love" (Hawaiian Cover)

Sean Nau'auao "Fish and Poi"

Three Plus "Two Person Party"

Three Plus, Ekolu and the Mana'o Company are well-known Jawaiian artists. Their mellow grooves were very popular in the nineties and still play on the Hawaiian radio stations. Their predecessors include Robi Kahakalau (AKA Sistah Robi), Isreal Kamakawiwaole (AKA Braddah IZ), and Keali'i Raichel.

As time goes on, new artists are traveling to the mainland to tour because of their popularity. Anuhea, the soulful, Hawaiian artist (song below) is known all over North America while being one of the most popular Hawaiian artists of today.

Anuhea "Higher than the Clouds" Music Video

Common Kings "Wade in your Water"

Nuff Sed "Sweet Cherry Bomb"

How does Jawaiian Music Differ from Reggae?

Reggae music is traditionally about the migration of Ethiopians from their "babylon" to "zion". They sing about the ways in which they are traveling to a better place and leaving behind a life of devastation. Hawaiian Reggae, as some call it, is different. Instead of singing about oppression, the Hawaiian's sing about love, food, and the land. If Hawaiian's choose to make a political or social statement in their music, it is generally about the land being taken from them illegally by the United States, however, this is not a common theme in Jawaiian music.

Ekolu "I Love You Girl"

What is the Composition of a Jawaiian Song?

Jawaiian songs usually use the instrument that Hawaii is known for, the ukulele (see the photo to the right). The ukuele (pronounced oo-koo-lell-lay) was originally brought to Hawaii by the Portuguese. They used the four-string guitar with a more rounded back side. The Hawaiians redesigned the instrument so it looked like a small guitar. The use of nylon strings gives the ukulele that soft, Hawaiian sound.

The rest of the instruments in Jawaiian music include keyboards with organ synths, bongos and basses--all of these are not traditional Hawaiian instruments, but are in fact instruments influenced by reggae and rock. What makes Jawaiian special is the harmonies. There is a distinct, Hawaiian harmonious structure that is evident in "Falling", the song below.


Keahiwai "Falling"

Three Plus "Undercover Lover"

Do you live in Hawaii?

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    • easyethiopiatrave profile image


      6 years ago

      Good article. The reggae influence of this style of music is similar to today's Ethiopian music being much more influenced by reggae as well.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      A great hub - never heard this before. I will now after reading your hub.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Brittany, I love hearing about new music styles, this sounds like a great mash up! I am learning the ukelele but can only play about 6 songs - will keep practising.

      Voted up etc, etc

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      7 years ago from Northern, California

      When I think of music that comes from the heart of Hawaii, the amazing Oz comes to mind. His soulful rendition of Somewhere over the rainbow dances in my mind to this day. However, now having listened to the Jawaiian music you share in your hub, my heart is dancing to a much cooler beat! What a wonderfully musical hub Brittany, I will be humming "Wade in your Water" by Common Kings the rest of the evening! Well done, once again! Aloha my friend.


    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      7 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


      Thanks so much for publishing this Hub. I learned something new today. I had never heard of Jawaiian music.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love that song "Falling" of my all time favorite local songs!

      Good hub, have my vote up! Aloha!


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