Sounds of Old Hawaii Through the Royal Hawaiian Band

The Royal Hawaiian Band is truly a band with royal beginnings. Since 1836 – and during the Hawaiian monarch period, the band has been sharing the sounds of the islands with audiences all over the world.The band was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 1999, under the direction of bandmaster Aaron Mahi (front, center).

Today, it continues this musical trend as the oldest and only full-time municipal band in the nation. You may see them performing and marching in more than 300 concerts and parades throughout the year. Many look forward to the weekly public appearances: Fridays on the grounds of Iolani Palace and Sundays at the Kapiolani Park Royal Bandstand.

Perhaps the most influential bandmaster to shape the band was Heinrich (Henry) Berger. His “hymn of Kamehameha I” eventually became the Hawaiian national – and now state – anthem, Hawaii Ponoi. It was for this that he became known as the “Father of Hawaiian Music.”

Bandmaster Henry Berger (1871 to 1915).

I remember my first time hearing them when I was getting lunch in Downtown. Their music was literally music to my ears because it pleasantly drowned out the hustle-and-bustle of this busy business district. I decided to get my lunch to-go and followed the Hawaiian hymns all the way to the palace grounds (which is adjacent to Downtown Honolulu).

It was there that I finally discovered the true meaning of “Aloha Friday,” which ironically comes directly from the Downtown district next door. Businessmen of the 70s did away with the suit-and-tie combo and instead, chose aloha wear as work attire. The Hawaiian music at the palace grounds made me feel like I was taking a step back in time – beyond the 70s fashionista era – and instead, to an era when Hawaiian monarchs themselves graced the palace grounds.

The band got a royal visit of its own when King David Kalakaua’s grandniece, Abigail Kawananakoa, attended one of the Friday palace performances.

Photo Courtesy: Royal Hawaiian Band

ROYAL HAWAIIAN BAND • www.rhb-music.com • Free shows: Fridays at Iolani Palace and Sundays at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand

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