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What Is the State Song of Hawaii?

By N. Swensson
Updated May 17, 2024
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The official state song of Hawaii is Hawaii Ponoi, which is a popular song in the islands and is sung to a tune similar to My Country Tis of Thee. The original lyrics were written in the Hawaiian language, but there is an English translation as well. It was written by King David Kalakaua and was designated as the state song by the legislature in 1967. The song is short, just four lines, but tells the story of King Kamehameha, the first monarch who unified the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom. Hawaii Ponoi was the national anthem of Hawaii when it was an independent republic and then was adopted as the state song after it became a US state.

Hawaii Ponoi is well known in Hawaii and is frequently sung at events where other patriotic songs of the United States are played, such as sporting events, government assemblies, and other significant occasions. Children are taught the song in school and also sing it at school events. The state song of Hawaii, unlike the songs of most other US states, is reminiscent of a part of Hawaiian history that predates it becoming a US state. It was actually the Hawaiian national anthem when it was an independent republic. In fact, Hawaii is one of only four US states that were independent before joining the union.

The state song of Hawaii is about loyalty to King Kamehameha. The first four lines in English are, “Hawaii's own true sons, Be loyal to your chief, your country's liege and lord, The King Father above us all, Kamehameha, Who guarded in the war with his spear.” King Kamehameha was the first king of Hawaii and united the islands, which were previously ruled by individual tribes. He is also responsible for fostering a strong relationship with Great Britain. This is evidenced by the Hawaiian flag he created, which has a small replica of the Union Jack in the upper corner. The first king of Hawaii is also known for being the longest lived of his family, being the only one to live past 42 years of age.

The state song of Hawaii was adopted by the state legislature in 1967. The law states that it will remain the state song “as long as the legislature of the state does not otherwise provide”. It appears in the Hawaii Revised Statutes, Division 1, Title 1, Chapter 5, Section 10.

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Discussion Comments

By Lostnfound — On Sep 29, 2014

@Grivusangel -- I didn't hear much of "America" in it, either. I'll have to find the hymn you mentioned and give it a listen.

Most Hawaiian music is just beautiful, and their culture is so diverse. It's great for the country as a whole that they have kept so much of their native culture and so many of their traditions alive. We need to remember we come from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs and need to respect all of these.

I'd love to visit Hawaii and hear this beautiful song live some day. That would be a treat.

By Grivusangel — On Sep 28, 2014

I think the first time I heard this song was at the funeral for U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. I looked it up then and when I knew the history of it, it truly brought tears to my eyes.

It is a beautiful state song and I'm very glad that Hawaii has kept it and not tried to translate it into English. It is an important, unique part of the state's history, and should be respected for that.

The tune doesn't really sound like "My Country 'Tis of Thee." It's much more reminiscent of the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness," to my ears. Still a beautiful song.

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