Hawaii’s State Anthem: Hawai’i Pono’i

Hawaii Ponoi cover photo

Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī is the state song and former national anthem of Hawaiʻi.

Hawaii has a national anthem and a state anthem (or state song). The national anthem of Hawaii is of course the “The Star Spangled Banner”. Hawai’i Pono’i is the state anthem. This song was the fourth national anthem of Hawaii before she became one of the united states of America.

Hawai’i Pono’i can be translated as “Hawaiʻi’s own true sons”, and the lyrics were written in 1874 by King David Kalākaua.  Hawaii legislature proclaimed Hawai`i Pono`i the state anthem in 1967.

You find the lyrics and translation plus a video of Hawai’i Pono’i below. While listening, scroll down to learn about the history of the four national anthems of Hawaii.

Hawai`i pono`î
Nânâ i kou mô`î
Ka lani ali`i,
Ke ali`iHui:
Makua lani ê,
Kamehameha ê,
Na kaua e pale,
Me ka ihe Hawai`i pono`î
Nânâ i nâ ali`i
Nâ pua muli kou
Nâ pôki`i

Hawai`i pono`î
E ka lâhui e
`O kâu hana nui
E u`iê

Hawaii`s own true sons
Be loyal to your chief
Your country’s liege and lord
The chiefChorus:
Royal father
Kamehameha
Shall defend in war
With spearsHawaii`s own true sons
Look to your chief
Those chiefs of younger birth
Younger descent

Hawaii`s own true sons
People of loyal heart
The only duty lies
List and abide

The History of Hawaii’s four National Anthems

The history of Hawaii’s National Anthems starts in 1860. Before this year, the kingdom of Hawaii did not have it’s own anthem, but used the British royal anthem “God Save The King”.

1860 – 1866: E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua

E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua

E Ola Ka Mōʻī i Ke Akua or E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua First Hawaiian National Anthem. Ka Nūpepa Kūʻokoʻa. Reprinted. Jan. 7, 1871

In 1860, Kamehameha IV organized a contest to replace the British royal anthem with a song with Hawaiian lyrics set to the tune of “God Save The King”. The winning entry of this contest was E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua, translated as God Save the King [lyrics on wikipedia].

The author (Prince William Charles Lunalilo, who later became King Lunalilo) is said to have composed the song in 20 minutes. He was was given USD 10 as reward.

E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua was replaced 6 years later by Queen Liliʻuokalani’s composition “He Mele Lahui Hawaii”.

1866 – 1876: He Mele Lahui Hawaii

He Mele Lahui Hawaii Anthem

Cover of the Hawaiian anthem between 1866 and 1876: “He Mele Lahui Hawaii” (“The Song of the Hawaiian Nation”). Published in 1872 by H.M.Whitney in Honolulu, Hawai`i

King Kamehameha V wanted to replace the merely translated British anthem by a song with a truly Hawaiian background. The new song “He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi” (“The Song of the Hawaiian Nation”) was composed in 1866 by queen Lili’uokalani.

The lyrics of this song praise the Hawaiian Islands. It asks the lord for blessing for the land, it’s people, chiefs and king. You can read a part of the song lyrics in Hawaiian (left) and translated to English (right) below. [Lyrics for the complete song]

This National Anthem survived for ten years, until the brother of queen Lili’uokalani replaced it with his own composition “Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī”.

E mau ke ea o ka `âina
Ma kou pono mau
A ma kou mana nui
E ola e ola ka mô`î
Grant your peace throughout the land
Over these sunny isles
Keep the nations life, oh Lord
And upon our sovereign smile

1876 – now: Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī

Hawaii Ponoi cover photo

Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī is the state song and former national anthem of Hawaiʻi.

King David Kalākaua wrote the words of Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī, and the music was composed by his royal bandmaster. This king has had quite an influence on current day Hawaiian culture.

King David nicknamed “the merrie monarch” because of his love of the joyful elements of life, and during his reign hula was revived. The now immensely popular yearly merrie monarch festival [wikipedia] on Hawaii was named after king David Kalākaua.

Hawai’i Pono’i was the adopted song of the Territory of Hawaiʻi, and later became the state anthem by an act of the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 1967.

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