UkePrints – IZ – Henehene Kou ‘Aka

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Last week I wrote a post on IZ and the memorable reconciliation at the 1996 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards with the rest of the Makaha Sons. It got me in the “IZ mood,” so I went home and started flipping through some of my favorite IZ songs. Though many know IZ as an ‘ukulele player, most people recognize IZ for his vocals (ie. Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World) as he has a beautiful and unique sounding voice. We must also recognize his ‘ukulele talents!

Statue of IZ in Waianae on the island of ‘Oahu
A young and kolohe IZ

I wanted to feature IZ as an ‘ukulele player with this weeks UkePrints and in his version of Henehene Kou ‘Aka you really get to hear just that.  A party favorite for it’s playful and uplifting nature, IZ reinvents the traditional tune with an upbeat I – V vamp, using a syncopated strum. The Bb – B – C walk up also adds a nice punctuation before each verse. His rhythmic sensibility for Hawaiian music really adds a great texture alongside the other instruments. IZ takes a solo (1:34) using a fast double time strum with chords higher up on the neck. Sliding back and forth between chords with his fast rhythm brings the energy of the song up and yet still keeps the melody. Fun off time strums (3:13) and even the occasional chuckle (3:29) bring a live element to the recording that keeps it fresh (even on repeat). You can’t help but smile listening to the now new “standard,” way to play Henehene Kou ‘Aka.

Lyrics, translation, and story of Henehene Kou ‘Aka

UkePrints is a curated playlist of some essential ukulele tracks that all ukulele player should listen to. These songs have left a legacy for future players and in essence, sound impressions of the ‘ukulele or what I like to call them: UkePrints.


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