Singing Hawaiian Songs to Baby instead of English Lullabies

Singing Hawaiian Songs to Baby instead of English Lullabies

How do you describe the feeling of singing sweetly to a baby? (I think that feeling should have its very own word.)


Oh my sweet newborn, he is getting so big already, his cheeks are filling out and he’s starting to outgrow his newborn clothes. (I hate that they grow so fast in the first few months.) He has a very calm personality and he likes it when we sing to him. 


Just as I’m sure most people naturally do, I like singing baby songs, nursery rhymes and traditional lullabies to him. It makes me feel like his mother and guardian. Singing sweet songs is soothing to the soul, for both the baby and me. 


In our family, we speak Hawaiian to our babies as soon as they are born. Because we’re constantly emphasizing Hawaiian with our children, my brain has always had a slight conflict about why I sing English lullabies. Lullabies are one of those things that you learn as a child and I didn’t learn any Hawaiian lullabies growing up.


I finally decided that I was going to start singing Hawaiian songs as lullabies. Which meant I had to learn more of them. I went of Huapala.org to find some songs to sing. The site provides lyrics, translations and even some music files of the melodies. I have really enjoyed this incredible database as I’ve been diving into learning Hawaiian songs.


I started by singing Aloha Oe by Queen Liluokalani and a few other songs I’m already familiar with and my baby loves them, and I love singing and learning them because it strengthens my Hawaiian, especially on the poetic side of things. (Just like English, Hawaiian songs carry a  kind of poetry and we don’t typically speak the way lyrics are written.)


Everyone knows Aloha Oe, right? If you live in Hawaii you have sung it many times, or at least heard it. What I surprisingly realized as I was looking it up, is that this is a song that everyone is familiar with - but do you know all the verses or just the chorus? Probably not. (I definitely didn’t). Do you know what the lyrics mean? Do you know if you’re saying the right words or are you kind of slurring the vowels together like I always did? (“Keonaaanaaa kaaa lipo”... right?).


Since I’ve looked up and worked on this song specifically, I now know and sing the correct lyrics, and because I speak Hawaiian, I understand it even better and Aloha Oe is more meaningful to me. There is a stronger connection with the language, the history and even with Queen Liliuokalani. 


I’ve truly enjoyed and will continue learning and singing Hawaiian songs to my children, which is enhancing our language skills, and my knowledge of Hawaiian music and composers. The connection to the past feels deeper and has reinforced my resolve to perpetuate Hawaiian culture.


There are many ways to learn and strengthen your ability to speak and understand Hawaiian. Learning songs in the language is just one of them, but it is a simple and very effective way to become familiar with Hawaiian vocabulary and pronunciation. 

These are links to my 3 favorite songs to sing as a lullaby:

  • Sanoe by Queen Liliuokalani
  • Aloha Oe by Queen Liliuokalani
  • Hosana by Moses W. Kaaneikawahaale Keale

Please share with me: What is your favorite Hawaiian song and why?

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What a beautiful idea to serenade your baby with Hawaiian songs!Your choice to sing Hawaiian songs instead of traditional English lullabies not only creates a unique bonding experience but also celebrates the vibrant spirit and warmth of the Hawaiian culture.

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