Hawaii's state anthem Hawaii Ponoi History and Lyrics

Hawaii’s state anthem: Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī History & Lyrics

Are you a history buff or just love learning about fascinating stories from the past? If so, you won’t want to miss this article about the Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī song, the origins of the Royal Hawaiian band, and its ties to German royalty, Prussian hymns, and Hawaiian monarchs. You can read Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī lyrics, Hawaii’s state anthem, in Hawaiian and English.

Discover how a request from King Kamehameha V for a gift of music led to the formation of the first Hawaiian band and how it evolved over the years to become the beloved Royal Hawaiian band we know today.

Hawaii’s State Anthem History

Hawaii’s state song or anthem, Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī, was written by King David Kalakaua in 1874 with music composed by Captain Henri Berger. It previously served as the Hawaiian Kingdom’s national anthem and was adopted in 1876, replacing He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi. After the annexation of Hawaii by the United States in 1898, it became the official anthem of Hawaii and was adopted as a state symbol by the Hawaii State Legislature in 1967.

“Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī” translates to “Hawaii’s Own” in Hawaiian. The anthem’s melody is reminiscent of “God Save the King” and the Prussian anthem “Heil dir im Siegerkranz” and is commonly sung at sporting events in Hawaii after the U.S. national anthem. Hawaii also has a national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” in addition to its state anthem.

Before 1860, “God Save The King” was used as Hawaii’s national anthem. In 1860, E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua became the first national anthem with Hawaiian lyrics set to God Save The King’s tune. He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi replaced E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua in 1866, composed by Queen Lili’uokalani. Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī replaced He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi in 1876, composed by King David Kalakaua.

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Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī Lyrics

Hawaiian language

Hawaiʻi ponoʻī
Nānā i kou mōʻī
Ka lani aliʻi,
Ke aliʻi

Makua lani ē,
Kamehameha ē,
Na kaua e pale,
Me ka ihe

Hawaiʻi ponoʻī
Nānā i nā aliʻi
Nā pua muli kou
Nā pōkiʻi

Hawaiʻi ponoʻī
E ka lāhui e
ʻO kāu hana nui
E uʻiē

English Translation

Hawaiʻi’s own true sons
Be loyal to your chief
Your country’s liege and lord
The chief

Royal father
Shall defend in war
With spears

Hawaiʻi`s own true sons
Look to your chief
Those chiefs of younger birth
Younger descent

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

The Royal Hawaiian Band History

The Royal Hawaiian Band History illustration
Royal Hawaiian Band illustration

According to huapala.org, the Royal Hawaiian Band was formed in 1872 at the request of King Kamehameha V, who asked Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany for a bandmaster. 

On June 5th, 1872, Henri Berger arrived and organized the band. Their first performance was on June 11th and included the “Hymn to Kamehameha I,” written by King David Kalakaua in 1874, and has a melody based on the Prussian hymn “Heil Dir Im Siegerkranz.” This hymn was performed for the first celebration of King Kamehameha Day.

In 1881, King Kalakaua visited Japan, greeted by a Japanese military band playing his song. He proposed a marriage between his daughter, Princess Kaʻiulani, and Prince Yamashina Komatsu Sadamoro. Unfortunately, the Prince was already betrothed, and Kalakaua received formal letters declining the offer of marriage.

In 1894, Queen Liliʻuokalani wrote to Princess Kaʻiulani and asked her to choose a mate from Prince David Kawananakoa, Prince Jonah Kuhio, or Prince Komatsu. However, the Princess rejected all three princes in a letter to the Queen.

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Finally, the Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī song was proclaimed Hawaii’s state anthem in 1967 by the legislature.