“Kahuli Aku” – Mark Kailana Nelson
Get started playing Fingerstyle Ukulele! Mark Kailana Nelson teaches the traditional Hawaiian song “Kahuli Aku,” demonstrating proper finger picking technique, strums, rolls and pinches as he takes you through the song measure by measure. A great lesson for beginners. From Mark’s book “Favorite Fingerstyle Solos for Ukulele” (Mel Bay Publications.)
“Kahuli Aku” is a lovely lullaby adapted from an ancient chant by Aunty Nona Beamer. It tells the charming story of the friendship between the Hawaiian land snails and the kolea birds–in return for a gift of cool water, the snails sing to the birds each full moon. Aunty Nona gave me my Hawaiian name–Kailana–which means “floating gently on the sea.” She encouraged me to teach and share Hawaiian music. I am honored to do so.
Measure 1: The melody moves between the two high strings; I use my thumb to play the notes on the G string. Be sure to let the open string ring out as you play the C note on the 1st string, 3rd fret.
You can play the chord any way you wish–as a downward strum, an upward brush, or as I do, as a quick pluck with my thumb on the 4th string, index on the 3rd, middle on the 2nd and ring finger on the 1st.
Measure 2: Hold a G7 chord to play the four 8th notes. Let each tone ring as long as it can. Then reach up for the C on the 1st string, 3rd fret. This figure is a version of the classic Hawaiian turnaround, or vamp.
Measures 3 & 4: These are identical to the first two measures.
Measure 5: The C7 chord uses a voicing you may not be familiar with. As you play through this book, you will encounter many alternate ways to play familiar chords. I used this voicing because I wanted the C dominant seventh chord to set up the movement to the F in the next measure.
Measure 6: Here is another example of an alternate way to play a common chord. Be sure just to play the three notes as indicated. Doubling the G at beat 3 reinforces the melody. Had I used the same C chord as in Measures 1 & 3, the melody would disappear as your ear was drawn to the higher tone.
Measure 8: Play the Hawaiian vamp, then reach up to the 5th fret to begin the descending phrase in Measure 8.
Measures 9 & 10: The first chord is yet another way to play a C major. These two measures represent the song the kahuli snails sing to the birds.