Hi’ilawe for Fingerstyle Ukulele

In this article we’ll look at Jeff’s wonderful solo arrangement of the popular Hawaiian song Hi’ilawe for fingerstyle ukulele. It features the main theme (with Gabby Pahinui’s famous intro vamp) and then a series of solos (pa’ani) in the style of different artists from Hawai’i.

The first pa’ani is modeled after Cyril Pahinui, Gabby’s son. (You can hear Jeff and Cyril play this together on the album Amy Hanaiali’i and the Slack Key Masters of Hawai’i.)

Then the second solo is based on Sonny Chillingworth off of his Sonny Solo album, with some lines from Leonard Kwan thrown in.

Finally, the third and last pa’ani blends some of these different styles together.


The song Hi’ilawe was written by Sam Li’a Kalainaina, Sr. around 1902. It talks about two lovers in the mists of Hi’ilawe, the highest waterfall in Hawai’i, on the Big Island. Gabby Pahinui recorded it in 1947 on what is considered the first commercial recording of slack-key guitar (kī hōʻalu). Listen to it below:

You can check out the full lyrics here.



This performance comes from our brand new Hawaiian course at Ukulele Corner Academy! You can learn Hi’ilawe first with the accompaniment, then the main theme, and finally with the pa’ani (all with sheet music + TAB). But this is only one of many, many Hawaiian songs for you to learn in the course. Plus you’ll learn all the fingerstyle and strumming techniques and chord progressions to play any Hawaiian song. There are already 30+ lessons available in the course with more coming soon. Join Ukulele Corner Academy today!