Prior to the arrival of outside influences in the 19th century, Hawaiian music was built around chants addressed to gods and chiefs, sometimes accompanied by the pahu, a wooden sharkskin drum. The recordings on this anthology, made between 1923 and 1989, demonstrate these traditions. The music is very stark, and in some cases, primitively recorded on wax cylinders (though the recent ones are in state-of-the-art fidelity). Partially for that reason, it's more of a scholarly exercise than an entertaining one, but does serve a valuable purpose in preserving the sounds of Hawaiian music as it existed before its discovery (and subsequent makeover) by the Western world.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger