Musical Resistance to Settler Colonialism

Gabby Pahinui and the Sons of Hawaii

The Sons of Hawaii

At the center of the Hawaiian Renaissance were Gabby Pahinui and the Sons of Hawaii. Pahinui, who specialized in the slack key genre, began creating and releasing music in the 1940s and 1950s, but grew to legend status during the Hawaiian Renaissance. Pahinui renewed excitement for the slack key genre, and inspired future generations of Hawaiians to pursue slack key. The group, assembled by Pahinui, made their debut in 1959 at the O’ahu sandbox. Although many iterations of the group evolved over time, the original Sons of Hawaii consisted of Gabby Pahinui, Eddie Kamae, Joe Marshall, and David “Feet” Rogers. In order to produce their music, the Sons of Hawaii looked to Hawaiian elders for help. Mary Kawena Pukui, Hawaiian scholar, musician, and cultural preservationist, was a particularly formative influence, inspiring the band with traditional Hawaiian music and histories. Over time, The Sons attracted a massive following of rural, elder, and working class Hawaiians.1 Carl Linquist, co-producer of the Hana Ho’olaule’a at Hana Maui festival described the Son’s performance there, saying, “I think that was the first time we realized that it could be traditional Hawaiian music but done in a brand new way, and yet still honoring the language and the traditions that we all love.” 2 The music produced by the Sons of Hawaii was referred to as ku a’ aina, or grassroots music.

In 1971, the Sons of Hawaii released the landmark album The Folk Music of Hawaii, known colloquially as the Red Album or the Five Faces Album. It included an illustrated book about the band and where they came from. The album relies heavily on the ukulele as the primary rhythmic instrument, in Kamae’s style. 3


  1. George H. Lewis, “Storm Blowing from Paradise: Social Protest and Oppositional Ideology in Popular Hawaiian Music,” Popular Music 10, no. 1 (Cambridge University Press, 1991): 53–67,
  2. Eddie Kamae, The History of the Sons of Hawaii (Hawaiian Legacy Foundation, 2000),
  3. Jim Tranquada and John King, “The Growing Underground Movement,” The ‘Ukulele: A History (University of Hawai’i Press, 2012): 153–66,