The Simple, Soothing Sounds of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Hawaiian Music

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World

We’re wrapping up “All Things Hawaiian”! Check out our reflection on our travels in O’ahu, some interesting facts about Hawai’i, what “The Aloha Spirit” really means, why Kona coffee is so popular, what makes the Plumeria flower so special and a glimpse into Mark Twain’s “Letters From Hawaii.”

They say that keeping things simple is sometimes best. That simplicity not only yields greater productivity, but can elicit a greater, more powerful impact.

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, the legendary Hawaiian singer whose last name (which contains 8 of the 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet) translates to “the fearless eye, the bold face”, is a perfect example.

Known early on in his career as “the kid with the ukulele”, described in his later life as the “embodiment of the Aloha Spirit”, and named the “Voice of Hawaii” by NPR in 2010, his rendition of Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” (1955) and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” (1967) – accompanied solely by a ukulele – is, arguably, one of the most recognizable songs in the world– and the most requested version of the song to this day.

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole biographyBorn in Honolulu on May 20, 1959, just months before the Hawaiian Island would become America’s 50th state, “Iz” began playing the ukulele as early as 10 years old at a bar in Waikiki on O’ahu where his parents worked. Years later, in 1993, after walking into a studio and asking to “try out” an idea, Iz recorded his melodic rendition of “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” in one single take. The song became an instant billboard hit when it was released on his solo album, Facing Future, which has remained the bestselling Hawaiian album of all time.*

In an NPR feature, Del Beazley, who grew up with Israel and wrote two of his songs, says:

“In Hawaii, we talk about this thing we call mana…[which] is like an energy that you get. We believe we get ours from the elements first, the Earth, your sky, your ocean, your God, and all that is inside of us. And Israel Kamakawiwo’ole Hawaiian singer biographywhen we open our mouth to speak, to sing or to play, that’s what we let out. But it’s that that makes him [Israel] special, because his mana always came out.”

One voice and a ukulele. That’s all it took to create a bestselling song** – a song which truly epitomizes the soothing, gentle, spiritual, peaceful and poetic nature of Hawaiian music that we so enjoyed each day and night during our visit.

Listen for yourself here.

*For interesting information and background on Iz and Hawaiian music, we highly recommend reading:

**Iz’s song has been featured in commercials, TV shows and movies including: Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, 50 First Dates, Fred Claus, Hubble 3D, Son of the Mask, etc.

One thought on “The Simple, Soothing Sounds of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Hawaiian Music

  • April 24, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    So happy to learn about Israel Kamakawiwo’ole!! My parents and I have loved this song for years. I forget why I don’t live in Hawaii.


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