Aloha Authentic: History of Royal Hawaiian Band

Aloha Authentic

HONOLULU (KHON2) — From driving a vehicle to catching the bus to just walking down the street, we all make use of our island roadways.  

But do you pay attention to the given names? 

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KHON2’s weekly “Aloha Authentic” segment highlights various streets across the islands so we can dive deeper into the names, and in turn, learn something new about Hawaiʻi’s history.  

This week, we brought our attention to the only band in the United States with a royal legacy. In the ahupuaʻa of Waikīkī, which lies in the moku of Kona here on Oʻahu, stands a street whose name is influenced by music: Pana Place.

In the Hawaiian language, the word Pana can refer to the beat in music. But with the appropriate marker, Pāna refers to a “band or orchestra.” On Oʻahu resides the only full-time municipal band in the United States and the oldest in Hawaiʻi: the Royal Hawaiian Band.

In 1836, by the will of King Kamehameha III, a group of musicians was brought together to create what was once known as “The Kings Band.” Performing for state occasions, parades, funerals and even traveling along with Hawaiian royalty on trips, the Royal Hawaiian Band became a staple of daily life.  

As it evolved, so did its name, including the “Provisional Government Band,” the “Hawaiian Band” and the “Territorial Band.”  

Throughout its history, the most influential bandmaster was a man named Henri Berger. Originally on loan from the Persian government, Berger composed and arranged nearly all the music played during his time, and he became known as “The Father of Hawaiian Music.” He introduced classical European music to Hawaiians and brought the world’s attention to the music of Hawaiʻi.

Currently, the Royal Hawaiian Band stands as an agency of the City and County of Honolulu which dates back to the year 1905.

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