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The Steel Heard ‘Round the World: Exposing the Global Reach of Indigenous Musical Journeys with the Hawaiian Steel Guitar

  • John W. Troutman
Abstract

In the late nineteenth century, Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) physically modified guitars and created a new technique for playing them. In the years that followed, hundreds of Hawaiian troupes, engaging new entertainment circuits that crisscrossed the globe, introduced the world to their “Hawaiian steel guitar,” from Shanghai to London, Kolkata to New Orleans. While performing Hawaiian mele, or songs, with their instrument, they demonstrated new virtues for the guitar’s potential in vernacular and commercial music making in these international markets. Based upon archival research, this essay considers the careers of several Hawaiian guitarists who travelled the world in the early twentieth century, connecting local soundscapes through the proliferation of an indigenous technology.

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Corresponding author
E-mail: TroutmanJ@si.edu
Footnotes
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John Troutman is curator of music at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Kīkā Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music.

Footnotes
References
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Unpublished Primary Sources
Author Interview with Kay Das, October 6, 2012, Joliet, IL
Bishop Museum Library and Archives, Honolulu, HI (BMLA)
Hawaiʻi State Library, Honolulu, HI (HSL)
Newspaper Clipping and Pamphlet File
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK (VAM)
Theatre and Performance Archives, Blythe House
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Itinerario
  • ISSN: 0165-1153
  • EISSN: 2041-2827
  • URL: /core/journals/itinerario
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