Hawaiian music is at the heart and soul of the Royal Hawaiian Band and at every concert audiences are treated to songs of the islands from the past to the present. In fact, many popular Hawaiian songs being sung today by popular local artists have their roots in the Royal Hawaiian Band. The band breathes life into the music composed during the time of Hawai‘i’s monarchy, especially songs written by King Kalākaua and Queen Lili‘uokalani. Henry Berger, who was the bandmaster of that time, introduced and stylized Hawaiian melodies in a variety of European musical forms such as marches, polkas, and waltzes; as well as arranged pieces composed by the royalty, all prolific musicians and songwriters. The most famous song of which is “Aloha ‘Oe,” composed by Queen Lili‘uokalani. It can be heard at the closing of every Royal Hawaiian Band concert. Berger would also arrange transcriptions of European orchestral literature for the band; enabling the monarchy of Hawai‘i to dance to the same waltzes of their European counterparts, whom they were heavily influenced by.
During the early 20th century when Hapa Haole music (Hawaiian music with English words) was all the rage, the Royal Hawaiian Band kept with the time and adopted many pieces into its literature. Classics such as “Waikiki,” “Sophisticated Hula,” and “Hukilau” can still be heard today at a band concert.
In addition to Hawaiian music, the band performs many pieces from the United States and all over the world, from past to present. Today’s concerts include marches, orchestral transcriptions, standard band repertoire, pop music arrangements, Broadway musicals, movie soundtracks, television show theme songs, and even music from cartoons (for the younger audiences). The band also performs a variety of ethnic literature when participating in many of the cultural festivals in Honolulu. Such festivals include the annual Korean festival, Okinawan festival, Vietnamese festival, and Filipino Fiesta.