This song is one of the most famous of all the slack key mele and was made popular by Gabby Pahinui who first recorded it in 1947. This version is based on the way Sonny Chillingworth would play the song with a rolling chord introduction over G7 and C chords and a beautifully embellished accompaniment pattern. You can start by playing the first two measures of the vamp repeatedly until you get a nice smooth rhythm. It can be played at any tempo. The song is most commonly played at a nice laid back medium tempo but Gabby would often play it faster. It also works beautifully at a very slow tempo. Start slow and work on each small phrase separately. I arranged the melody for an instrumental version of the song. You can sing the song by continuing the accompaniment pattern during the verses.
The lyrics can be found here. The first five verses and the final verse are usually what is sung. It is good to study the other verses to know the full story of the song. The kauna or veiled meaning of the song is believed to be about a woman from Puna on Hawai’i island who has a romance with a man from Waipi’o Valley that inspires gossip amongst the “manu” (birds) in the valley.
If your are interested in more lessons like this and further development, you can become a member of the Slack Key Guitar Workshop and get access to all the materials including sheet music and tablature for each lesson.