A Quantitative Approach to “Signature Songs” within the Native Hawaiian Folksong Genre

By Jeffrey Kamakahi.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A “signature song” is a text that is intimately associated with a particular performer—so much so that the song and the performer become a single semiotic unit. Using a dataset of Native Hawaiian folksong performances available on compact discs, this study sought to answer the following questions: (1) How does one define a “signature song” within the Native Hawaiian folksong genre?; (2) Are there “signature songs” within the genre?; if so, (3) what are the “signature songs” within the genre? Theoretical and methodological issues for creating quantitative measures of signature song “space” are discussed. Three approaches were compared: proportional performance, probability threshold, and information content. Lists of signature songs using each of the three approaches were produced. For methodological and interpretive reasons, the information/future value growth strategy was deemed to be superior to the others. Not only was the information approach significantly correlated with the results of the other two approaches (though the latter approaches were not significantly correlated with one another), the information approach also defined a signature song—performer tandem as occupying more than “half” of the song space.

Keywords: Native Hawaiian, Folksongs, Signature Songs, Information, Sign

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.27-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 257.905KB).

Dr. Jeffrey Kamakahi

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, The College of St. Benedict & St. John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA

Jeffery Kamakahi is a Native Hawaiian sociologist who has done research on a variety of topics including identity, folksongs, health and health practices, international development, and the right-to-die movement in the U.S. Much of his research involves social change, inequalities, and/or Native Hawaiians. Kamakahi teaches courses in social statistics, world populations, social psychology, and medical sociology. He completed a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship in Japan, directed semester-long study abroad programs to Japan, China, and Australia, and studied child malnutrition and education in Honduras. Presently he is interested in the relationship between temporality and the self in the contexts of narrative presentations, ongoing medical diagnoses, and the creation of alternative pasts.