Early Hawaiians recorded their literature in memory, not writing. They composed and maintained an extensive oral tradition, a body of literature covering every facet of Hawaiian life. Chants, called mele, recorded thousands of years of ancient Polynesian and Hawaiian history.
Chants also recorded the daily life of the Hawaiian people, their love of the land, humor or tragedy, and the heroic character of their leaders. A mele chant is a poetic form of song that tells a story. They can be classified into two general categories, mele oli and mele hula.
Unaccompanied chants, usually performed by one person at ritual occasions such as a birth, a death, or the departure of a ranking chief. Mele oli also recount historical events and tell stories and legends.
Chants accompanied by dance movements alone, or by dance movements with musical instruments such as the drum, pahu, and gourd rattle, ʻuliʻuli.