Enrichment Arts & Culture

Yo-Yo Ma plays music for whales off of Hawaii

"We hope that these kinds of immersive cultural experiences can help foster our sense of stewardship of the Earth’s amazing resources, in Hawaii and around the world."

Story at a glance


  • Cellist Yo-Yo Ma sailed on the famous voyaging canoe Hokulea off the Big Island of Hawaii for a musical performance and conversation about music and conservation.

  • Ma performed the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

  • When the song was playing, a humpback whale breached in the distance.

HONOLULU (KHON) — World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma traveled on a famous voyaging canoe and brought music to Native Hawaiian practitioners and researchers and students at the University of Hawaii’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

The trip off of the Big Island aboard the Hokulea featured a musical performance and conversation about the uniqueness of whales in Hawaii and their connection to nature and music.

UH Marine Mammal Research Program Director Lars Bejder and Faculty/Researcher Aude Pacini sailed onboard the Hokulea with their crew.

“We discussed how humans impact the world’s oceans and how we can raise awareness about the plight of the health of the oceans through music and whales—both of which allow us to draw in many people to convey important messages about how we need to protect the oceans,” said Bejder.

Once they reached their destination, Yo-Yo Ma performed the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Pacini had a hydrophone underwater and recorded the sounds from the hull of the Hokulea.

When the song was playing, a humpback whale breached in the distance.

“Yo-Yo Ma’s team chose to work with HIMB because of our mutual interest and experience in making connections across art and science,” said HIMB Director Eleanor Sterling. “We hope that these kinds of immersive cultural experiences can help foster our sense of stewardship of the Earth’s amazing resources, in Hawaii and around the world.”