Sunaina Kale

Sunaina Kale
Graduate Student




Sunaina Keonaona Kale is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology and studies under Dr. David Novak. She holds an M.A. in ethnomusicology from UCSB, and researches reggae music in Hawai‘i and Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) identity. She is interested in how definitions of Hawaiian music and identity constantly shift and interrelate with indigenous political movements, traditional ways of knowing, local identity, and the global. Her studies of Hawaiian music began as an undergraduate at U.C. Davis, where she wrote her senior thesis on traditional Hawaiian chanting under Dr. Henry Spiller.

She has presented at the national and regional chapter meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology, has been awarded the society’s Annual Meeting Subvention Award for 2017, and has also been awarded the Graduate Opportunity Fellowship at UCSB. Recently, she was invited to participate in the working group “Keywords in an Indigenized Sounds Studies,” which seeks to centralize indigenous ways of knowing and being and to privilege indigenous researchers in studies of sound. The group is in the process of producing an edited volume for publication, and held a seminar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM in November 2018.

At UCSB, she has served as a teaching assistant for classes on American popular music, music and society, writing about music, music theory, and world music. She is also active in the indigenous studies area here and helped organize its annual symposium in 2018.

Sunaina is also a musician. As an undergrad, she served as principal oboe in the U.C. Davis Symphony Orchestra, and played oboe in numerous other ensembles. She also sang in the U.C. Davis University Chorus and the U.C. Davis Early Music Ensemble. At UCSB, she has sung in the chorus of Dr. Scott Marcus’s Middle East Ensemble.


2017. “Response to ‘Decolonizing Ethnomusicology’.” In SEM Student News, 13 (1): 25-26.