Resource!! A video archives at UH West Oahu

Uluulu at UHWO 1 Uluulu at UHWO 2

So I picked up this information card outside Native Books / Nā Mea Hawaiʻi. Wow–look at what UH West Oʻahu is making available, open access, no login required!!

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What Iʻm Listening To . . . Hāliu vols. 1-3 by Kūpaoa

Kupaoa KL HV01 Haliu vol 1 1 4PAN1T1PKSTC 4PAN1T1PKSTC

First, a story. About ten years ago, I sat in Marsee Auditorium at El Camino College in Torrance, California, listening to a concert by the incomparable Kekuhi Kanahele. She pulled out all the stops on her array of oli-infused vocal stylings. In the midst of the musical feast, she changed directions radically and pulled out a golden-oldie, the kind of song that used to be pulled out at kani ka pila singsongs, the kind of song that screamed “old folks music,” music for rocking chairs on the front porch. The song? “ʻImi Au Iā ʻOe.” Beloved, but in general not the fare of contemporary recording artists searching for new songs and innovative sounds. Right in the middle of this concert of new songs and innovative sounds, Kekuhi and her musicians took a giant sonic leap back at least 75 years. Knowing that many of us grew up singing this song (and others like it), and she invited everyone to sing along. An auditorium of diasporic Hawaiians and ex-Hawaiʻi residents were swept into this communal experience of strolling down memory lane. I donʻt recall Kekuhiʻs exact words (how was I to know I would be writing about them some 10 years later??), but the sense was this: these old songs are treasures, and we should sing them once in awhile so that we donʻt forget them. What a compelling way to illustrate this point, by erasing the distance between stage and audience, and for five minutes creating community through singing.

Ten years later, honoring  is exactly what Kūpaoa is doing. And they are deploying an interesting creative model to do so. The duo of Līhau Hannahs-Paik and Kellen Paik are known for award-winning Hawaiian language compositions, to which are applied their impeccable Hawaiian-language performance and euphonious blend. So this series comes as a bit of an unexpected delight.

Their goal for the series is written in the liner notes to Hāliu vol. 1 (and reproduced on their website):

“As Kūpaoa, we have made a determined effort to contribute to growing the genre of Hawaiian music by recording original songs, either from our own hearts or from the minds of our talented contemporaries. . . .  While we dearly love the new music we have put forth as Kūpaoa, we have a special place in our hearts for all of the songs that we cosider more traditional mele, older songs whose poetry has been expressed by dancers for generations. This unreleased album is but a temporary departure from the mission that weʻve worked so hard to define . . . Available exclusively through us, this new collection of treasured works represents our attempt to hāliu, to turn and acknowledge the noteworthy efforts of those who came before us.”

The project began as a sideline to their touring activities and their formally recorded output on their own Hulu Kūpuna record label.  On Volume Two, Līhau wrote: “Three years ago, when Kellen and I decided to do a fun project at home, we ended up with Hāliu: Volume One. Since we usually focus on creating our own original music, I think we were both surprised when people liked our take on old favorites! . . . Our love for composition certainly hasnʻt waned but with such demand, it was only a matter of time before Hāliu: Volume Two became a reality.” And on Hāliu: Volume Three Līhau wrote: “In early 2015 Kūpaoa had a break in our travel schedule, . . . And though we made sure to enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation with family and friends, we also took this time to record.”

So a project that began in the interstices of a career trajectory committed to new music became a series in its own right. And here the business model gets interesting. These recordings are self-releaed, and hard copies are available exclusively through their website, www.kū They have put out the music through digital download services such as CDBaby, and iTunes. HOWEVER, the only way to obtain the liner notes is to order hard copies through their website (or directly from them at gigs).

The songs range from the era of “Nā Lani ʻEhā” (Kalākaua, Liliʻuokalani, Likelike, and Leleiōhōkū, the four royal siblings–and their contemporaries)–songs like “ʻAinahau” (v1), “Sānoe” (v2), “Ahi Wela,” (v3) “E Nihi Ka Hele” (v2),  and even the perpetually maligned “Kāua i ka Huahuaʻi” (more infamously known as “Hawaiian War Chant,” here restored to its dignity as the love song Leleiōhōkū wrote), to those old old old hula kuʻi that appeared in print in the 1890s and early 1900s, such as “Sassy” (v1), “Iā ʻoe e ka lā” and “Nā Hala o Naue (v2), and “Maui Girl” (v3).

Musically, Kūpaoa puts its signature sonic spin on these songs. At the same time, they eschew fancy arrangements, which is what allow listeners to sing along. We get songs from the corners of our memories, but brought up to the present sonically, with contemporary recording quality, clean instrumentals, and clear vocals.

Līhau wrote in Haliu: Volume Two: . . . as we assembled our songs for Haliu: Volume Twowe  made an even greater effort to research our selections. We gathered songs that we loved and took a look into the vast repositories of knowledge that are available to all and we found lesser-known versions, rarely heard verses, and lyrical variations that amazed and inspired us.” 

There are many many MANY more such treasures in these repositories of knowledge, simply begging to be brought out again. For everyone of the well-known standards like “Makalapua,” “Old Plantation / Kuʻu Home,” and “Aloha ʻOe,” there are dozens more songs overlooked by generations of musicians who have limited themselves only to what was remembered. Kūpaoa reminds us that there are vaults and vaults of forgotten treasures, and even treasures we used to know that somehow went virtually silent during our own lifetime. They are reaching back and bringing treasures out of the vault again, and making these recordings available through self-release.

Hea aku lāua ʻo Kūpaoa, e ō mai kākou ā pau!

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on my mind . . . Where am I?

So last evening I got to spend time in Waikiki with people dear to me–The Husband Unit, and a colleague and his wife, all in Honolulu for a conference. [Them, not me. Iʻm here for other reasons.] The colleague is a mentor who shepherded me through many doors throughout my career. After an afternoon of sightseeing in which I, the knowledgable driver, drove us through one traffic jam after another (letʻs go to Nicoʻs–via Ala Moana Blvd! letʻs go up to the Pali–through Chinatown instead of Liliha St.! letʻs go back to town via . . . Waimanalo!), they–on east coast time–looked like they were starting to wilt. So my next brilliant move was to bag the King Kamehameha Hula Competition (at 4pm, how many more groups would be left to go on? no way to know), return to the big chain hotel across Kuhio Beach to rest, then go to a prominent free hula show right on the beach. I googled and found out a really really superb halau was scheduled for that evening, so I called The Colleague and effusively recommended the free show as a must see.

Although we headed across the street some 20 minutes early, the site was already crowded, and we ended up in the “standing room only” section. But I was stoked to be treated to a hālau I had followed for many many years.

What we saw shocked me, and gave us much fodder for discussion over Teddyʻs Burgers. (we left after 30 minutes).  Because, you see, the featured group was the famous halau, BUT . . . featuring their classes from Japan. Class after class of prettily dressed and immaculately made up Japanese women, many of them fulfilling a lifeʻs dream to perform hula with their kumu in Honolulu. On Waikiki Beach. For some of them, this was even their very first public stage appearance as hula students.

What am I supposed to make of this? I should celebrate the fact that the hula is so popular in Japan that Japanese dancers will go to extraordinary lengths to study and perform it. I should celebrate the fact that Japanese enthusiasm for hula is a welcome economic  lifeline that enables so many kumu hula to sustain themselves financially in hula as a full-time vocation. I should celebrate the fact that Japanese students are dedicated to learning hula from the source. I should celebrate the fact that Japanese students are so eager to return hula in the form of their gift of dancing in hulaʻs homeland.

And I do celebrate all of that. My Facebook feed is filled with posts of kumu hula and musicians performing all over Japan to massive audiences.

How, then, might it be uncharitable of me to even think that anything might be “wrong” with this picture?

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on my mind: record labels

Iʻm kind of in limbo right now . . . between Honolulu last week, sitting in Ann Arbor right now, and getting ready to return to Honolulu again this coming Thursday . . . crazy-kind. Last weekʻs trip involved intense crate-digging at Jellyʻs–Kakaʻako and Aiea–and Book-Off– Ala Moana and Windward.

In the 10 days at home, I decided to revisit my CD collection of Polynesian musics outside Hawaiʻi, mostly Tahitian, with a fair dose of Maori, smatterings from Samoa, Tonga, Rapa Nui, and a handful of outliers. Some interesting dynamics going on in the world of CDs. Each of these places has local record labels that showcase local entertainers. In Tahiti: Manuiti, Oceane, Studio Alphonse, among others. In New Zealand, Viking, Kiwi and Tangata feature Maori and other Pacific musics, while Flying Nun is internationally recognized for showcasing New Zealand rock groups.

But each place is also a “destination” for the kind of record companies that compile series of sonic travelogues. “Air Mail” is a ubiquitous label whose signature visual image consists of the alternating red and blue stripes taken from airmail envelopes–surely an anachronism in this age of text-messaging and priority mail. The music is usually stereotyped and hackneyed. The Allegro Corporation has made a practice of packaging the same playlists on different “labels” with different artwork. Artists are usually not identified; it is the place name that is the discsʻ selling point. Or an alluring island beauty in full dance regalia.

SCAN3290  SCAN3284

Then there are the scholarly ethnographic issues, again packaged and labeled by place rather than artist. Two major companies are Arc and Pan.

SCAN2863  SCAN3090

Cool stuff, and I am grateful to have a few moments to reconnect.

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Take 5: “Ua Like No A Like”

So Iʻm looking at some of the “tune itineraries”–chronological discographies of individual songs that illustrate a songʻs journeys. Here are a few nuggets from  the itinerary for “Ua Like No A Like” by Alice Everett.

1. Earliest publication of sheet music? The song is no. 20 in the series “Mele Hawaii” curated by Henry Berger and published by the Hawaiian News Co. by 1898.

2. Earliest known recording? 1904, by William Ellis and Ellis Brothers Glee Club (Victor 15044).

3. My favorite operatic rendition? Emma Veary, on the LP My Heart Belongs to Hawaii (Music of Polynesia MOP-16000, 1970s)

4. Most sublime falsetto? George Kainapau, on the LP The Golden Voice of Hawaii (Decca DL7-4059, 1960)

5. My current favorite recording: Mailaniʻs rendition on her first CD Mailani (Mountain Apple MACD-2122, 2009). It is a faithful rendition of the melody that is lovingly delivered. Not a single extraneous filigree. Pure voice.

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Hawaiian music, wherefore art thou?

Happened again. I get into a groove, then the crush of teaching and grading hits   < ka – BOOM > !! And my beloved Hawaiian music gets pushed to the margins of consciousness. Which is kind of where, in a cosmic kind of parallel, Hawaiian music seems to teeter on the verge of disappearing. Sure I have lots of Facebook friends who are musicians and poʻe hula, for whom hālau hōʻike are now the biggest event of the year. More musicians seem to meet up in Japan than in Honolulu or Hilo or Kona or Hanalei. Hmm. What 20 years ago used to be marquee festivals that would attract thousands are now so frequent as to be normal . . . eh. Few venues host live performances, and I am mystified how anyone not already in the circles of friends finds out where to go to listen to Hawaiian music.

Then I hit Target and Walmart, which are practically the only places to buy new CDs anymore (havenʻt braved the Ala Moana traffic yet to get to practically the last Barnes & Noble  on the island) . . . and their displays are down to Mountain Apple-dominated kiosks. Now donʻt get me wrong: Mountain Apple products are excellent. But not everyone making Hawaiian music out there is in the Mountain Apple fold. In the past two months, only about five new CDs on are the kind of Hawaiian-language stuff I love. Five. Where do we go from here?

Tonight is the 2015 Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards show. Nominations in the “major” categories were dominated by industry heavyweights–Kealiʻi Reichel, Kuana Torres Kahele, Kenneth Makuakane. In the Female vocalist category, Mailani Makainai was the sole nominee whose focus is Hawaiian music. Perhaps this portends well that someone not working in Hawaiian music actually has a chance to win. But it is also a sobering barometer of activity . . . We shall see, wonʻt we?

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SONGS: Hoonanea a Hookuene Liliʻu

Fifteen kumu hula and hālau across Southern California have been involved in bringing a remarkable collaboration to the concert stage. This will come to fruition on Sunday, February 15, 2015, at Soka University Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo.

“Collaboration” is the key word here. Fifteen hālau are collaborating to make this concert happen.

“Collaboration” is also the key word for the program:  a series of mele in which Queen Liliʻuokalani heard the voices of her supporters during her imprisonment in ʻIolani Palace, and responded. (My blog post of Feb. 7 relates some notes on this series of mele.) The mele were published at the end of 1895 in a volume called Buke Mele Lahui. It was a labor of love among the kumu hula to commit to bringing these mele to life again, in chant, song, and hula.

Another cherished vision is being realized in Sundayʻs musical component. The house band, endearingly named “Kauhale” (house), features a new generation–the children of kumu hula:  Josh Chang, Nani Edgar, Kalani Viloria, Kealoha Viloria, and Anthony Stanley (with additional backup by Uncle Donald Fernandez and John Marx) ,  all under the direction of . . . me. (In early planning, some kumu-s suggested that I should sing, since these songs are all the result of my historical research over the years. As we struggled to identify musicians who could work with each other as well as learn all this new material, I blurted out, “gosh, by the time I finish coaching a group, I might as well sing myself.” Be careful what you wish for. Iʻll be onstage on Sunday, God willing. But anchored by all that youthful energy. Thank God.

Hereʻs a musical preview:

We open with two mass numbers, one chant, and then one mass hula. All voices and all dancers gloriously moving the house in song and dance.

Then we start the conversational series of mele. The first two mele, which appeared in the newspaper Ka Makaainana on March 18, 1895, is attributed to a haku mele identified as “S. K. Kaloa.” Together the two mele recount the events of the January 5 rebellion by the Queenʻs supporters. They gathered at Kaʻalawai Beach on the east side of Daimana Hila–Diamond Head. Outnumbered, the rebels retreated to Kaimuki and Palolo. Recounting these events in mele allowed the haku mele to comment on the lightening flashes at Kaʻalawai, referring to rifle shots. Then Pālolo is celebrated as a place that sheltered the rebels in their flight from government soldiers. The story continues in the second mele, as the rebels flee over the ridge into Mānoa valley. From that ridge line, the vista sweeps out over Maunawili and Mokapu, gesturing literally and metaphorically to the extent of support for the rebellion.

Anthony StanleyBoth mele will be presented as hula ʻauana. Kumu Hula Lyn-Del Pedersenʻs Aloha Hula Studio brings a lively hula with ipu, to a tune I created. Our featured lead singer on this number is Anthony Kaʻukaʻuluaʻole Stanley, the son of Kumu Hula Kathy Healiʻionālani Gore Stanley of San Diego, and, as #43, the pride of La Jolla High School football team. (See what I mean by youthful energy?)


Nani Edgar

The second mele is by Kumu Hula Nona Oshiroʻs Halau o Kanahele, to a melodious tune created by Nona herself, and featuring the voice of Nani Edgar. Nani is the daughter of Kumu Hula Puanani Edgar and Ventura Fire Dept. Captain Lowell Edgar, who serves as Pūnāwaiʻs dedicated Director of Operations. (Every kumu hula organization should have a fire captain to run logistics. Things get DONE!) Nani is a featured solo hula dancer who has toured the US and Japan, and is heading to Australia soon. She is also a recording artist, and a kumu hula herself, ʻunikiʻd by Kumu Puanani. Edgar

These two mele will be followed by another set of two mele, from Ka Makaainana on March 25, 1895. Kumu Hula Pua Jung presents Hālau Lani Ola, and Kumu Hula Kapena Perez presents Hālau o Malulani, in hula kahiko. Both mele are attributed by “H. J. Kapu & J. K. Kaulia.” Without mentioning specific locations in the rebellion, these mele are declarations of support nonetheless, partially by disparaging the Provisional Government (the rebels refused to recognize the rogue Republic established in 1894). In the second of the two mele, the haku mele declare that Kane and Kanaloa and the Holy Trinity are all on their side.

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From the typescript at Hawaii State Archives.

On April 1, 1895, the two mele printed in Ka Makaainana are anonymous; when they are reprinted in the Buke Mele Lahui, they are attributed to “Haimoeipo.” It took years of staring at these and other mele before a paper trail finally made itself visible which connected the pseudonym “Haimoeipo” to Queen Liliʻuokalani. The source in which she reveals herself as haku mele is none other than her own manuscript songbook she compiled in 1897. These two mele appear on page 125 of her manuscript; they are followed on p. 126 and p. 127 by two additional mele, which appeared in Ka Makaainana on April 15 and April 22. All four mele are signed “Liliʻu.” All four mele have a notated melody at the top of the page–that turns out to be the same tune for all. And all four mele have the note “Hula Kui” written in the top right corner. So all four mele will be presented as hula ʻauana.

Four mele presented in concert, all sharing the same tune. Not the best strategy for compelling staging. However, in this case, history trumps entertainment. These mele are Liliʻuʻs own manaʻo, from her pen, from her hand, from her naʻau. It is in the music that we are going to bring nuance. Each of the four songs will be sung as a solo by four different vocalists, each of whose personalities have been matched to the ʻano of the mele.

The first mele begins “As I was relaxing at Washington Place, a soft voice reached my ear, saying ʻThe government soldiers are approaching.” She goes on to say that Waipā, the police captain of the Provisional Government–“P.G.”–has come to escort her to ʻIolani Palace. Liliʻu is sharing with her supporters her experience of being arrested and taken into custody. Poignantly, she writes “Eia kō hewa la e Kalani, no kou aloha i ka lāhui” (Your crime, Your Majesty, is your love for your people). I will be singing this mele, to accompany Kanani Kalama Hula Studio. (To my knowledge, I know of only two other public performances of this mele. In a 2002 lecture-demonstration at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC., vocalist Carole Leolani Fujii sang this, and Kumu Hula Manu Ikaikaʻs Halau Moʻomau I Ka Wai Ola presented a hula. Then, at the Hawaiian Historical Societyʻs festive launch of the reprint of the Buke Mele Lahui, held in 2003 at Washington Place, Snowbird Bento sang the song, accompanied by pianist Aaron Sala.)


Kalani ViloriaLiliʻuʻs second mele is even more poignant. (I know of no other word to express that knife-in-the-naʻau feeling on reading this in full knowledge and confirmation of the speakerʻs identity.) She begins,  “Kaumaha wale kuʻu ʻikeʻna, nā paia hanohano o ʻIolani Hale” (So sad to see the grand enclosures of ʻIolani Palace). This was printed on April 1, written after being imprisoned in the upstairs corner room; this is what she was seeing as she gazed out her window. It is a prayer for the safety and wellbeing of her supporters:  “E nā Mana Lani e aloha mai, hoʻokuʻu mai i nā poʻe pilikia” (Heavenly Father and the hosts of beings, release my people from their travails). The gentle falsetto voice of Kalani Viloria delivers these manaʻo. Kalani is the son of Kumu Hula Kawika and Leinani Viloria.  He is accompanying Kumu Hula Puanani Edgarʻs Hālau o Puananihaʻaheo.

Josh ViloriaThe series of four mele with the same tune is interrupted on April 8, 1895, by yet another mele by Liliʻuokalani. It is an explicitly political commentary condemning Senate President William Whiting and fellow conspirator Willy Kinney for dividing the pono of the nation. Although it also appears in Buke Mele Lahui, this mele is not in her 1897 songbook. Josh Kealoha Viloria created a lively tune that complements his upbeat guitar strumming perfectly. The son of Kumu Hula Kawika and Leinani Viloria, Josh is a recording artist and popular entertainer throughout southern California. He will sing for dancers of Kumu Hula Kathy Gore Stanleyʻs Hālau o Healiʻionālani.

Returning to Liliʻuokalaniʻs series of songs sharing the same tune, the mele titled “Inoa Wehi No Ka ʻOiwi Pōkiʻi” in Buke Mele Lahui appears in Liliʻuʻs manuscript. “Oiwi Pokii” is struck through, and above is written “Kalanianaole.” The song begins “Hiki mai e ka lono i oʻu nei, aka oʻu pokiʻi la i Kawa”–News has reached me that my child is in Kawa [name of the jail].  Liliʻu invokes the ancestors in the lines “ʻEha ai ka ili oʻu kupuna, ʻo Keawe, ʻo Kalani-I-a-Mamao.” One of those decidedly delicious poetic ambiguities in poetry: ili. How tempting to render it as ʻili–pained is the skin of my kupuna. But when we take it as ili instead [no ʻokina], the line becomes “Damaged is the inheritance bequeathed by my kupuna, the Keawe and ʻI dynasties.” But it is the seed of aloha sprouting forth from her bosom–ka hua i ka umauma–with which she honors those patriots–pāpahi ʻika ke aloha ʻāina. This mele will be sung by Nani Edgar, to accompany Kumu Hula Pohai Daughertyʻs Halau Hula Ka Wai Ola o Waiʻaleʻale.

Josh ChangThe last of Liliʻuʻs four mele in this series appeared in Ka Makaainana on April 22, 1895. In Buke Mele Lahui, it is grouped together with the first two mele (printed on April 1, 1895) under the title “Hoonanea a Hookuene Liliu.” While this mele contains the lines “ʻo ka hana no ia e ʻikea nei, ke aloha hoʻohakukoʻi waimaka”–The work that is seen is an outpouring of love that makes tears surge. In this mele, the tears are no longer tears of sadness, but tears of immense pride and gratitude for the loyalty of Liliʻuokalaniʻs supporters. The mele begins “ʻIke hou ana i ka nani hanohano o ʻIolani Halealiʻi” –The glorious beauty of ʻIolani Palace will be seen again,, and near the end, Liliʻu declares her fervent optimism: “ua hoʻokuʻu ʻia kuʻu lāhui” — my nation will prevail!! No other voice is more suitably matched to this declaration of hope than the jubilant full-throttled falsetto of Josh Kamuelaonāpuaokupanihi Chang, recording artist and son of Kumu Hula Randy Chang. He will be accompanying the dancers of Hālau Hula o Kawika Lāua ʻo Leinani.

To round out the first half of the concert presentation, Kumu Hula Anne Blankenship presents an extremely special and rare treat. The accompaniment to Ka Lei Aloha o Hulaʻs hula kahiko incorporates out a very rare instrument–the ipu pahūpahū. These are long single gourds that are stamped on the ground–like the bamboo kāʻekeʻeke, but in this case, ipu! These ipu are combined into sets of complementary pitches. And this is certainly a topic for its very own post here on “Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure.”

The mele, printed in Ka Makaainana on April 29, 1895, is attributed to “D. K. Kaumiumi.” It relates detailed images of the armed battle fought valiantly on the morning of January 5, 1895. “Aia i ka luna o Diamana Hila, ke aloha ʻāina e hoʻolulu nei”–There at Diamond Head, the patriots gathered. Then the narrator locates himself:  “E kīlohi iho au o Kaimukī”–I gaze down from Kaimukī; and reports what he sees:  “Ka ʻuwahi noe o ka pū raifela”–the smoke of the rifle[s]. An eye-witness account, folks. History doesnʻt get any better than this!

This brings the first half of our concert to a close. The conversational series of mele continues after a brief intermission.

Stay tuned, folks. ʻAʻole i pau — not yet done.

We are especially grateful to the Hoʻolaupaʻi Hawaiian Nupepa Collection online at, hosted by Papakilo Database. Because of this significant effort to digitize Hawaiian-language newspapers, this body of knowledge is accessible even to those of us pursuing our lives away from Hawaiʻi. 

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on my mind . . . GRAMMY Awards 2015

Wishing Kamaka Kukona aloha on his remarkable journey as kumu hula and recording artist. Already recognized as Best New Artist in  Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards, his debut album Hanu ʻAʻala is a nominee for a GRAMMY Award in the Best Regional Roots category. The album, reviewed here on January 2, 2014, is a gift of sonic fragrance.

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Also wishing my dear friend Daniel Ho warmest aloha as he continues to spread his musical wings. With his collaborators Wu Man and Luis Conte–both superstars within their musical orbits, their album Our World in Song is a nominee in the Best World Music category.




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on my mind . . . mele lāhui


This is a composite of front-page excerpts from the newspaper Ka Makaainana between March 25 and April 15, 1895. At the top of column 1 in each issue is a mele. And therein lies the story of the concert presentation that Kūlia i ka Pūnāwai (Kumu Hula Association of Southern California) will be presenting one week from tomorrow–on Feb. 15, 2015, at Soka University Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo, California.

Ka Makaainana was one of several newspapers in print in that period. Among the newspapers, it was one of the most vociferous in its staunch support of Queen Liliʻuokalani and fierce opposition to the government of the rogue Republic of Hawaii. When supporters of the queen staged an armed rebellion on January 5, 1895, the government ordered the newspaper shut down. In the weeks following the rebellion, many of the Queenʻs supporters were arrested. The Queen herself was arrested on January 16, swiftly tried by a military tribunal on charges of treason, and sentenced to imprisonment in ʻIolani Palace.  Ka Makaainana resumed publication with its first issue on March 18, 1895.

The positioning of mele at the top of column 1 on page 1 is remarkable, for two reasons. First, these mele exemplify how, for Hawaiian people, mele was a mode of political discourse. We already have examples, such as the song known as “Kaulana Nā Pua,”  of political content being delivered in mele, and published in newspapers. But Ka Makaainana in this period made a particular statement of mele as political discourse by placing these mele, over several months, at the top of page 1 of its newspaper!

Second, a close look at the mele. Noenoe Silva wrote about these mele in her book Aloha Betrayed (2004). Most of the mele were published anonymously; some had only initials, and some had pseudonyms. But through a paper trail across several different types of sources, we can connect the mele on April 1 to Queen Liliʻuokalani. Mind you–this is precisely when she was imprisoned in ʻIolani Palace!

Historians love to relate the story of the Queen receiving news during her imprisonment via deliveries of flowers cleverly wrapped in newspapers. But here, at last, is the other side of the exchange–the Queen having supporters smuggle out mele which were being published in Ka Makaainana. Of the series of mele appearing in Ka Makaainana from March and into the summer months, Noenoe Silva has written, “The mele acted as conversations between people who were physically unable to talk to each other.”

We read, on March 18, the poetic expression of a supporter who pledges his or her support to the Queen. On the following week, another supporter declares his or her support. On April 1, the first mele begins, “Iaʻu e nanea ma Wakinekona” [as I was relaxing at Washington Place]. It is Liliʻuokalani, relating the story of her arrest, and sharing her emotions at seeing Diamond Head from her window.

Queen Liliʻuokalani authored at least four additional mele that were published in Ka Makaainana during this period. Together, all of the mele tell a stirring story of people whose hope in their Queen never diminishes. This is the story we are bringing to the stage next week, and releasing on CD as well.

Punawai concert poster



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SONGS: Pua Melekule


Magnolia blossom. Sheet music first published in 1892, bundled together with “Ka Ipo Lei Manu.” Plain cover, but a historianʻs dream:  both songs clearly marked with the term “hula kui.”

“Pua Melekule” is very much on my mind and tongue these days. At the mass concert next month  by Kūlia i ka Pūnāwai (Kumu Hula Association of Southern California) at Soka University Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo (plug plug), this is the number that all kumu hula will dance together. And I am the lead singer for them in concert, as well as on the (forthcoming) CD. But clearly I have been living with this song for awhile, so itʻs time to set down an evidence trail.

First: there are actually two different mele named “Pua Melekule.” You can find both in the 1895 volume Buke Mele Lahui: 

  1. on p. 82, it is titled “Pua Melekule (1)” and attributed to “K.H.”
  2. on p. 110, it is titled “Pua Melekule (2)” and attributed to “J.H.”

Unfortunately the sheet music does not given us any information on authorship. The mele itself in the sheet music is the mele on p. 110 of Buke Mele Lahui. And here is the score:

page_3  page_5


Now to make things interesting, Liliʻuokalaniʻs 1897 manuscript of He Buke Mele Hawaii includes this song on p. 134. The title is “Fond Delight,” and there is only an English translation of the lyrics–by her. (photocopied from typescript in Hawaii State Archives). This translation corresponds to the mele on p. 82 of Buke Mele Lahui.

Liliu 1897 p134

If you read music, you can see that the tune is NOT IDENTICAL between the two sources. However, the tune is SIMILAR. This is in keeping with practices of oral tradition, as songs got passed around. Even within the span of only 5 years, singers have brought varying approaches to singing these mele (plural, because there are two different mele texts).

The mele and musical score was also published by Charles E. King in his Book of Hawaiian Melodies–but ONLY in the 1916 and 1917 editions. And if I had a copy of the score from either book, I would include it here. Perhaps someone can photocopy it and post?

Now, recordings. Curious. I could only locate 3 recordings:

1. Ainahau Trio, on the album Breeze (Poki SP-9005), published 1975; and track reissued on the album Hana Hou (Ginger Recores GS-3002), published 1979


2. Bill Kaiwa, on the album Pure Hawaiian (Pua P-1002), published 1993

Pua P-1002

3. Keao Costa, on the album Whee-Ha! Hawaiian Falsetto Stylings (Mountain Apple MACD-2045), published 1997

Mountain Apple MACD-2045

I combed Malcolm Rockwellʻs magisterial discography Hawaiian & Hawaiian Guitar Records, 1891-1960 (published 2007) hunting for earlier recordings (I thought surely there would be some 78rpm recordings!), but came up empty handed. Perhaps some among you, Dear Readers, can come up with some other recordings. But I am at the limit of the sources at hand at the moment.

And here is what they sing:

  1. ʻAinahau Trio:  they sing the mele [lyrics] on p. 110 of Buke Mele Lahui and in the 1892 sheet music, but only sing verses 1, 2, 3, 4, and haina–following the sheet music lyrics.
  2. Bill Kaiwa: he sings the mele [lyrics] on p. 110 of Buke Mele Lahui and in the 1892 sheet music. He sings all 9 verses!! There are, however, occasional word differences from both  the sheet music and Buke Mele Lahui.
  3. Keao Costa:  he sings the mele [lyrics] on p. 82 of Buke Mele Lahui, and he sings all 7 verses

What we are doing in the concert and on the CD, both titled “Kaulana Nā Pua,” is the mele on p. 82 of Buke Mele Lahui, following the tune in Liliʻuokalaniʻs manuscript, and, in true hula fashion, each verse repeated and NO instrumental breaks anywhere. (On our recording, Josh Changʻs lovely “flailing” flamenco-style strumming thankfully replaces my own poor excuse for backyard strumming.)

I shall leave it to others to pursue interpretations of the occasion/s for which this mele may have been composed or performed. What I do know is that it was popular enough to be published very early in the history of sheet music publishing in Hawaiʻi, and that it delighted Liliʻuokalani sufficiently for her to include her own transcription of the tune to her own flowery translation of the mele. There.

One last story. The photo above of the sheet music is from a copy I own. I had the extraordinary fortune to win it in an ebay auction back around the year 2000 or so. The auction was timed to end at approximately 9:30pm east coast time. I had stayed in my office working late that day; determined to win this auction, I sat in my office until 9:30, not wanting to chance being outbid as I was driving home! (There were several other collectors on ebay at the time whose pockets were far deeper than mine.) Well, my competitors must have been on vacation. Truly and cosmically karma that this sheet music would come into my hands, because no one else bid on it, and I got it for the opening bid of $25.00.  Mahalo ke Akua!

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