When talking about “ancient hula” and “modern hula,” some folks like to draw an impenetrable boundary between the two categories. Ancient hula uses traditional percussive instruments to accompany the standing dances–ipu, pahu. Modern hula uses stringed instruments to accompany dances. The core instruments are the ʻukulele trio–ʻukulele, guitar, and bass; then other instruments join in to enhance, elaborate, fill. The sonic distinction between “ancient” and “modern” is obvious to any listener.
Complicating this sonic distinction, however, is a group of mele that were passed from the 19th to the 20th century as BOTH hula ku‘i AND hula ‘ōlapa. In other words, these same mele are taught, learned, and performed as both ancient hula and modern hula. I refer to them as “crossovers” because they cross over the ancient / modern dividing line.
Here is a list of the most well known of these mele. The list is presented here in alphabetical order. It is drawn up from my longstanding research on hula music through archives, sound recordings, and as a student of chant in the 1970s. There are mele that were taught before the 1970s as both ancient chanted hula ‘ōlapa and modern sung hula ku‘i. There are sound recordings of the same mele performed as either ancient or modern. And, most fun of all, there are recordings that combine both ancient/chant and modern/sung versions of the mele in the same recording!!
I welcome contributions and recollections of other mele that have crossed over between hula ku‘i and hula ‘ōlapa. [Note: a song like “Hole Waimea” would not apply here, because that mele was neither a hula ku‘i or a hula ‘ōlapa. It was originally a hula ‘āla‘apapa, and when set to music in the later 19th century, it was set as a mele Hawai‘i song.]
And in future posts, I will comment on recordings, versions, performances . . .
- A Kona Hema ‘o Kalani
- Aia la ‘o Pele i Hawai‘i
- Noble: Hilo E
- Ia oe e ka la
- Kai o Māmala (also known by its first line: Kahi mea i aloha ‘ia)
- Lili‘u E
- No ke ano ahiahi
- Panini Puakea
- ‘Ula Nōweo