Playlist for MUS 478B Fall 2010: Mele Hawai‘i

An early post on this blog introduced the genre of mele Hawai‘i songs.

The term “mele Hawai‘i” invites pondering. Does it refer to any Hawaiian song? Mele = “poetic text;” Hawai‘i = Hawai‘i as in the place, or Hawaiian as in the people and/or culture. In the 1970s when the revival of Hawaiian culture was accelerating, many cultural leaders were using the label “mele Hawai‘i” as an equivalent for “Hawaiian music” generally.  But in the late 19th century, the term was for “Hawaiian Songs,” as shown on the cover of the Aloha Collection of Hawaiian Songs published by Wall, Nichols in 1899, and in the Royal Collection of Hawaiian Songs published by the Hawaiian News Co. in 1907, or even in the songbook titled Famous Hawaiian Songs published by Bergstrom Music in 1914 (which was an enlarged edition of the volume Songs of Hawaii published in 1902). These songs were Hawaiian songs. What were they not? They were not hymns / himeni, nor were they hula songs, which in early songbooks were clearly labelled “hula song” or some such designation. The covers reinforce a particular kind of song:  the “Mele Hawaii” sheet music series contains 30 song titles, and the Hawaiian News volume (lower left thumbnail) associates these songs with the ruling nobility of the Kalākaua Dynasty.

Here is the playlist I am using in my Hawaiian music course in Fall 2010 so students can make the connection between beloved songs, song structure, and the members of royalty associated with mele Hawai‘i.

1. “Aloha ʻOe,” performed by the Rose Ensemble. Nā Mele Hawai‘i (Rose Ensemble 00008). This recording includes all three verses plus the famed chorus, using the opening rhythm that Lili‘uokalani notated in the first published edition of the sheet music in 1884, namely

“A-lo-ha ‘o ——————e a-lo-ha o———–e” instead of the more common

“A———lo——–ha——‘oe——————–  A—–lo—–ha——“oe———–“

2. “Koni Au,” performed by Bill Kaiwa. Kama‘āina Songs (Hula HS-523). Songs on this LP have not yet been reissued on CD. A real shame, because this entire LP is a treasure trove of mele Hawai‘i sung with rhythmic guitar accompaniment. “Koni Au” was composed by King David Kalākaua.




3. “Huki March,” orchestrated, produced and directed by Jack de Mello. Music of Hawai Volume IV: The Story of the Royal Hawaiian Band (Music of Polynesia MOP 9000). Jack de Mello undertook extensive historical research in the 1960s that culminated in a four-volume overview of the history of Hawaiian music (and was the topic of a post on this blog on September 16, 2009). The production also represented an attempt to take Hawaiian music into the realm of light orchestra arrangements. The Royal Hawaiian Bandʻs repertoire included marches that incorporated mele Hawai‘i songs in the trio section of the composition.

4. “Malanai Anu Ka Makani.” Performed by Tandy MacKenzie. Tandy MacKenzie Sings (Island Heritage IH 101). Tandy MacKenzie was a native Hawaiian who left Hawai‘i in the 1920s and made a successful career in the United States and Europe as an opera singer. It is said that he always included at least one Hawaiian song in his recitals, and concert programs identify those songs as mele Hawai‘i songs. The presentation of mele Hawai‘i songs by classically trained vocalists placed these songs in the refined world of the concert hall, removed from the entertainment venues where hula songs circulated.

5. “Adios Ke Aloha,” performed by Kūpaoa. Pili o Ke Ao (Kūpaoa KL-8120). The gentle arrangement of guitar accompaniment and harmonizing in parallel thirds demonstrates that mele Hawai‘i songs remain viable for contemporary performers. This duo won the Nā Hōkū Hanohano award for Most Promising Artist when this LP was released in 2008. The incorporation of non-Hawaiian words was a popular practice among songwriters of mele Hawai‘i.


6. “Nani Haili Pō I Ka Makani,” performed by Nā Kama. Ke Ala Hou (Kipuka FEH-812). Another contemporary take on another song by Lili‘uokalani, this time combining strong rhythmic guitar strumming with choral-style 3-part harmonizing.




7. “Ua Like No A Like,” performed by Sunday Mānoa. Sunday Manoa 3 (Panini PS-1005). 8. “Old Plantation,” The Sandwich Isle Band (Seabird Sound SS-1003). Two performances by two different groups, both fronted by bandleader Peter Moon. The long phrases in “Ua Like No A Like” are examples of the breath control needed to perform this song correctly.

9. “Kamehameha Waltz,” performed by Emma Veary.  Emma (Music of Polynesia MOP-16000). 10. “Ku‘u ‘I‘ini,” performed by Nina Keali‘iwahamana, Iwalani Kahalewai, Mahi Beamer, and Gary Aiko. Both songs are composed by Charles E. King, a 20th-century composer and publisher whose songs are art songs that demand technical vocal proficiency, and make sense with piano and/or orchestral accompaniment.

This entry was posted in Playlists, recommendations, recordings, Songs. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Playlist for MUS 478B Fall 2010: Mele Hawai‘i

  1. Pingback: Mele Hawai‘i — Historical Sources | Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure

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