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.
Both 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?)
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.
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.)
Liliʻuʻs 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.
The 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.
The 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 http://www.nupepa.org, 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.