Hu‘i Ē

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva



Haku Mele:  Lydia Nawahine Kawewehi Kekuewa, 1931.


Sources:  1) “Hui e hui koni,” words and music by Lydia Nawahine Kekuewa, arr. B. Mossman, c. Nov. 28, 1931. Library of Congress Copyright Office.  2) “Hui E,” by Lydia Kekuewa, Mader Collection, MS Grp 81, 3.50, “mele ho‘oipoipo, hula kui,” Bishop Museum Archives.  3) “Hui E,” by L. Kekuewa and J. Noble, Collection of Ancient and Modern Hulas, 1935:19.


Select Discography: 1) Leina‘ala Haili, Leinaala, Lehua Records 2022.  2) Kahauanu Lake Trio, At the Halekulani Hotel, Hula Records 511.  3) Genoa Keawe, Sings Luau Hulas, Hula Records 514.  4) Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau, Ke Alaula, Poki Records9056.


Our Text:  Mader Collection; Hawaiian orthography and translation by Kīhei de Silva.





In deference to her position as matriarch of the Kekuewa family in the first half of the 20th century, Lydia Nawahine Kawewehi Kekuewa was called “Tūtū Wahine” by my mother and Mom’s three sisters. Lydia was, in fact, their grandaunt – the wife of Obed M. Kekuewa (b. 1862, m. 1911) who was the brother of their maternal grandfather Henry Kalā Kekuewa. Lydia’s family came from Maui (her brother Robert Nawahine was a leader of central Maui’s churches, the first licentiate of Waihe‘e Church, and the composer of the well-known hymns “‘Ekolu Mea Nui” and “Ke Hea Nei ‘O Iesu”), but her song “Pā mai ana ka Makani” clearly states that she was a native of Kona, Hawai‘i.[1] 


Tūtū Lydia was also a much-loved and respected school and hula teacher (Roselle Bailey’s mother [2] and Bettie Yates Hughes were among her haumāna hula), and she and Obed, the Captain of Police for Kailua-Kona, made their home on Kekuewa family land in Hōnaunau-Uka. My mother’s youngest sister, Jane Leilehua Pratt Bray, remembers that: “Tutu Wahine taught at Honaunau School, 1st grade. We sang songs that she composed which was what we enjoyed...we always had [a pineapple ‘ukulele] in our parlor if we wanted to kanikapila, and even Tutu Helen [3] could play it.”[4] My mother’s favorite Tūtū Lydia story was more grumpy: “Jane and I had to load the donkey in the mornings and walk all the perishable foods up to her house where it was cooler; her friends would be visiting and we would have to honihonihonihoni all those old ladies.” Until recently, Lydia and Obed’s rebuilt house, which sits on a knoll above the highway that leads past the Hōnaunau Post Office to Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, was the residence of Mrs. Matilda Ku‘ulei Kekuewa Hart, my mother’s oldest sister.[5] 


Tūtū Lydia apparently shared her brother Robert’s talent for songwriting, and a handful of her mele are still sung today. Her work includes: “Pā mai ana ka Makani (Kona),” “Nā Moku Kaulana,” “Eia Hōnaunau,” “Down in Kona Way,” “Kamehameha Ekahi,” and “Hu‘i Ē.” According to family tradition, several of her other compositions were “absorbed” by Johnny Noble who was more interested than she in publication and copyrights.


“Hu‘i Ē” is one of Tūtū Lydia’s earliest and perhaps least characteristic compositions. She is said to have written it for the Mexican actress Dolores del Rio to perform in Bird of Paradise, the 1932 film released by RKO Radio Pictures starring Joel McCrea as Johnny Baker, the infatuated yachtsman, and del Rio as Luana, the tantalizing native girl destined for sacrifice to the volcano god.[6] Apparently, the song was never used in the movie [7], although its language might have been more appropriate to the pagan wedding scene in which the topless (but strategically lei-draped) Luana wiggled famously to a drum-heavy rendition of  “He aloha nō ka‘u ‘ike [Ka‘uiki] lā, me he manu ala lā, au i ke kai.”[8]


“Hu‘i ‘Ē” is a flirtatious hula composed in the same playful, slightly risqué manner as Lena Machado’s “E Ku‘u Baby Hot Cha Cha” and “Ho‘ohaehae (Ma ‘Ane‘i Mai ‘Oe),” Bina Mossman’s “Nā Kipikoa,” and David Chung’s “E Huli Mākou.”[9]  What it lacks in kaona, it compensates for in hyperbole and humor, beginning with a lexicon of the “agonies” of concupiscence (hu‘i koni, ‘iniki welawela, ‘eha walania, ‘eha koni – throbbing ache, fiery pinch, burning pang, tingling pain), moving breathlessly to the ‘imo and the ‘oni (the wink and wiggle) that arouse these palpitations, and arriving happily at what sounds like actual contact (kū mālie, hā‘awi ke aloha, sure kēlā – strike gently, give love, that’s for sure).


We take particular delight in this mele because it is so unlike anything else of Lydia Kekuewa’s that has survived the years. We know her in pictures and stories as our matronly Tūtū.  We know her as a writer of the children’s song “Kamehameha ‘Ekahi,” and we know her, above all, as a haku mele grounded in family, home, and lāhui. But in “Hu‘i Ē,” we hear a much younger voice than we are accustomed to, not a voice that reflects nostalgically on “ku‘u home, ku‘u lā ‘ōpio,” but one that is caught up in the attraction that leads, with time and luck, from “hā‘awi ke aloha me ka ‘eha koni” to “hāli‘ali‘a mai ana” – from excitement to reverie. 


Hu‘i Ē


Hu‘i ē, hu‘i koni       

An ache, a throbbing ache

A throbbing ache, a tingling ache

In this heart


A pang, an passionate ache

A pang, a pinch

Has love


I ache with agony

I ache with a throbbing ache

I am truly aching


Wink, wink your eye

Wink your eye, and he will ache

With a throbbing pain


Move, move your body

Move your body, your entire body

So very supple


Move forward, strike gently

Give love with a throbbing ache[10]

This is good


Tell the refrain

An ache, a pinch, a pang, your body moves

That’s for sure.

        

Hu‘i koni lā, hu‘i koni lā            

Nei pu‘u wai                    


He ‘iniki, he ‘iniki welawela lā        

He ‘iniki lā, he ‘iniki lā            

Kā ke aloha                   


‘Eha au, me ka walania            

‘Eha au me ka ‘eha koni           

‘Eha ‘i‘o nō                   


‘Imo ē, ‘imo ko maka ē            

‘Imo ko maka, ‘eha ‘o ia ala        

Me ka ‘eha koni               


‘Oni ē, ‘oni ko kino ē            

‘Oni ko kino, ko nui kino lā            

He ‘olu ‘i‘o nō                


I mua ē, kū mālie ē                

Hā‘awi ke aloha me ka ‘eha koni        

Pono kēiā                     


Ha‘ina ē, mai ka puana ē           

Hu‘i, he ‘iniki, ‘eha, ‘oni ko kino        

Sure kēlā                   



Notes:


1. “Pā mai ana ka makani / Hele uluulu a‘o Kona [alternately: “He ‘Eka a‘o Kona”] / Ku’u ‘āina hānau / I ka poli a‘o ka makua.”


2.  Rose Wright Lindsey, the granddaughter of Lahela Kekuewa Bright, my great-grandfather Henry’s sister. 


3. My grandmother, Helen Kekuewa Pratt.


4. Jane Bray, personal communication, Oct. 17 and 18, 2011. 


5. Aunty Lei Hart died in January 2005. Of the four sisters – Matilda Lei Hart, Helen Laulani Kamakau, Lorna Pi‘ilani de Silva, and Jane Leilehua Bray – only Aunty Jane is still alive.


6. As reported in George Kanahele, “Mele and the Movies,” Ha‘ilono Mele, June 1978:4, Huapala.org, and Ulelewaihui. com.  The god is identified as Pele and referred to by Luana and Johnny as “he.”


7. I have watched the entire movie twice, online, and have not been able to detect a single strain of Tūtū Lydia’s song.


8. The scene is viewable on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtiIiV-ueLI) and is remarkable in several respects: 1-  for the interpretive “hula” presumably taught to del Rio by Charles E. King and Winona Love (“Mele and the Movies,” Ha‘ilono Mele, June 1978:4),  2-  for the barely intelligible use of Hawaiian language in conversation between prince and king,


  1. Prince (upon seeing Luana): “Papa, nani maoli nō. Ka maka. Ka kino. Ka lauoho. Nā mea apau. Auē, u‘i maoli [ia wahine?].”


  2. King (giving his daughter Luana to the Prince): “Kaikamahine ia i aloha ‘ia e nā mākua. [A ‘o?] ‘oe e ke keiki ali‘i o ku‘u one hānau, nāu mau loa aku nō.”


and 3-  for the fact that the king is played by Napoleon Pukui.


9. “Hu‘i Ē” was composed before the others and may have influenced all four; this is certainly evident in Bina Mossman’s “Nā Kipikoa” which shares the line “Hā‘awi ke aloha me ka ‘eha koni” with Tūtū Lydia’s earlier piece.


10. Although this line is most commonly translated as “Give love with a throbbing ache,” the absence of an object marker (hā‘awi i ke aloha) renders “ke aloha” the subject of the expression, not its object. Hence, the literal meaning of  “hā‘awi ke aloha me ka ‘eha koni,” is “love gives with a throbbing ache.” One could easily argue, however, the absent object marker here is elided (swallowed up in the i of hā‘awi), understood, or simply forgiven. And we are inclined to agree.






© Kīhei de Silva, 2012.  All rights reserved.

This essay was first published in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilimaʻs 2012 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet. 

It is offered here in slightly revised and updated form.