‘Ike iā Kaukini he Lawai‘a Manu

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva

Haku mele: Disputed. Kalanimoku (1768-1827), Kaipualehu, and Kalākaua are named in three separate manuscript versions.

Date of composition: Unknown. Its association with Kalanimoku in the 51-part “Ka Pua Koili Lani Manuia” suggests that it is at least an early ninteenth-century composition.

Sources: Fifteen texts of the mele can be found in the Bishop Museum Archives, nine were collected by Helen Roberts and three by Huapala Mader.  Among those worthy of note are: 1) “Ike ia Kaukini...” Haku mele: Kalanimoku. Mele Book HI.M.89:122. The second of 51 parts of “Ka pua koili lani manuia.” 2) “Ike ia Kaukini...” MS SC Roberts 1:59-61. Chanter: Kaluaikapahukapu. Pukui’s notes link the chant with “Ike ia Kauna wahine” and define the two as “chants expressing admiration for chiefs.” 3) “Ike ia Kaukini...” MS SC Roberts 5.2:73a. Chanter: Lucy Kalili (b.1854). 4) “Ike ia Kaukini...” Haku mele: Kaipualehu. MS SC Roberts 3.10:93,95-6. Collector: Peter Pakele (1869-1952). 5) “He Mele Ali’i.” Kuluwaimaka Collection, HI.M.51.1:40. Chanter: James Kapihe Palea Kuluwaimaka (1845-1937). 6) “Ike ia Kaukini...” Haku mele: Kalākaua. MS SC Roberts 2.2:86. Mele olioli with tune by Kalākaua. Chanter: Amy Kalili. 7) “Ike ia Kaukini.” Mader Collection MS Grp 81,9.25. Collector: Mary Padeken (1853-1934). Notes identify the mele as honoring Queen Emma.

Other sources: 1) Helen Roberts, Ancient Hawaiian Music, New York: Dover Publications, 1967:138. 2) Nathaniel Emerson, Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, Vermont: Tuttle Co., 1965:51.

Discography: 1) “‘Ike iā Kaukini...,” a mele inoa ali‘i in olioli with ‘i‘i style, chanted by Lucy Kalili on Record 1, Side A, Band 8 of Nā Leo Hawai‘i Kahiko; Voices of Old Hawai‘i, Bishop Museum Audio Recording Series no.1:1980. 2) “‘Ike iā Kaukini...,” a mele inoa ali‘i in olioli with ‘i‘i style, chanted by Kuluwaimaka on IA:10 of Nā Leo Hawai‘i Kahiko.

Text below: From Kuluwaimaka’s book – with the addition of lines 3-4, which he chanted for Roberts but did not include in his typescript. Translation: Kihei de Silva.

Mary Kawena Pukui identifies this chant and its companion-piece “‘Ike iā Kaunawahine he Makani Ka’ū” as “mele pai ali‘i, or chants expressing admiration for chiefs...”[1] The many versions listed in the “source” section above differ somewhat in line length and diction, but they all hold together well: none emerges as the definitive text; none can be dismissed as poorly remembered or transcribed. Consequently, our decision to perform the Kuluwaimaka text has little to do with the relative merit of the other versions and everything to do with the fact that we have Kuluwaimaka’s words and voice to serve as our model; the opportunity to learn from and promote his example is simply too good to pass up.

Kaukini was a legendary bird catcher of Waipi‘o Valley, and Pōkahi was his wife. They were the adoptive parents of Lauka‘ie‘ie, “Goddess of the wildwood and sister to the wind god of love, Makani-kau, and to the Hiilawe who was transformed at death, his body into a stone and his spirit into the mist of that waterfall in Waipio...”[2] The bird catcher and his wife raised this sacred child with great devotion. Birds, flowers, and singing shells were her constant companions. She dreamed of, and then married Kawelona, a Kaua‘i chief who had also dreamed of her. Their marriage in Waipi‘o was celebrated with music and hula. Later, when Lauka‘ie‘ie died, her body was transformed into the ‘ie‘ie vine that is sacred to po‘e hula.[3]

For us, the significance of “‘Ike iā Kaukini” resides in the example of Kaukini and Pōkahi. Their devotion to Lauka’ie’ie speaks, on a larger scale, of dedicated service to a person or ideal of great value: ‘o ke ali’i wale nō kā lāua makemake ("to serve this chief is their only desire"). The mele characterizes service of this sort as luhi (“laborious...to care for and attend with affection”) and le‘ale‘a (“delightful”). It might be exhausting, but it is always inspired and rejuvenated by love, and it is always its own best reward. “‘Ike iā Kaukini” calls on us to ‘ike (see, know, recognize, understand) Kaukini – and to follow his lead by serving our own “ali’i” with the same stubborn-but-joyful sense of purpose.

For us, then, “‘Ike iā Kaukini” is appropriate to occasions that honor the Kaukinis and Pōkahis of times past and present; Pauahi, Lili‘u, Kaluaiko‘olau, Kalaniana’ole, Maiki Aiu-Lake, Ka’upena Wong, Nainoa Thompson, George Helm.   

‘Ike iā Kaukini

‘Ike iā Kaukini, he lawai‘a manu,

He ‘upena ku‘u i ka noe ko Pōkahi,

Ke ho‘opuni lā i ka ‘ohu,

Ke ho‘opuni lā i ka ‘ohu na Kīkepa,

Ke na‘i lā i ka luna o Ka‘auana.

‘O ka uahi ke kāpeku

E hei ai ka i‘a manu o Pū-‘awa-li‘i.

‘O ke ali‘i wale nō ka‘u makemake,

‘O ka luhi o māua me ia nei.

‘O ka mākou le‘ale‘a nō ia.

‘Oia, ua ‘ikea –

Spoken:Aia lā.

Know Kaukini, the fisher of birds,

Pōkahi has a net spread in the mist,

Encompassing the mist,

Encompassing the mist of Kīkepa,

Striving to reach the heights of Ka‘auana.

The smoke is the kāpeku with which the bird fishermen

Ensnare like fish the birds of Pū‘awali‘i.

To serve the ali‘i is my one desire,

She is the precious, lovingly raised child of ours.

She is our joy.

So it is, this is known. 

Spoken:  There it is.

Notes to the Mele

Kuluwaimaka’s notes, as transcribed by Theodore Kelsey in Kuluwaimaka’s chant book, are as follows:

1. Kaukini, he pali i Waipio ma ka aoao e hele aku la ma Hilo. Oia kahi e lawaia manu ai. 2. Ho-a i ke ahi a nui, a hei ka manu i ka upena. Po-kahi, kekahi wahi o Waipio. 3. O ka ohu oia ka wahi [uahi?]. Kikepa, oia ke kikepa ana i ka upena; ke kau ana o ka upena iluna o ka laau. Ma kahi o ka manu e lele ai oia kahi e paku ia mai ai a paa. Ke puhi aku la ke ahi me ka uahi, a lele ka manu a hei i ka upena. Kikepa, he aina. Aole au ike i ka upena lawaia manu. 4. Kaauana, he aina. Nai, hoomoe i ka upena a puni i kahi a ka manu e noho la. 5. Na ka uahi e kipaku i ka manu. 6. Pu-awa-’lii (Puu’awa-alii), puu kahi i kanu i [‘ia] ai ka awa o ke ‘lii. 7. Ka makemake o ka mea nana i haku [kahu?]. [8.] Luhi no ka hele ana i ka hoohei manu i ka pali o Waipio. 10. Oia ka puana ohope o ke mele.

1. Kaukini is a pali in Waipi‘o [Hawai‘i] on the Hilo side. It was a place where birds were trapped with nets. 2. A big fire was made and birds were snared in nets. Pōkahi is another Waipi‘o site. 3. The “mist” is the smoke [of the fire]. Kīkepa refers to the setting up [“to place in a one-sided manner”] of the net, the draping of the nets up in the trees. The place where the birds fly is the place where they are screened off [squeezed into?] and caught. The flames and smoke billow forth and the birds flee and are trapped in the net. Kīkepa is a land. I haven’t seen “bird-fishing.” 4. Ka‘auana is a land. Na‘i refers to the lowering of the net at the place where royal ‘awa was planted. 7. The desire of the one who serves as haku. 8. Wearisome is the going to snare birds at Waipi‘o pali. 10. This is the summary at the end of the mele. [Rough translation by Kihei de Silva.]

Nathaniel Emerson’s gloss of the mele is quite different. He identifies Kaukini as a hill in back of Lahainaluna, Maui, where the kahuna Luaho‘omoe was put to death by Olepau for supposedly deceiving this Maui king over the availability of ‘ua‘u birds. Emerson’s version is 7 lines long and becomes more jumbled with every line. (Unwritten Literature, 1972:8.)  Consequently, we don’t place much faith in either his text or explanation.

Kāpeku:  “to splash the feet in the water, as in scaring fish” (Pukui, Hawaiian Dictionary, 132).  David Malo notes in Hawaiian Antiquities that: “The word [kapeku] is used in a great many meanings, to catch, smite, etc., as in the following,'He uahi ke kapeku e hei ai ka ia-manu o Puoalii.' The reference is to the fact that the people of Puoalii, Hamakua, Hawaii, were wont to make a smudgy fire at night on the coast, and as the birds flew in from the sea, coming into the reek of the smoke they became bewildered and were easily caught in scoop nets” (1971:84, n7).

One of Pukui’s ‘ōlelo no‘eau provides a final note on bird fishing: “Ka i‘a hei i ka uwahi. The fish caught by smoke. Birds caught at night with a net after being attracted by a bonfire” (‘Ōlelo No‘eau, #1334).

Notes to the Essay

  1. 1.  Helen Roberts Collection, MS SC Roberts 1:59-60, Bishop Museum Archives.

  2. 2.  Martha Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1979:522.  Makani-kau is also known as Makanikeoe.

  3. 3.  William Westervelt, Hawaiian Legends of Ghosts and Ghost-Gods, Vermont: Tuttle Co., 1981:36-48. Another English version of the story of Lauka‘ie‘ie is given as "'Ie'ie and Lehua," in Hawai'i Island Legends by Mary Kawena Pukui. "He Moolelo Kaao Hawaii no Laukieie," a Hawaiian language version of the story was published serially in Ka Leo o Ka Lahui, beginning on January 2, 1894, and again in Ka Oiaio, beginning on January 5 of the same year. The first installment of both newspaper publications includes a version of "‘Ike iā Kaukini" that is quite close to Kuluwaimaka‘s:

  4.     Ike ia Kaukini he lawaia manu

  5.     He upena kuu i ka noe ko Pokahi

  6.     Ua hoopuni i ka ohu na Kikepa

  7.     Ke na'i ala i ka luna o Kaauwana

  8.     O Kauahi ke Kapeku e hei ai

  9.     Ka i‘a manu o Puawalii

  10.     O ke ‘lii wale no ka'u makemake

  11.     O ka luhi o maua me ia nei

  12.     O ka makou lealea no ia, ua i–ke–a


© Kīhei de Silva 2000.  All rights reserved.
This essay was first published in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilimaʻs 2000 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet. 

It is offered here in slightly revised and updated form.