Ku‘u Home ‘o Maui

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva

Author: Unknown.

Date of composition: Early 20th century?

Sources: 1) Kimo Alama-Keaulana, “Ku‘u Home ‘o Maui,” MS. Grp. 329,4.38, Bishop Museum Archives. 2) Jean Sullivan, liner notes for Agnes Malabey Weisbarth and the Ho‘oipo Trio, Just Like Old Times, Hula Records HS-551. 

Discography: Agnes Malabey Weisbarth and the Ho‘oipo Trio, Just Like Old Times, Hula Records HS-551.

Text below: as transcribed by Kimo Alama-Keaulana, MS. Grp. 329, BPBM Archives. Translation and orthographic editing: Kihei de Silva. 

Jean Sullivan describes “Ku‘u Home ‘o Maui” as a "rousing Maui bragging song” that only old-timers are likely to remember; Kimo Alama-Keaulana simply calls it “old.” Neither Sullivan nor Alama-Keaulana identifies the mele’s author or date of composition, nor has our own research contributed anything more concrete than a feel for the composers and tradition that inspired this simple, compelling, and still anonymous classic.  

We can say that “Ku‘u Home ‘o Maui” draws on a Maui song-writing tradition that has its roots in the nineteenth century compositions of the Reverends S. Pa‘aluhi and Samuel Kapū, Sr. (d. 1916). In the 1870s and ‘80s, these gentlemen were already writing patriotic songs that consisted, for the most part, of lists of epithets honoring beloved Maui places, leaders, events, rains, winds, and flora. Pa‘aluhi, a pastor at Wailuku’s Ka‘ahumanu Church in the 1860s, can perhaps be credited with the first use in a mele of the phrase “Maui nō ka ‘oi”:  a fragment of a song he wrote in honor of the Wailuku lawyer and politician John W. “Keahiowailuku” Kalua (1848-1928) begins with the lines “‘O Maui nui o Kama ka oi / Na kualono nani / Na kuahiwi kilakila.”[1]  Samuel Kapū, Sr., Pa‘aluhi’s successor, later borrowed from this mele to create two of Maui’s most popular bragging songs, “Malu i ke Ao,”[2] and “Maui nō ka ‘Oi.”[3] The first of these songs opens with lines that were borrowed, in turn, by the authors of “Lani Ha‘aha‘a” and “Kuahiwi Nani”:

  1. Ohi e ka io o ka laau

  2. No Makawao no ia

  3. O ka ua Ukiukiu

  4. Ohuohu no.

  5. To gather edible tree fungus

  6. Is surely a custom of Makawao

  7. And the ‘Ūkiukiu rain

  8. Is its beautiful adornment.

  9. “Malu i ke Ao,” HEN 3:1062, BPBM Archives, de Silva translation.

“Maui nō ka ‘Oi,” the second of Kapū’s compositions, is more commonly known as either “The Maui Song” or “Maui Chimes,” and it is always sung (and stood up for) by old-time Mauians in performances of the “Island Medley.”[4] The song’s immediately recognizable chorus ends with the condensed version of Pa‘aluhi’s motto that has become synonymous with Maui pride and that is virtually de rigueur in Maui compositions of the twentieth century; indeed, the single phrase “Maui nō ka ‘oi” serves as the model for five of the eight lines of “Ku‘u Home ‘o Maui” and four of the ten lines of “Lani Ha‘a.”

  1. Aohe lua e like ai

  2. Hiaai wale Haleakala

  3. Mahiehie launa ole

  4. O Maui no la ka oi.

  5. None can compare

  6. Much loved is Haleakala.

  7. For her incomparable charm

  8. Maui surpasses all.

  9. “Maui no ka Oi,” HEN III: 897-898, BPBM Archives, Pukui translation.[5]

We might also expect “Ku‘u Home ‘o Maui” to model its flower imagery on Kapū’s “Maui nō ka ‘Oi,” but there is no mention of heavenly roses in the earlier mele. In fact, the absence of references to roselani in either the Kapū or Pa‘aluhi texts suggests that this flower had not yet become established as a predominant symbol of Maui patriotism at the close of the 1800s; it suggests, as well, that “Ku’u Home ‘o Maui” – with its very prominent salute to the roselani – belongs to the early twentieth century. Roselani does appear in a number of late nineteenth century hīmeni – in Lilokela’s “Na ke kehau a i lawe mai / I ke ala o ka pua roselani,”[6] in Aipuu Liilii’s “Nani wale no ia roselani la,”[7] and in the anonymous “Kuu lei loke oe o ka uka iuiu,”[8] for example – but these are love songs, not Maui place-songs, and their roselani passions are inspired by something other than pride in the island. The only nineteenth century mele we know of that patriotically links Maui to the roselani is the eight-island lei song “Nā Lei o Hawai‘i” by the ubiquitous Samuel Kapū, Sr. 

  1. Kilakila o Maui, Haleakala

  2. Ua kapu Roselani nau hookahi.

  3. Surmounting regal Maui, Haleakala

  4. Reserved is roselani for you alone.

  5. “Na Lei o Hawai‘i,” John Kelly, Jr., Folk Songs Hawai’i Sings, Japan 1963:17.[9]

Although this song is not as well known as “Maui nō ka ‘Oi,” its influence on and precedence over later mele is equally significant: the verses of Charles E. King’s 1915 “Nā Lei o Hawai’i (Song of the Islands)” rely as much on Kapū’s earlier piece as does King’s title; Lydia Kekuewa’s “Nā Moku Kaulana” consistently echoes key phrases of the Kapū and King texts; and the next half-century of Maui praise-songs – from H. Freitas’s “He Lei Hanohano no Balawina” (1922), to Sam Lono’s “Maui Aloha” (1929), to Alice Keawekane’s “Kilakila ‘o Maui” (1941) – rings with Kapū-originated acclaim for Maui and its rose. 

  1. Kilakila o Maui la ia Haleakala

  2. Ua kapu roselani a no’u hookahi wale no.

  3. “Na Lei o Hawai‘i (Song of the Islands),” Charles E. King, Book of Hawaiian Melodies, 6-7.

  4. Ē Maui, ‘o Maui nō ē ka ‘oi

  5. Kaulana roselani pua ‘ala nani lā

  6. Na’u ho’okahi wale nō.

  7. “Nā Moku Kaulana,” Lydia Kekuewa, in Haunani Apoliona, Nā Lei Hulu Makua..., Prism Records PRS 4008.

  8. Hanohano o Maui moku o Kama

  9. Kaulana na hono a Pi’ilani

  10. Ua nani no oe Haleakala...

  11. Lei ana Balawina i ka rose lani.

  12. “He Lei Hanohano no Balawina,” Mrs. H. Freitas, Nupepa Kuokoa, March 24, 1922.[10] 

  1. Maui aloha, Maui aloha

  2. Lei ohuohu lei i ka roselani...

  3. Haina ia mai ana ka puana

  4. Hanohano o Maui no e ka oi.

  5. “Maui Aloha,” Sam Lono in Johnny Noble, Royal Collection of Songs, 34-35.

  6. Kilakila o Maui i ka roselani

  7. O ka oi no ia e kaulana nei...

  8. Haina ka puana o ka roselani

  9. Haaheo o Maui no e ka oi.

  10. “Kilakila o Maui,” Alice Mahi Keawekane Garner in John K. Almeida, Na Mele Aloha, pages not numbered.

It seems, then, that Kapū was on the leading edge of a style of poetry that, by the early decades of the twentieth century, would be readily identifiable as Maui’s own. The characteristics of this style include a fondness for superlatives (ka ‘oi, kaulana, kilakila, ha’aheo, launa ‘ole); a love of epithets (Maui o Kama, Nā Hono a Pi’ilani); a near obsession with roselani (rivaled only by references to ka ‘i’o o ka lā’au); endless paeans to the beauty, fame, majesty, dignity, and height of Haleakalā (rivaled only by references to ‘Īao’s Ke-pani-wai); and an enthusiastic, frequently exclusive, patriotism (na’u ho’okahi wale nō; ‘o Moloka’i ka heke...la, ‘o Maui nō ē ka ‘oi). It is difficult to determine whether Kapū was the source of this style (his debt to Pa’aluhi suggests otherwise) or simply its most visible early exponent; it is obvious, however, that his late nineteenth century compositions “Maui nō ka ‘Oi,” “Malu i ke Ao,” and “Nā Lei o Hawai’i,” helped to establish the wording and tone on which the tradition of Maui boasting songs would be built. 

We think it equally obvious that Ku‘u Home ‘o Maui” – with its initial expression of “Oh-my-goodness” love for Maui, its pair of roselani and Haleakalā superlatives, and its repetitive interweaving of the island motto with “ku’u home” – is a younger, simpler, but no less effective member of the same proud tradition to which Kapū’s work belongs. Although the author of “Ku’u Home ‘o Maui” has been forgotten (as have many of the haku mele in this tradition – it was Maui that these composers boasted of, not themselves) his song persists. Our purpose in the ‘auana segment of this year’s Merrie Monarch competition is to ensure that three such Maui mele – "Ku‘u Home o Maui," "Kuahiwi Nani," and "Lani Ha‘aha‘a" – do more than persist: we re-introduce them to the ear of the Hawaiian public so that they will be remembered, loved, and built on by the next generation of old timers.

Ku‘u Home ‘o Maui

Auē, ke aloha ē,

U’i roselani ē,

Nani Haleakalā,

Ku’u home ‘o Maui nō ka ‘oi,

Ku‘u home ‘o Maui nō ka ‘oi.

Auē, auē ‘o Maui nō ka ‘oi,

Auē, auē ku‘u home ‘o Maui nō ka ‘oi,

Ku’u home ‘o Maui nō ka ‘oi.

Oh, the love (I feel)!

For the roselani beauty

So beautiful is Haleakalā

My home, Maui, is the best

My home, Maui, is the best!

Oh, Maui is the best!

Oh, my home, Maui, is the best by far,

My home, Maui, is the best

Notes to the Mele

Roselani. Marie McDonald (Ka Lei, Honolulu 1978:114) explains that two roses – the Damask and the Luis Filipe – have been called roselani / lokelani by Hawai‘i’s people. The Damask was brought to America by the Spanish (thus it is sometimes called the Castillian rose) and then to Hawai’i by New England sailors in the early 1800s. The pink, sweet, long-lasting Damask soon became very popular in Hawaiian gardens of the mid-nineteenth century, particularly in Lahaina and at Captain James McKee’s Rose Ranch at ‘Ulupalakua. In 1923, a joint resolution of the Territorial Legislature designated the official “flower” of each of the eight islands: it came as no surprise that the roselani, the pink Damask, was assigned to the people who had already made it their own. For some reason (McDonald does not say why or when) the Damask began to die off and became increasingly rare. As a result, the more disease- and pest-resistant Luis Felipe became the Damask’s substitute. The Luis Filipe, now called lokelani, was probably a Chinese introduction; its bloom is small and either dark pink, or red with a pink center. It is not as fragrant as the Damask, nor does it hold up as well as a cut flower or lei flower. 

Kawena Pukui (“Aspects of the Word Lei,” Directions in Traditional Pacific Literature, Honolulu 1976:105-106) offers an additional twist to the etymology of roselani: she identifies the original flower of that name as "the common small red rose." The popular, pink Damask (she calls it Castillian) was originally named loke Hawai’i, but when it became associated with Maui, it took on the name of its less spectacular cousin: roselani.

Notes to the Essay

  1. 1. Kelsey Collection, HI. M.40:32, BPBM Archives.

  2. 2. HEN 3:1062, BPBM Archives.

  3. 3. HEN 3:897-898, BPBM Archives.

  4. 4. George Kanahele, Hawaiian Music and Musicians, Honolulu 1979:240.

  5. 5.The song also appears in the Henriques-Peabody Songbook, Case 4 M.77, BPBM Archives, and in Charles Hopkins, Aloha Collection, 1899. It is difficult to determine the song’s date of composition, but its appearance in Henriques-Peabody strongly suggests an 1880s date since the majority of songs in that collection were composed by Lili‘u and her peers during the reign of Kalākaua.

  6. 6. Nupepa Kamakaainana, January 1, 1894.

  7. 7. “Puuwai Kupilikii,” HI.M.5:203-204, BPBM Archives.

  8. 8. HI.M.7:185, BPBM Archives.

  9. 9. Kelly gives the song’s date as “circa 1890.”

  10. 10.This was a campaign song for Harry Alexander Baldwin, successor to Johan Kuhiō Kalaniana‘ole in the U.S. congress. Similar sentiments are expressed in a number of Maui campaign songs of the 1920s; see, for example, Alani Hikina’s “He Wehi a he Lei no Kalama,” a mele for Maui County Chairman Samuel Kalama in Nupepa Kuokoa 11-15-1923:4 – “Ku mai Kalama me ka hiehie / Ua ohu i ka lei o ka roselani / A o Maui no la e ka oi.”]

© Kīhei de Silva 1995. All rights reserved.
This essay was first published in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilimaʻs 1995 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet. 

It is offered here in slightly revised and updated form.