“Maybe I can write something for you,” I told Lilinoe  last October. So she brought over her genealogy charts and family notes. Before I knew it, I was deep into the history of Kālia and its famiies: the ‘ohana Paoa, Bridges, Kamaukoli, Okuu, Kahanamoku, Clark, Sterling... Who turn out to be the same big family. Before I knew it, I was steeped in Buke Mele Lahui and chants of the ‘alo ehu pōkā loyalty of our native citizens at Waikīkī and Lae‘ahi at the time of the counter-revolution. Loyalty that continues, quietly but essentially unchanged, into our own day.  “They can move us out of here, but there is no way that they can relocate our hearts” – thatʻs what those voices said to me; thatʻs what I see in Noe, her sister, and their extended family.  So, before I knew it, we had “He Inoa no Kaleimakali‘i.”

Thatʻs the kind of Merrie Monarch it was.

“Maybe you and your daughters will consent to composing a song for this year’s Kamehameha School‘s Song Contest,” asked Randie Fong in an email last September. But there was a catch: the mele had to be finished within a month – the same month that was already filled with more obligations and commitments than we could shake our plates at. “Donʻt worry,” said the sometimes prophetic Māpu, “you three will have a chance to do it on your own terms.” Three months later, we were finishing up “Hiehie Kīlaulani,” a back-and-forth, you-do-a-verse-I-do-a-verse mele by me and Kahikina – with music by Kapalai. The inspiration: we wanted a song for my mom to go with “Hiehie Olomana,” Kahi’s song for my dad. Both to be performed at Merrie Monarch, “Olomana” in the women’s kahiko division, “Kīlaulani” in the ‘auana.

Thatʻs the kind of Merrie Monarch it was.

“E Kīhei, did you know,” said Kahulu DeSantos, “that today is Ellen Wright Prendergast’s birthday?” This she asked on Thursday morning, April 12, before practice at the Kanaka‘ole Stadium. In less than 12 hours, Noe would be dancing a pair of Prendergastʻs mele: “He Inoa no nā Keiki o ka Bāna Lāhui Hawai‘i” (known today as “Kaulana nā Pua”) and “He Wehi no ka Lāhui.” We knew that the two mele had been composed on the same day and that we were presenting them together, as hula, for probably the first time ever. But not that Noe would be dancing them, as the soon-to-be-named Miss Aloha Hula, on the night of the composer’s 147th birthday.

Thatʻs the kind of Merrie Monarch it was. 

It was the kind of Merrie Monarch where creativity, inspiration, and hana minuke hope loa (last minute work) could have, maybe should have, gotten the better of us. We didnʻt dance and chant everything that we submitted in the fact sheet, and we danced and chanted a few mele that didnʻt make it into the fact sheet. We were still deleting, adding, and learning our words in the week before we left for Hilo. It was the kind of Merrie Monarch where our now much-praised ‘auana costume finally came together for the first time, piece by piece, in the dressing cave on the night of competition. It was the kind of Merrie Monarch where we opted for a morning at Hā‘ena rather than rehearsal on the lawn. Where we made lā‘ī skirts on our Hilo Bay balconies, cut our pua hala during morning practice at the stadium, finished lei hulu after lights out. Where we missed the Saturday parade and tried to make up for it afterwards by lining up outside the hotel’s port cochere to wave at our Miss Hula when she returned in Ken Ordenstein’s cargo van. Ken drove her around twice for good measure. 

It was the year when our Merrie Monarch class finally found a name appropriate to its character and capacity. Our M&Ms are now the Lei ‘Āpiki.  Kawena Pukui explains the name as a reference to lei made of ‘ilima blossoms. This lei was believed to attract mischievous, ‘āpiki spirits. “Some did not wear it, but others considered it lucky.”

It was the kind of Merrie Monarch at which only ‘āpiki lovers could have thrived and prevailed. 


Hula Kahiko:  He Inoa no Kaleimakali‘i

The ‘ili ‘āina of Kālia, Waikīkī, was famed for the wai limu ‘ele‘ele of Pi‘ina‘io Stream whose hīnana swarmed by the thousands to Kūkālia pool in Mānoa Valley. This mele was composed in mele aloha ‘āina fashion to honor Kaleimakali‘i, the 19th century Maui- and Hawai‘i-line ancestor of the last Hawaiian families to live at Kālia; the mele celebrates, as well, the loyal, defiant, ‘alo ‘ehukai character of her descendants. Read our MM fact sheet essay >>

Oli:  ‘Alo‘alo Ehuehu Pōkā

Ka‘i:  "Ho‘opuka e ka Lā ma ka Hikina"

Ho‘i:  "Ho‘i ē, Ho‘i lā"

Hula ‘Auana:  He Inoa no nā Keiki o ka Bāna Lāhui

The vigorous hula ku‘i with which the “band boys” delivered this mele “almost drowned out the words, but the fierce loyalty was written on every shining face. Over and over they beat out the rhythm…miming their scorn of the ‘paper of the enemy’…” This mele is known today as “Kaulana nā Pua,” and our more sedate but equally loyal hula belongs to Maiki Aiu as taught to us by Kealoha Wong. Read our MM fact sheet essay >>

Ka‘i and Ho‘i:  He Wehi no ka Lāhui

Musicians:  Robert Cazimero, Manu Boyd, Keala Chock, Kala‘i Ontai, Kapalai de Silva

Kū Mālie me ka ‘Eha Koni

MM 2012 – Strike Gently with a Tingling Ache


Hula Kahiko:  Hiehie Olomana

Inspired, in part, by Samuel Keko‘owai’s recounting of the legend of Kahinihini‘ula, this mele revisits the once-revered places and people of old Kailua and invests them with old-but-new meaning and connection. “Distinguished is Olomana in my eyes / The ultimate guardian of Maunawili / You care for Kawainui / And its fish, attracted by the Mākālei.Read our MM fact sheet essay >>

Oli:  I Aloha i ke Kō a ka Wai

Ka‘i: Ho‘opuka e ka Lā i Kai o Mālei

Ho‘i:  Mekila e nā ‘Iwa

Hula ‘Auana:  Hiehie Kīlaulani

Composed, in part, for the descendants of Kīlaulani, the third kahu of Kaikialea at Hōnaunau, this mele revisits the nā‘ū-chanting ancestors of Kauwalomālie and Keaolewa, investing them with old-but-new meaning and connection. “Distinguished is steep-roofed Kīlaulani / In the sweeping sea-spray of Keawewai / The mind is delighted when viewing / The famed lava flats of Kekuai‘o.” Read our MM fact sheet essay >>

Ka‘i and Ho‘i:  Hu‘i Ē

Musicians:  Robert Cazimero, Manu Boyd, Keala Chock, Kala‘i Ontai