Makee ‘Ailana

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva

Haku mele: James Ka‘ihi‘ihikapuokalani I‘i (18??-1937).

Date of composition: Late 19th century (according to the Bishop Museum Archives' Mele Index).

Sources: 1) “Makee ‘Ailana,” Maiki Aiu Lake, Hālau Hula o Maiki, 1972; text, translation, and choreography. 2) “Maki Ailana; Hula Song,” Mele Book, Kapi‘olani-Kalaniana‘ole Collection, HI.M30:415, BMA. 3) “I Aloha ia no Maki Ailana,” Mele Book, Kapi‘olani-Kalaniana‘ole Collection, HI.M30:414, BMA. 4) “Makee ‘Ailana,” Kimo Alama Keaulana, MS GRP 329, 5.50, BMA.

Select Discography: 1) Peter Ahia, Talena, Poki 9034. 2) Brothers Cazimero, In This Time Past, Mountain Apple 2010. 3) Sonny Chillingworth[1], Mele Hula, Noelani Records 102. 4) Linda Dela Cruz, Best of Linda, Tradewinds 2201. 5) Genoa Keawe, Genoa Keawe Sings Lū‘au Hulas, Hula 514. 6) Gabby Pahinui Band, Rabbit Island Music Festival, Panini 1004. 7) Dennis Pavao, Ka Leo Ki‘eki‘e, Poki 9042.

Text below: As taught by Maiki Aiu Lake in 1972 to the hula ‘auana class in which Māpuana de Silva was a student. Orthographic editing and translation: Kīhei de Silva.

The Kapi‘olani Park Association was founded in November 1876 and consisted almost entirely of well-heeled businessmen-planters whose intent, under the guise of civic duty, was to create a high end, beachside suburb and horse-racing facility for their own almost exclusive use. They convinced David Kalākaua, then in his third year on the throne, to make the crown lands of Kāneloa[2] available to their association, and they agreed, in turn, to finance the construction of the park by selling, for $50 each, 200 shares of membership in the KPA. Each share entitled its owner to lease from the crown – at a dollar a year for 30 years – one of the 200 house lots that would all but encircle the park's proposed race track, carriage paths, and waterways.[3]

Kapi‘olani Park was dedicated on Kamehameha Day of the following year with speeches that proclaimed its purpose as a “place of public resort…agricultural and stock exhibitions, healthful exercise, recreation and amusements,"[4] but a hard-nosed look at the early history of the park clearly demonstrates its privileged nature. The 200 lots were leased, often in blocks, to the most connected of Honolulu's elite (Bishop, Brown, Campbell, Castle, Cunha, Davies, Herbert, Irwin, Macfarlane, Mott-Smith, Paty, Waterhouse, Whitney, Widemann). The most extravagant of these men built a line of palatial homes along the waterfront where, of course, customary fishing and gathering access was soon proscribed. By 1884, the wagons (so to speak) had been circled up and the Indians (so to speak) were being carefully funneled into their queen's landlocked, race-track-dominated beach park by way of a toll bridge across Ku‘ekaunahi Stream (now the intersection of Kalākaua and Kapahulu).[5] 

The KPA assigned the task of designing the park to Archibald Cleghorn, the association's vice-president, who was assisted, at the outset, by Captain James Makee, the association's president. Together they devised a plan that featured three major venues: 1) a mile-long, oval race track at the park's core (complete with grandstands, horse chutes, stables, and jockeys' quarters), 2) a concourse of formal walks and carriage roads at the Lē‘ahi end of the park, and 3) a waterscape of ponds, islands, footpaths, and footbridges at the Waikīkī end of the park.[6]

Most of the association's early efforts were directed at the racing facilities; work on the carriage paths and water feature began later and proceeded more slowly. The soil at the Lē‘ahi end of the park was hard-packed, arid, and unforgiving, but the association managed to install there, by 1890, over four miles of tree-shaded, rock-paved roads. The Waikīkī end of the park presented an entirely different challenge – too much wai.  Cleghorn responded by dredging a series of ditches and canals that lowered the water level of the Kāneloa marshland and allowed for the construction, perhaps by 1883, of the picturesque network of artificial islands and waterways[7] made familiar to us by the turn-of-century photography of R.J. Baker.[8]  

The largest of these man-made islands is clearly labeled “Makee's Island” on M.D. Monsarrat's 1883 map of Kapi‘olani Park.[9] It sits, with two considerably smaller, unnamed islands, in a pond at the northwest corner (‘Ewa - ma kai) of the park; it measures approximately 100 x 700 feet, and its long axis runs at a right angle to the nearby shoreline. James Makee died in 1879 – probably before this island was constructed. It is our guess, then, that Makee ‘Ailana was named in posthumous recognition of “Kapena Makī,” the KPA’s first president and the park's early co-designer.  Cleghorn, Makee's fellow Scotsman, probably had a hand in the naming. 

Makee's Island enjoyed a lifespan of less than 50 years. It rose out of the mud of Kāneloa in the early 1880s, and it was buried under the tailings of the Ala Wai Canal when that watercourse was dredged in the 1920s. The history of the island over the course of those few decades is sketchy at best, but mele like “Makee ‘Ailana,” “Maki Ailana,” “I Aloha ‘ia no ‘o Maki Ailana,” and even “Halepiowai”,[10] suggest that the secluded, tree-sheltered retreat had acquired a reputation in the late '80s and early '90s as a favorite trysting-place for young Hawaiian couples whose interest in lio paupauaho (panting horses) was not limited to the nearby racetrack.

The island's appeal to Hawaiians of all ages must have dimmed considerably, however, by the overthrow of 1893 and the failed counter-revolution of 1895 when Makee ‘Ailana came to be associated with the make‘e waiwai / make‘e ‘āina[11] activities of the new regime. A pair of articles in the July 1895 issues of the Hawaiian language newspaper Ka Makaainana, for example, report that the Republic had begun to use the island as a campground and practice field for its army in the event of future insurrection. “Komapani A o na koa Aupuni” is described in the second of these articles as marching there to the beat of “ehiku pahu liilii” (seven little drums) – a sarcastic reference, we suspect, to President Dole and his ministers.[12]

Also disturbing to loyal Hawaiians of the day, was the onset of regular Sunday afternoon concerts at the newly constructed Makee Island bandstand. Although we have come to think of these concerts as an integral part of the island's appeal, a series of articles in the late 1896 issues of the Makaainana make a careful distinction between the “puhiohe lahui” and the “puhiohe aupuni”  – the old and new, Kingdom's and Republic‘s “Royal Hawaiian Band.” Members of the former had resigned in 1893 and gone independent.  Their travels abroad and their return engagements in Honolulu town were described with enthusiasm and affection by the Makaainana writers.[13] Not so with the new government's band whose music at the Makee venue was roundly criticized for disturbing the sanctity of a day that Hawaiians had learned to reserve for the Lord. The “paia paa a kapu o ko ka Haku La” (the fixed and sacred wall of the Sabbath) was now destroyed by those who had once instructed us. “He hiohiona hou keia,” one writer concludes, “no ko kakou aina nei.”  This is the new hi’ohi’ona (face) of our land and a sign of its hiohiona (slanting, leaning) moral decline.[14]

We don’t have specific information about Makee Island at the time of the 1898 “annexation,” but the U.S. Army's occupation of the Kapi'olani Park race track is a matter of public record. The First New York Voluntary Infantry Regiment landed in Honolulu on August 16, 1898 (four days after the alleged annexation), in order to establish a staging ground for U.S. military action in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. The “two or three day” bivouac initially negotiated by the park's commissioners evolved into long-term encampment – Camp McKinley – from which the last troops were finally evicted in 1907[15] despite (or because of) the army's repeated demands to drain and fill the park's mosquito-infested canals and turn the entire area into a permanent military base.[16]

Similar complaints and proposals directed at the “foul and stagnant” nature of the Makee Island waterways and the unhealthy conditions engendered by all of Waikīkī’s wetlands were voiced repeatedly in the early 20th century, especially in reports delivered by Charles Mumford Robinson (The Improvement of Honolulu) and Lucius E. Pinkham (Reclamation of the Waikiki District)[17]. As a consequence of the latter report and the urging of its author – the newly elected Governor Pinkham[18] – the legislature of 1918 appropriated $100,000 for the excavation of a drainage canal that would render Waikīkī dry, healthy, and ripe for further development. 

Work on what would become the Ala Wai[19] began in 1921 and was completed in 1928.  The project, as originally proposed, was actually finished in 1924, but the canal was then “widened an additional 100 feet in order to … fill portions of the McCully tract … [and] the underwater sectors of Fort DeRussy."[20] The first tailings of the project were used to build up the site of what is now McKinley High School; subsequent fill was used to “eliminate the ponds and low-lying areas adjacent to the canal” – including the islands and waterways of Kapi‘olani Park.[21] Makee Island, then, was covered over by 1924. It became the doorstep, in 1948, to what is now the entrance of the Honolulu Zoo.

The Bishop Museum Archives' Mele Index identifies James K. I‘i as the haku mele of “Makee ‘Ailana” and its date of composition as the “late 19th century.” Just how late in the century is not something we have been able to pin down, but the song's nostalgic, if-only-we-could-be-there-again sentiments strongly suggest that I‘i wrote it after 1895 in memory of the romantic setting of the island in its earlier, untroubled days.

I‘i's father, John Papa I‘i (1800-1870) had been a childhood companion of Kamehameha II, a member of the House of Nobles and privy council during the reign of Kamehameha III, and a justice of the Supreme Court during the reign of Kamehameha IV.[22]  He had been raised, in part, at the court of Kamehameha I at Kawehewehe, Helumoa,

Waikīkī,[23] and he had later received a Royal Patent (LCA 2616; RP 5704-2) for land along Waikīkī Road (now Kalākaua Avenue). His son's heritage, then, was decidedly royalist and Waikīkī-connected – a legacy that stood in direct opposition to James K.'s employment as a linotype operator for the annexationist Honolulu Commercial Advertiser. James K. I‘i had been working there for six years when he married Katie Lahilahi Stevens of Waimea, Hawai‘i, on December 26, 1893, and he would work there until his death in 1937.[24]

Surely he knew Waikīkī well; surely he had difficulty reconciling his heritage and his livelihood; surely he had enjoyed romance at nearby Makee Island – perhaps with Katie before their marriage or in their honeymoon days.  Surely all of this was part of the complicated mix of emotions and loyalties – love for ‘āina, love for a woman, love for love-making, love for family, love for lāhui – that went into the writing of his apparently simple “Makee ‘Ailana.”

Makee ‘Ailana

My love is for Makee Island

Land in the misty spray of the sea.

We two were there, our third companion

Was the delightful island itself.

The voice of the water is what I love

When it says, "Let's enjoy the chill."

If you and I were there

You would sit on the rocking chair.

The story is told

At Makee Island love makes itself known.

Makee ‘Ailana ke aloha        

‘Āina i ka ‘ehu‘ehu o ke kai.       

‘Elua, ‘ekolu nō mākou      

I ka ‘ailana māhiehie.

Ka leo o ka wai ka‘u i aloha

I ka ‘ī mai e anu kāua.       

Inā ‘o you me mī nei       

Noho ‘oe i ka noho paipai.       

Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana

Makee ‘Ailana hu‘e ka mana‘o.        

Notes to the Mele

Makee ‘Ailana. The island’s name can be interpreted in several ways. Makee, as mentioned earlier, is readily understood by Hawaiian-speakers as make‘e: “covetous of; to prize, have affection for.”  ‘Ailana means “island” and “in love”; without its ‘okina it can be translated as ”buoyant-vigorous-youthful intercourse.” Make[‘]e [‘]Ailana, then, resonates with political and love-making kaona: it speaks of those who coveted the islands and those who cherished their ‘āina, and it speaks of romance shared in bygone days when the po‘e make‘e lāhui a aloha 'āina still had the upper hand.

I ka ‘ehu’ehu o ke kai. ‘Ehu‘ehu – alternately written and pronounced ‘ehuehu – obviously refers to the sea spray with which Makee ‘Ailana was cooled, but Kimo Alama Keaulana explains that the word is imbued with sexual kaona: “sprays of water gives the picture of enjoyable love making in old Hawaiian poetry” (Ms Grp 329, 5.50, BMA).  If we strip ‘ehu‘ehu of its ‘okina, we also enter the realm of political kaona. Ehuehu means “animation varying from fury and storm to power and majesty” and was used with considerable frequency by the aloha ‘āina poets of the 1895 counter-coup to characterize the disruption of the times and the courageous nature of ‘oiwi resistance. For example:  the imprisoned Lili‘uokalani speaks of her beloved people as “kuu lahui i ka ehuehu” (“Hoonanea a Hookuene Liliu,” Buke Mele Lahui, 4-5); J. Heleluhe and D.K. Koa describe the fighting at the outbreak of the counter-revolution as “Aia Honolulu i ka ehuehu / Ua wela ka luna i Daimana Hila” (“Hua Kau i ka Umauma,” Buke Mele Lahui, 7-8); and Home Kauwila describes the condition of his beleaguered-yet-heroic nation as “Eia Hawaii i ka ehuehu” (“Hawaii i ka Ehuehu,” Buke Mele Lahui, 73). Our research strongly suggests that “Makee ‘Ailana” was composed from a post-1895 perspective; it is, therefore, hard to imagine James I‘i using ‘ehu‘ehu in any of its forms without these po‘e aloha ‘āina sentiments ringing in his ears. And Makee's Island, after all, was only a rifle shot away from the Henry Bertelmann home at the foot of Lē‘ahi, where the first rounds of the counter-revolution were fired.


The news reaches America

Hawai‘i is here in turmoil

There above Lae‘ahi

Aloha ‘Āina is gathering, spreading

Kui aku e ka lono lohe o Maleka

    Eia Hawaii i ka ehuehu

    Aia i ka uka o Laeahi

    Ke aloha aina e hoolulu nei

    (W. Olepau, “Kupaa Oiaio Me Ka Lahui,” Buke Mele Lahui, 13-14.)

‘Elua, ‘ekolu. In our reading of the text, “‘Elua,‘ekolu nō mākou / I ka ‘ailana māhiehie” is neither a reference to “two or three couples enjoying the island” nor to any ménage á trois in which the composer is supposed to have engaged. “‘Elua, ‘ekolu,” in fact, is old poetic language for complete love – for love that includes place as a necessary third partner in a lover's union. Bill Lincoln writes, “‘Elua māua a i alo iho ai / ‘Ekolu i ke ahe a ka makani.” We two spent time there; the wind's gentle touch made three. Alfred ‘Alohikea writes, “‘Elua wale iho nō māua / ‘Ekolu i ka hone a ka ‘ehu kai.”  There were only two of us there; the sweet sound of the sea spray made three. And James I‘i says, “‘Elua, ‘ekolu nō mākou / I ka ‘ailana māhiehie.” We two were there; the delightful island made three. If songs like “Pua Be Still,” “Hanohano Hanalei,” and “Makee ‘Ailana” were not around to remind us, we would soon loose all sense of this Hawaiian perspective, this crucial aspect of aloha ‘āina.

Ka leo o ka wai … e anu kāua. A more complete grammatical expression of the first line of this verse is probably, “‘O ka leo o ka wai ka‘u i aloha ai” – the voice of the water is what I have loved. This is why singers often include an “i” in “ka‘u [i] aloha” (the extra syllable also helps to smooth-out their delivery of the line). 

Kimo Alama Keaulana translates the verse as, “The voice of the water possesses my love / As if saying ‘the both of us shall catch a chill.’” He goes on to suggest that “the voice of the water” is a reference “to what old Hawaiians would call 'ka wai a ke kane,'” and that it “is not telling of a chill but rather a ‘thrill.’” What strikes us as noteworthy here is the poet's use of anu in an invitation to what we usually think of today as a “hot, steamy, sizzling” activity.  But “e anu kāua,” like “‘elua, ‘ekolu,” belongs to an older world view. “Let's get cold” means “let's get hot” because lovemaking back then was viewed as cool, tingly, and refreshing.  

The second line of this verse is given in Carol Wilcox's He Mele Aloha: A Hawaiian Songbook, as, “I ka ‘ī mai he anu kāua – Letting us know we're chilly”(165).  The substitution of he for e removes the sense of invitation from the verse and, we think, diminishes its impact.  

Finally: we suspect that there is more than coincidence involved in the occurrence of “I ka ‘ī mai” in a mele composed by a man named I‘i. 

Inā ‘o you … noho paipai.  The “inā” of this verse can be read as the idiomatic “let's go; let's get to it,” but the nostalgic context of I‘i's composition (as we understand it, anyway) makes “if / if only” the more likely translation: if only you and I were there, you would be sitting on the rocking chair. Saichi Kawahara describes the setting of this verse as a house on Makee Island “with a veranda that had a rocking chair” (Yahoo Groups, Re: [Hula Girls] Makee Ailana, March 17, 2008), but we have been unable to find any documents, written or photographic, to corroborate his account. Carol Wilcox and the editorial team of He Mele Aloha are also skeptical of that chair's existence as anything but metaphorical: “As far as we know, there were no rocking chairs on the island” (165). Kimo Alama explains that “the illusion of the rocking chair,” is actually an allusion “to the motions of sexual intercourse,” and he notes that the last line of the verse is sometimes sung,”Kau pono i ka noho paipai” (Ms Grp 329, 5.50).

Makee ‘Ailana hu‘e ka mana‘o.  Our literal reading of this line is “(At) Makee Island, thought-desire-intention reveals-exposes (itself).” Makee Island, says James K. I‘i, is where I was able to express – and act upon – my thoughts, thoughts of love for a woman entwined with thoughts of love for the land.

Notes to the Essay

1. Sonny Chillingworth recorded the song on four different occasions; this early release is perhaps the most significant since he was joined by Vicki I‘i Rodrigues, the composer’s granddaughter.

2. Kapua, a smaller land section on the Diamond Head side of the park, was leased to the association by Swedish immigrant Alan Herbert.

3. I am indebted here, and throughout this essay, to the research of Robert Weyeneth whose Kapi‘olani Park: A History (Honolulu: Kapiolani Park Preservation Society, 2002) has done much to open my eyes to the complex and controversial history of the park and its often idealized ‘ailana.

4. Weyeneth, 2..

5. Ibid, 38.

6. Ibid, 39-42.

7. Ibid.

8. Ray Jerome Baker, Hawaiian Yesterdays, Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1982: 82, 185, 197.  Additional, turn of the century photographs of the island from the Hawaii State Archives and the Hawaiian Historical Society, have been published by Don Hibbard and David Franzen in The View From Diamond Head, Honolulu: Editions Limited, 1986: 42-47.

9. We have a copy of this map in our possession. Later revisions of the same map have been published in Weyeneth, 20, and Hibbard-Franzen, 15.

10. Buke Mele Lahui, Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society, 2003:86.-27.

11. Make‘e is a double-edged word; it can mean “greedy, covetous, desirous to have,” or it can mean “to prize, have affection for.”  Hawaiians of the mid-1890s played on both meanings when they criticized their annexationist enemies as “poe makee waiwai” and praised those loyal to race, crown, and land as “poe makee lahui a aloha aina.” See, for example, Ka Makaainana, November 23 and 30, 1896.

12. Ka Makaainana, July 22, 1895: “E hoolilo ana o Maki Ailana ma keia mua iho i wahi hoomoana no na koa…”  Ibid, July 29, 1895: “I neia kakahiaka nui ua huli hoi mai ai ke Komopani A o na koa Aupuni, mai ka hele hoomaamaa paikau ana i waho o Maki Ailana…”

13. Ibid, “Puali Puhiohe Lahui, Hoi Nui Mai me ko ka Lehulehu Ohohia,” November 23, 1896.

14. Ibid, “Puhiohe ma Maki Ailana,” June 8, 1896.

15. Weyeneth, 65, 149n19.

16. Hibbard and Franzen, 43.

17. Weyeneth, 74, 79. It is difficult to judge the accuracy and integrity of these reports since they were delivered by men with a vested interest in the ongoing development of Waikīkī as a tourist destination and affluent suburb – and not in its continued existence as a land of fish ponds and taro fields.

18. When Pinkham wrote the report, he was the director of the territory's department of health.

19. It was named in a contest won by Jenny Wilson. Hibbard and Franzen, 89.

20. Ibid, 92.

21. Ibid, 89, 92.

22. Grove Day, History Makers of Hawaii, Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1984:55.

23. John Papa I‘i, Fragments of Hawaiian History, Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1959:17.

24. Billy Bergen, Loyal to the Land: The Legendary Parker Ranch, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2006:80.

© Kīhei de Silva 2009.  All rights reserved.
This essay was first published in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilimaʻs 2009 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet. 

It is offered here in slightly revised and updated form.