Māluaki‘iwai ke Aloha

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva

Haku mele:  The Helen Roberts MS SC 5.4 version of this mele is the only one that lists a composer: Hekiku.

Date:  Mid-1800s (according to Huapala Mader’s 1935 transcription of the Joseph ‘Īlālā‘ole version of the mele).

Sources:  1) “Malua Ki‘i Wai,” Joseph ‘Īlālā‘ole, Mader Collection, Ms Grp 81, 7.27, BMA.  2) “Malua Ki‘i Wai,” Akoni Mika, Mader Collection, Ms Grp 81, 9.18, BMA.  3) “Malua kii-wai ke aloha,” Theodore Kelsey, HI M.40:33, BMA.  4) “Malua, ki‘i wai ke aloha,” Maluo Nainoelua, MS SC Roberts 5.4, BMA.  5) “Malua kii wai ke aloha,” Mrs. Kukona Porter, MS SC Roberts 2.5, BMA.  6) “Malua Ki‘i Wai,” Nathaniel Emerson, Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, 113.  7) “Mālua Ki‘i Wai,” Nona Beamer, Nā Mele Hula, 16-17.  8) “Mālua-ki‘i-wai,” Kimo Alama Keaulana, Ms Grp 329, 5.54, BMA.

Discography:  1) “Maluakiiwai,” Ka‘upena Wong and Pele Pukui Suganuma, Mele Inoa; Authentic Hawaiian Chants, Poki Records 9003. 2) “Malua Ki‘iwai, Edith Kanaka‘ole, Ha‘aku‘i Pele i Hawai‘i, Hula Records 560.

Our text: Verses 1-4 and 8 from Ka‘upena Wong and Pele Pukui Suganuma, Mele Inoa; verses 5-7 from Helen Roberts’ text of Nainoelua’s rendition of the mele as corrected by Mary Kawena Pukui, MS SC Roberts 5.4. Translation: Kīhei de Silva (heavily influenced by Pukui; especially verses 5-7). Orthographic editing: Kīhei de Silva.

This is as sweet a love song as can be found in Hawaiian literature. Our most reliable sources – Joseph ‘Īlālā‘ole, Akoni Mika, and Mary Kawena Pukui – identify it as a mele inoa composed in the mid-1800s for Kapakuhaili Hakaleleponi Kalama (1817-1870), the queen consort of Kamehameha III.

The first verse of Queen Kalama’s name chant introduces us to Māluaki‘iwai – the beloved, water-fetching sea breeze of Hilo, Hawai‘i – as it moistens the tender flower bud of a māmane tree. The māmane and its delicate, golden-yellow blossoms are regularly associated, in monarchy-period poetry, with women of rank, beauty, and character; an adorning-chant in honor of Ka‘iulani, for example, begins with the lines “I Mauna Lahilahi ko wehi / ‘O ka pua māmane melemele” and offers the princess a lei of these blossoms in lieu of a crown. In the case of “Maluaki‘iwai ke Aloha,” we can readily identify the māmane tree as Queen Kalama, the Mālua breeze as her highly desirable suitor, and the moisture-soaked flower bud as their soon-to-blossom romance.

The initial imagery of breeze and bud shifts, in the second and third verses, to bird, nectar, and fragrance, but the underlying, passionate-yet-tender sentiment of the song holds to a steady course. Kalama is now portrayed as an irresistible lehua blossom of Pana‘ewa around which the birds swarm in lively delight. Hers is the nectar from which one, in particular, would sip. Hers is the fragrance in which one, in particular, is completely absorbed as he comes ashore at Waiākea on the fine, powdery sands of Ohele.

The place name Ohele, the last word in verse three, can also be read as the gentle imperative ō hele (“let’s go; let’s do it; it’s time to act”), and this subtly expressed sense of urgency is answered, in the opening line of the next verse, with “Hele mai ke aloha a nui / A lalawe i kēia nui kino. ” It is occurs to us, at this point, that the mele has taken on the form of a dialogue, that the voice here is Kalama’s, and that her response to the figurative language of verses two and three is direct, unreserved and all-positive. He has told her, with appropriate indirection, just how irresistible she is and just how much he would like to sip and inhale; and he has brought his suit to a close with the appropriately veiled suggestion, “Shall we do it?”  Her answer, at least in the short version of the mele, serves to seal the deal: “(Your) love comes to me in its entirety / And it thrills my entire being.”

Longer versions of “Māluaki‘iwai ke Aloha” revisit, in varying degrees of detail, the dialog of doubt and reassurance that ultimately leads to the happy union of this couple.[1] In Joseph ‘Īlālā‘ole’s seven-verse text, for example, our wind-bird hesitates because he thinks that she might already be spoken for: if “this lehua belongs to Hōpoe,” my only course of action is to “suppress [my] feelings, yearning, and desire.”[2] His uncertainty is temporarily quelled in the 20-verse Roberts and Kelsey versions of the mele, with the promise that he, alone, is the object of her affection (“A pili akula ho‘i au / Me ‘oe ku‘u pu‘uwai), but the dialog of uncertainty (“Ua aneane ka‘u maka‘u”) and affirmation (“He mana‘o no ko‘u e pili / Me ka nalu ha‘i mai o Huia”) continues in these texts, in almost playful fashion, until the mist finally settles in ‘Ōla‘a and our wind-bird (now an eye-catching ‘iwa) turns completely, at last, to his lover’s arms:

O ka hau anu la o ka uka

The cold dew of the uplands

Is settling, mist-like, at ‘Ōla‘a

Now, then, at last

You have turned completely to me

You are the ‘iwa of the east

The shiny plumed bird of Waiola

Tell the summary

My love is for the Māluaki‘iwai.

Noenoe maila i Ola‘a

A la‘a wale no ka ho‘i

Ko huli pono mai i ane‘i

O ka iwa oe o ka hikina

Ka paihi manu o Waiola

Haina mai ka puana

Malua-kii-wai ke aloha

These lines belong to the Roberts-Nainoelua text as revised and translated by Mary Kawena Pukui on a back page of the Roberts’ manuscript. Pukui notes, there, that the manuscript version ends incorrectly and that hers are the actual concluding lines of Kalama’s mele inoa. We aren’t prepared to dance all 40 of these lines – not in the context, anyway, of a seven-minute hula competition – but we do think it appropriate (and time-limit feasible) to incorporate Pukui’s three corrected verses into our Merrie Monarch rendition of the mele. Our complete performance text consists, therefore, of the short Pukui-family version of the “Māluaki‘iwai” (verses 1-4, Mele Inoa; Authentic Hawaiian Chants), Pukui’s revised conclusion to the Roberts/Nainoelua 5.4 manuscript (verses 5-7), and their shared “Ha‘ina” (verse 8). Although these verses have been plucked from different trees, the thread on which we string them is all MKP. We hope that this new-old rendition is pleasing to the ear and eye, and that it will alert an audience already familiar with shorter versions of “Māluaki‘iwai” to the fact that there is more here to discover, learn, and enjoy. There is always more; this is the nature our literature and a sign of its depth and genius.

Maluaki‘iwai ke Aloha

Māluaki‘iwai[3] ke aloha  

My love is for the Māluaki‘iwai breeze

That moistens the flower buds of the māmane

The birds are lively, aroused

Intent on sipping the lehua nectar of Pana‘ewa

They are fascinated by flower fragrance

At the fine, powdery sands of Ohele

Love great and deep has come to me

And it thrills my entire being

The cold dew of the uplands

Is settling, mist-like, at ‘Ōla‘a

Now, then, at last

You have turned completely to me

You are the ‘iwa of the east

The shiny plumed bird of Waiola

Tell the summary

My love is for the Māluaki‘iwai.

Ho‘opulu i ka liko māmane  

‘Ule‘uleu mai nā manu   

Inu wai lehua a‘o Pana‘ewa  

E walea ana i ke onaona  

I ke one wali a‘o Ohele[4]  

Hele mai ke aloha a nui  

A lalawe i kēia nui kino  

‘O ka hau anu lā o ka uka  

Noenoe mai la i ‘Ōla‘a  

A la‘a wale nō kā ho‘i  

Ko huli pono mai i ‘ane‘i  

‘O ka ‘iwa ‘oe o ka hikina  

Ka pa‘ihi manu o Waiola[5]  

Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ka puana  

Māluaki‘iwai ke aloha    


1. Akoni Mika’s six-verse version is something of an exception. His extra verse, also found in the longer Roberts and Kelsey manuscripts, simply reinforces the bond of affection that unites our couple: “Hui pu mai olu ke aloha, ea / No mi nei no ia pua” (Ms Grp 81, 9.18). 

2. This is Pukui’s translation of the Nainoelua text in Roberts 5.4. Nona Beamer’s seven-verse text and Kimo Alama Keaulana’s six-verse rendition are similar to ‘Īlālā‘ole’s in that they allude to Hōpoe-lehua, but they offer a more cheerful interpretation of her place in the song: namely, that Kalama’s “beauty and charms are compared to Hōpoe’s” (Nä Mele Hula,16; Ms Grp 329, 5.54).

3. The Mālua are sea-breezes; many are further identified by tags that link them to specific island locations. The Mālualua blows from the north on Maui, Moloka‘i, and O‘ahu; the Māluakele and Māluahele are Kaua‘i winds; and the Māluaki‘iwai is a rain-bearing wind that blows inland from Hilo Bay (Hawaiian Dictionary, 234). Emerson calls the Māluaki‘iwai a moisture-sucking wind that “destroy[s] the tender vegetation” (Unwritten Literature, 114), but the opposite seems true here. Kimo Alama Keaulana reconciles this disparity by explaining that Hilo’s Mālua blows across the land and dries up the foliage but later returns with rain from the ocean at Hilo Bay (Ms Grp 329, 5.54).

4. Ohele is an ‘ili ‘āina and heiau in Waiākea, Hilo. References to its “one wali” (powdery sands) are common in Hawaiian poetry and prose. The title of a mele composed by Kalākakua – “Lihikai o Ohele” – indicates that Ohele lies along Hilo’s shoreline, and an article in the 11-16-1878 issue of Kuokoa describes the trail from Hilo to Puna as passing from Wailoa Stream to “ke onewali o Ohele.”

5. Waiola is a spring in the Ponahawai district of Hilo (Records of the Boundary Commission of the Kingdom of Hawaii, BCT 2:5).

© 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.