#119 in the Moʻolelo series
Most are familiar with the song “Kaulana nā Pua,” also known as “Mele ʻAi Pōhaku,” the “Stone eating song.” I mentioned it in the previous post, “10 Misconceptions about Hawaiian History – # 6-10.” The mele was written on behalf of the Royal Hawaiian Band, who were threatened with being fired for supporting the Queen, and speaks of native resistance to annexation:
ʻAʻole aʻe kau i ka pūlima
Ma luna o ka pepa o ka ʻēnemi
Hoʻohui ʻāina kūʻai hewa
I ka pono sivila aʻo ke kanaka
No one will fix a signature
To the paper of the enemy
With its sin of annexation
And sale of native civil rightsby Ellen Wright Prendergast
But relatively few know that mele lāhui were not a song or two, but a genre of Hawaiian music and there is an entire book full of such mele. Leilani Basham, professor of Contemporary Hawaiian Culture at UH West Oʻahu, wrote her dissertation on this book and these mele. But I have to confess I havenʻt read the dissertation, since it’s one of the first to be written in Hawaiian (and my Hawaiian is not at that level!). She did publish in Hūlili journal and writes:
Through these descriptions and definitions of the Lāhui Hawaiʻi [seen in part in mele], we gain a better understanding of who we are as the Lāhui Hawaiʻi. It is important that we understand and frame our identity by and from our own perspective, in and on our own terms. It is imperative that our modern identities be founded on our traditional ones – on our genealogies, our histories, our cultural practices and our right to independence and self-governance.Leilani Basham, “Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi: He Moʻolelo, He ʻĀina, He Loina, a He Ea Kākou,” Hūlili, vol. 6 (2010).
Many other mele exist and in this post I merely give a glimpse of these with my very rough translation. One is called:
WILIKOKI KE KOA OLA HAWAII.
Kaulana mai nei Daimana Hila,
O ka pu raifela kani alapine;
Pane mai Wilikoki me ka nahe-
“Imua kakou a e na hoa,
E hopu i ka pu paa I ka lima
E moe a ilalo me ka eleu
Kapae ka makau me ka hopo
Makia ke aloha o ka aina,
E koe oukou a e wiwo ole,
I ola Hawaii a mau loa;”
Pane mai Wilikoki me ka waBuke Mele Lahui
lohia:”Aole kakou a e lanakila,
Aole pukuniahi me a’u
This song speaks of the “quick sounding rifles” at Diamond Head, where Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox smuggled the weapons used for the counter-revolution, and his rallying cry to his comrades-in-arms, in a way reminiscent of Kamehameha’s speech at the battle of Kepaniwai (Imua e nā pokiʻi). He tells them to set aside their fear and anxiety (Kapae ka makau me ka hopo
hopo) and remain fearless (wiwo ole could also possible be translated as disobedient?) so the “life” (sovereignty?) of Hawaiʻi can perpetuate (E koe oukou a e wiwo ole I ola Hawaii a mau loa).
Another mele praises Liliʻuokalani as the lei of Hawaiʻi:
LILIU LEI A KA LAHUI.
Hooheno neia nou e Liliulani;
Ke Kuini i poniia no Hawaii,
He lei nani oe na ka lahui,by “W. Olepau,” which may be the real name, but is more likely a reference to the loyalty her subjects have for her, which is “[a]ole Pau” – not ended or never ending.
O ka hulu o-o e memele nei
Yet another mele, “Hoʻonanea A Hoʻokuene Liliu” speaks of Waipa (Parker perhaps?) in this case, the police captain of the Provisional Government (P.G. or Pi Gi) and his “hewa:”
O ka hana ia a Waipa,
Kapena makai o ka Pi Gi,
Eia ko hewa la e Kalani,by Haimoeipo
No kou aloha i ka lahui
Basham concludes that:
it is not that the lāhui possesses these things, but that we are these things – we are our genealogies, our songs, our land, our cultural practices and our political independence. In this modern era, out identity is being questioned and defined in both courtroom and legislative contexts, so these framings and definitions of the Lāhui Hawaiʻi are vitally important to our understandings of who we are as a people.Basham, 2010.