|Halau Hula Napuaokalei'ilima
Cultural Lessons for Mele Hula (Hula Songs)
Revised November 19, 2012
LESSON SEGMENTS ARE REVISED PERIODICALLY, with newer lessons appearing at the top of the page. IF YOU
WOULD LIKE TO SAVE ANY OF THE TEXT, DO SO BY COPYING AND PASTING. ONCE DELETED FROM THIS PAGE,
IT CANNOT BE RECALLED. REMEMBER ALWAYS TO MENTION YOUR KUMU (SOURCE).
Maiki Aiu Lake: Kumu Hula and Preserver of Hawaiian Culture, by Puakea Nogelmeier. This is a document that
explains part of the life of Aunti Maiki, as part of the Biography Hawaii series. To read this 8 page document, go to
Native Plants and Trees of Hawai'i
For information on Hawaii's native plants and trees, go to www.instanthawaii.com, click on Island Plants on the right side,
and scroll down the page to Trees. You can also look up other Plants and Animals on this website.
From Hula Perspectives, by Dorothy Barrere, Mary Kawena Pukui, Marion Kelly, Bishop Museum, Pacific
Anthropological Records, Number 30, 1980, page 1-2:
"An attempt to document any rituals associated with the hula in ancient--that is to say pre-historic, or pre-1778--Hawai'i is
impossible. What may remain today of any older rituals is based on late-19th century training practices, and on chants
and dances that survived the attempted extinction of the hula as an entertainment form in the earlier part of that century.
"Calvinist missionaries from America arrived in Hawai'i in 1820, and as soon as they had secured the interest of the chiefs
in their newly introduced...reading, writing, and Scripture lessons...they attacked the hula as "heathen" and "lascivious",
and made strong efforts to drive it out of the culture.
"In 1830, the queen regent Ka'ahumanu, who had been accepted into the church in December of 1825, issued an edict
forbidding public performance of the hula.
"In 1851 public hula performances were finally brought under a measure of control through the requirement of licensing
and payment of a fairly heavy fee for each performance, but private performances were not controlled so easily.
"Also in the 1860s the rulers and chiefs of the kingdom openly reverted to the old custom of having hula people, po'e
hula, available to provide entertainment, both at home and during their travels about the islands. There was thus a
nucleus of po'e hula who kept the art alive, and from them have come the traditional 19-th century hula that some call
"Full re-acceptance of the hula as public entertainment came about in the reign of Kalakaua. For his coronation
ceremonies in 1883, there had been months of training and keen excitement among the hula people in preparation for
the public performance of all manner of hula--from those recalled from the past to those expressly created for that day.
"After the end of the monarchy, public performances of the hula again declined, and the few attempts early in the 20th
century to revive it as public entertainment met with varying degrees of opposition, depending on viewpoints and
arguments as to the "innocence" or "licentiousness" of the hula being performed.
"As in the past, a few chanters, dancers and teachers among the po'e hula kept alive the more traditional forms, and with
the flowering of the "Hawaiian Renaissance" in the 1970s their knowledge and dedication became a foundation for
revitalizing the older forms. Today there are many hula masters reproducing the old dances as nearly as possible, or
creating chants and dances after the traditional manner. Sometimes their attempts result in extravagant and spectacular
displays that are only reminiscent of the early descriptions. Some have introduced their own conceptions of the ancient
The Reverend William Ellis described this performance, which took place on July 14, 1823:
"In the afternoon, a party of strolling musicians and dancers arrived at Kairua. About four o'clock they came, followed by
crowds of people, and arranged themselves on a fine sandy beach, in front of one of the governor's houses, where they
exhibited a native dance, called hula araapapa.
"The five musicians first seated themselves in a line on the ground, and spread a piece of folded cloth on the sand before
them. Their instrument was a large calabash, or rather two, one of an oval shape about three feet high, the other
perfectly round, very neatly fastened to it, having also an aperture about three inches in diameter at the top. Each
musician held his instrument before him with both hands, and produced his music by striking it on the ground, where he
had laid the piece of cloth, and beating it with his fingers, or the palms of his hands. As soon as they began to sound their
calabashes, the dancer, a young man, about the middle stature, advanced through the opening crowd. His jet-black hair
hung in loose and flowing ringlets on his naked shoulders; his necklace was made of a vast number of strings of nicely
braided human hair, tied together behind, while a paraoa (an ornament made of a whale's tooth) hung pendent from it on
his breast; his wrists were ornamented with bracelets, formed of polished tusks of the hog, and his ankles with loose
buskins, thickly set with dog's teeth, the rattle of which, during the dance, kept time with the music of the calabash drum.
A beautiful yellow tapa was tastefully fastened round his loins, reaching to his knees. He began his dance in front of the
musicians, and moved forwards and backwards, across the area, occasionally chanting the achievement of former kings
of Hawaii. The governor sat at the end of the ring, opposite to the musicians, and appeared gratified with the
performance, which continued until the evening."
[Ellis, 1969, Polynesian Researches: Hawaii. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle. Pages 100-1]
LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF OUR KUPUNA (ELDERS)
As a hula dancer,....
"...it's hard to transmit feelings, but it's our obligation. Don't do empty movements. Do a piece of your
heart. People need to feel the beauty of your dance."
---Auntie Nona Beamer (1923-2008), at the World Conference on Hula, July 25, 2005
"There is a sea of time, so vast man cannot know its boundaries, so fathomless man cannot plumb its depths. Into this
dark sea plunge the spirits of man, released from their earthly bodies. The sea becomes One With The Sky and the land,
the fiery surgings that rise from deep in the restless earth. For this is the measureless expanse of all space. This is the
timelessness of all time. This is eternity. This is Po.
"In Po, there dwell our ancestors, transfigured into gods. They are forever god-spirits, possessing the strange and
awesome powers of gods. Yet they are forever our relatives, having focus the loving concern a mother feels for her
infant, or a grandfather for his first-born grandson. As gods and relatives in one, they give us strength when we are
weak, warning when danger threatens, guidance in our bewilderment, and inspiration in our arts. They are equally our
judges, hearing our words and watching our actions, reprimanding us for error, and punishing us for blatant offense. For
these are our godly ancestors. These are our spiritual parents. These are our 'aumakua.
"You and I, when our time has come, shall plunge from our leina into Po. If our lives have been worthy, our 'aumakua will
be waiting to welcome us. Then we too shall inhabit the eternal realm of the ancestor spirits. We in our time shall
become 'aumakua to our descendants even yet unborn."
[in the book Life In the Pacific of the 1700s, Volume III, the Cook/Forster Collection of the Georg August University of
Gottingen, Honolulu Academy of Arts, publisher. The above is a quote from Mary Kawena Pukui in Nana i Ke Kumu (Look
to the Source), by Pukui, Haertig and Lee, Honolulu: Hui Hanai, 1972.]
'Olelo No'eau (Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings)
In 1983, Mary Kawena Pukui, one of the greatest Hawaiian scholars of the 20th century, collected, translated and
annotated old Hawaiian proverbs. The publication is called 'Olelo No'eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings,
and was published by Bernice P. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawai'i, as Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication
No. 71. The book contains 2,942 'olelo no'eau--a wealth of information about how Hawaiians lived and thought in
ancient times. Here's the beginning paragraph of the Preface:
"This extraordinary collection of Hawaiian Sayings--collected, translated,and annotated by Mary Kawena Pukui--offers a unique
opportunity to savor the wisdom, poetic beauty, and earthy humor of these finely crafted expressions. The sayings may be
appreciated individually and collectively for their aesthetic, historic, and educational values. They reveal with each new reading
ever deeper layers of meaning, giving understanding not only of Hawai'i and its people, but of all humanity. Since the sayings
carry the immediacy of the spoken word, considered to be the highest form of cultural expression of old Hawai'i, they bring us
closer to the everyday thoughts and lives of the Hawaiians who created them. Taken together, the sayings offer a basis for
an understanding of the essence and origins of traditional Hawaiian values."
'Olelo No'eau No. 920, page 99:
He pua laha'ole.
It means: "A flower not common." One who is as choice and highly prized as a very rare blossom. An expression much
used in chants and songs.
'Olelo No'eau No.1249, page 135:
I 'ola'ola no ka huewai i ka piha 'ole.
"The water gourd gurgles when not filled full."
A person not very well informed talks more than one who is.
'Olelo Noe'au No. 2758, page 302:
Pupukahi i holomua.
"Unite in order to progress."
The official state flower of Hawai'i is the ma'o hau hele, or Hibiscus brackenridgei. It is endemic to Hawaii (found in
Hawai'i and no where else), and was declared the official state flower in 1988. Prior to that date, those of us who can
remember that far back will recall that the big red (introduced) hibiscus was the State Flower. Beware of articles and
photos who just print any picture of a "hibiscus" that is "yellow", and try to pass it off as the State Flower. There is only
one true ma'o hau hele, whose name means "crawling green hau" and which makes no reference to being yellow. This
2005 Honolulu Star-Bulletin article gives more detail on the plant:
What is Hula Ku'i style?
It has been said that we learned the "hula ku'i" style of dancing. Someone asked, "What is Hula Ku'i?", and I found it
difficult to explain what was for so long understood by us students of hula. By reading Sacred Hula: The Historical Hula
'Ala'apapa by Amy Ku'uleialoha Stillman, she puts it in terms that one can understand, but only if you have working
knowledge of the different styles of chants and hula. "Hula Kahiko" is a term used today to include ALL the ancient style of
Hawaiian hula--there are quite a few styles. "Hula 'ala'apapa" and "Hula 'olapa" are just two of the styles. The basic
premise is that there developed a mele (song or chant) style called hula 'olapa from the late monarchy period (which is
different from hula 'ala'apapa from the early to mid-1850s). Hula Ku'i is the "modern sung form of hula 'olapa done to
guitars and 'ukulele". At present, my haumana are familiar with the chant "Kawika" or "E Pua Ana Ka Makani". This is a
form of hula 'olapa; "the poetry is organized into couplets and end with formulaic concluding line 'Ha'ina 'ia mai ka puana".
If you think about the song, "Puamana", it has similar structure--uniform verses ending with a "Ha'ina" verse. This is Hula
Ku'i. With the exception of Hapa-Haole, most of the Hawaiian songs that you learn today are "Hula Ku'i".
For even more information about hula, go to www.paulwaters.com/hulaenc.htm .
A Quote from Kumu Kehau, Nov. 4, 2012, as her response to a question by one of her students asking
"why is it that Hawaiian people look different from Mainland people dancing hula; is it because they have the
opportunity to mimic and imitate more as they are growing up?" Kumu's response:
"I think it goes way beyond imitating or mimicking other dancers when we were growing up. I think that all
dancers in Hawaii know that hula starts inside of us, not outside of us. It starts in the most inner place
inside of our soul. It starts there before we even take a step to learn to hula. And from there it just
blossoms. When I say we become the dance, we become the song, that's not a figurative saying. It really
is true. I go to another place when I dance, and my eyes reflect that. Our eyes reflect our souls and where
we are at that moment in time. Our feet and our hands, now knowing the dance, are just ancillary
appendages that help our souls feel the story, the mana'o. All the techniques that we learned on how to
hula--how to flow like water, float like a palm leaf in the gentle breeze, etc.--go on automatic pilot as our
souls go to that place. We are really not here. If you are afraid to go to that place, you will never know
how it feels. Only you can let yourself go. My job is to teach you the movements, the techniques. Setting
your heart free is something only you can do. It can be pretty scary at first. But when you realize that it
won't hurt you, and you feel so good afterwards, you go there every time. You can't wait to go there
again. " [Hawaiian. Mainland. Our hearts are the same. Learn to "let go", and we all dance the same way.]