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Mele Killers

Kekīpukaohā‘ao Moanauli

E nā mo‘olau Hawai‘i

To our people, words have never been just words; stories have never been just stories. Poetry and songs have never been just pretty arrangements of the former to produce a singable record of the latter. I am aware that this is one of those broad blanket statements scholars in every field warn students and fellow writers against writing or believing. It has the potential to be reductive, romanticizing, and simply wrong. However, the importance of ‘ōlelo in its various forms and functions cannot be ignored when one speaks in terms of Hawaiian identities, even as they grow and change. Consequently, I feel more than fairly secure in making this claim, at the very least as a reaffirmation and extension of that which the most famous ‘ōlelo no‘eau of our ancestors teaches: I ka ‘ōlelo nō ke ola; i ka ‘ōlelo nō ka make (‘ŌN #1191). In ‘ōlelo there is life; in ‘ōlelo there is death.

But even more important in my claim to the depth and power of that ‘ōlelo—language, speech, discussion, writing, storytelling, orating, history-making—is the unbreakable connection between language and identity that words, stories, songs, and histories continually forge and reform. Paula Gunn Allen frequently returns to this connection in her work The Sacred Hoop, tracking the abilities of oral (and, more recently, written) traditions and Indian identities to mutually construct and express each other. As evidence of such an ability, Allen sites one purpose of Indian novels and other forms of contemporary Indian literature as providing a response "to the question of whether we can remain Indians and still participate in and influence western culture or whether we will be junked or enshrined in museums of culture" (101). Each work, each response adds another facet, perhaps another item of literary "medicine" (91) to empower and help shape varied Indian identities which, in turn, continue to produce responses and the twists and turns of identification that accompany them.

It is this accretion of responses and stories which feeds the cycle of growth and life that ensures the same growth, life, and strength of the Indian, and by extension the indigenous, inside and in spite of the global-minded communities that have cropped up around us. In effect, the words and stories that speak from, for, and of native peoples affect not only our perception by non-natives, but also the very well-being of our communities, histories, traditions, and physical selves.

We Hawaiians need look no further than our Hawaiian dictionaries to witness the intimate connection our lāhui observes between literature, land, and people. Mo‘olelo—story, tale, myth, history, literature. Mo‘okū‘auhau—genealogical succession. Iwi kuamo‘o—spine, backbone. Near and trusted relative of a chief. Mo‘opuna—grandchild. Mo‘olau—having many descendants. Mo‘o—series, especially a genealogical line. Story, tradition, legend. Narrow strip of land. Narrow path, track. Ridge, as of a mountain. Grandchild (Pukui and Elbert).

The preceding mo‘o of words highlights the image and sound of mo‘o that links them through its shared image of succession, continuance, and relation. It consequently forces us to contemplate each word both in the terms of mo‘o and as one member of an obviously related group of words and concepts. Allen’s proclamation of the Indians’ connection to land is beautifully concise: "We are the land" (119). Hawaiians could easily expand her statement to include the literary aspect of mo‘o: land, stories, Hawaiians—all share the same genealogy, and the existence of each depends on the health and survival of the others.

Part of our collective mo‘olelo, the words and stories that build up to continually add to and reaffirm our identities as Hawaiians, are the mele kūpuna that have been lovingly passed down for generations as well as mele that are newly created with each successive crop of keiki. Especially today, these musical manifestations by which the existence of our people is both expressed and perceived are often more influential than the histories themselves. By sheer virtue of accessibility and catchiness, and because of the way in which so many Hawaiians are raised, music, more than anything, permeates life and consciousness in such a way as to become almost unnoticeable in the constancy of its impact. From the oldest chants of our ancestors performed in traditional hālau hula to the newest Hawaiian-rap-reggae conglomerations blasting from today’s car stereos, the Hawaiian subconscious feeds on the music that surrounds it; mele provides arguably the strongest force in Hawaiian self-identification and—assertion.

The mele we are raised on carry an unmistakable Hawaiian identity and cause, either overtly in their lyrics or more subtly by their existence itself. The strength of the music that has consciously carried such a message has ebbed and surged in cycles, probably since before we can remember. From our written histories, we know of mele written in response to the overthrow and annexation, as well as those composed and performed in the 1960s and 1970s to lend fire to a rising movement toward increased Hawaiian self-awareness and the demand for Hawaiian self-determination. But we also know of ancestral mele that deliberately define Hawaiian space and identity, mele like "Ka Wai a Kāne" and "Eia Hawai‘i." More recently, there has been a resurgence of mele composed in Hawaiian by a new generation of ‘ōlelo-conscious Hawaiians, as well as a growing number of English-language songs that follow the path of "Ku‘u Home ‘o Kahalu‘u" and "Nānākuli Blues" in their amazing ability to convey timeless Hawaiian concepts in the English words still used as tools of colonialism.

The question, then, becomes: What takes over when the popularity/accessibility/production of these steadfast songs ebbs? And what do we sing along to, even when their mana flows strong? More often than not, so many of us turn on our radios and CD players to hip-hop or pop rather than Hawaiian. More often than not, so many of us who do tune in to Hawaiian are immersed not in our people’s mo‘olelo-building mele of insistence, but in the prettily-packaged music of acquiescence that is slowly replacing it.

In Sherman Alexie’s novel Indian Killer, Jack Wilson is a white man who claims Indian blood and writes indigenously-themed mysteries which nonetheless are noticeably removed from the culture and people that are supposed to comprise the piko from which his stories and characters emerge. Rather than support a respectful view of Indians in all their diversity as well as their ancestral ties to each other and to the land they inhabit, Wilson’s novels trap Indians in the stereotypes that have come to define them—primitive, mystical, nobly savage images. In response to the overwhelming and unquestioned representation of writers like Wilson in her literature course, one of Alexie’s more vocal characters says to the professor, "Why teach Wilson? It’s like his books are killing Indian books" (68). Such writing undoes with a single work decades of efforts by natives to "write back" to the dominant literature and offer a different perspective. Its validation by readers and professors suggests resistance is not only futile but frivolous as well.

Too often, the same happens with the mele that represent and continually recreate us as Hawaiians. Too often, imported music that traps our own people in the same damaging stereotypes and perspectives is that which fills our ears and consciousness and kills not only our Hawaiian mele but the mo‘olelo, mindset, and even people they speak for. Sometimes this literary homicide is executed by the birthing of new words which, instead of co-existing with their predecessors, turn on the parent text and eventually replace the original. The colonial child thus erases its native parent in an act of literary patricide. The addition of a new English-language verse to Bina Mossman’s "He ‘Ono" is a prime example. Though the first bands to sing the bonus verse, Da Blahlahs included, simply tacked it on to the two existing Hawaiian verses, their followers have replaced the original second verse with the new English one. The replacement has occurred not only in performance, but in our collective memory as well. Evidence: one evening at the Willows, a certain resident Hawaiian music group began to sing "He ‘Ono," and quickly skipped over verse two, moving straight from the well-known first to the English-language third. When asked to sing the original second verse, they declined. They didn’t know the words.

In other cases, mele-killing is less obvious and more subjective in its definition. Much of the replacement we witness is a result of our immersion in and dependence on English, which we attempt to claim as part of our indigenous history and use to our advantage to subvert the systems it represents (Owens 4). However, it still betrays us when we find ourselves unable to completely shake off its colonial roots. English-language songs composed in apparent praise of Hawai‘i and its people are easily revealed as damaging to our identities, lands, and status as Hawaiians. And yet, these very songs become those most popular, especially with ‘ōpio and non-Hawaiian speakers, but even with those aware of the damaging stereotypes they perpetuate. For the majority of our people they form the basis of our musical and material identities. So let’s examine some of these mele that help shape how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by others. Although many of today’s compositions enrich the realization of us as diverse people and advance the movement for native self-identification and self-determination, we cannot ignore those that harm, lest they seep unnoticed into our consciousness and find acceptance and acquiescence there.

I offer here two songs that harm, including the amputated "He ‘Ono" and its prosthesis, as well as an investigation into that which is damaged—the historical and political as well as the literary and cultural. These are pitted against two songs of many that heal, that refuse to enact the mele-murder that is sometimes so much easier than mele-nurture. It should also be said here that my comments, though critical, are aired with the belief that through critique we make ourselves and our work stronger, better, so that we become more sure of who and why we are, of what and why we do. I take responsibility for the mistakes and offenses that are bound to arise.

"He ‘Ono” na Bina Mossman

This song is known, among other things, for the mouthful of quick, tongue-twisting words it packs into each verse. The challenge it offers seems to act on one hand as an incentive for Hawaiian musicians to perform it and display the dexterity of their vocal anatomy. But, auē, when that same challenge also provides musicians with an excuse for learning only half of the original mele. In comparison to the bombardment of mouth and brain by the jam-packed ‘ōlelo that has become unfamiliar and unnatural to many of us, learning and singing an English verse whose lyrics are more familiar to our modern ears is much more appealing, especially when those lyrics include mention of the ubiquitous Kikkoman Shoyu. So musicians like those at Willows trade akule for extra salad, ‘anae for kim chee, and sweet-eyed kole for Kikkoman. What began as a steady diet of Hawaiian fish and mana‘o has become a mixed plate that is bound to cause some indigestion. (See Appendix 1)

Bina Mossman’s second verse, that which is often omitted in favor of the English substitution, is the verse of substance and loyalty. Whereas the verse that begins "He keu" is just that—an excess, of ‘ono (taste), momona (fat), lihaliha (richness), and kai (gravy)—this subsequent stanza is a warning against relying on taste alone to nourish us, a warning against getting caught up in the fatty richness of the fish of deeper waters. Here the haku mele reins in her praise of those tasty fish, recognizing them now as "fish of others in the depths," and calls instead for a return to the simple fare of ‘anae, manini, and kole found in shallower, closer, more dependable seas. It is in these often overlooked words, too, that we realize the "fish" here are not only fish, but human lovers as well. The centrality of this symbolism to the overall meaning of the song is cemented in the verse's closing line: "‘O ke kole ē ka i‘a maka onaona la," in which the cultural representation of attractive people as kole is voiced as a final reminder of the beauty and worth of humble reef-dwellers (Pukui and Elbert 162, Elbert and Mahoe 48). And with this ultimate claim that the kole’s sweet eyes (maka onaona) are preferable to the sweetly fat belly (alopiko) of other fish, Mossman effectively reverses our previous perception of the rich, fat fish in verse one as "keu a ka ‘ono." Suddenly they’re just keu—too much.

Erasure of this second Hawaiian-language verse, and its replacement with the contemporary English, removes the very meat of the song and leaves us with salt and fat. But beyond the metaphor substitution, or perhaps just before it, is the substitution of language itself, an act of erasure that cannot be ignored in light of the history of the Hawaiian language and its suppression in this, its native land. Leanne Hinton observes one reason for the decline of indigenous languages like Hawaiian: "A language that is not a language of government, nor a language of education, nor a language of commerce or of wider communication is a language whose very existence is threatened in the modern world" (3). Removed from the domain of government in the Organic Act of 1970, from its role as the primary medium of education in 1893, and from the commercial arena at the establishment of the first plantations, Hawaiian is, here and now, in this mele, removed as well from the sphere of "wider communication" (Warner 134, 135).

In each case, the ultimate result is the painful extraction of ‘ōlelo from the mouths of its people. As recently as the beginning of the 20th century, Hawaiians in Hawai‘i were raised on the ‘ōlelo of their ancestors, as it was fed like softened ‘anae from grandparent to grandchild, parent to child. Within one generation, Hawaiian had been replaced by Hawai‘i Creole English as the dominant native language of Hawaiians (Warner 135). "He ‘Ono" began as a song generated from both the language and traditional knowledge of Hawaiians; a generation later, it has become a menu of local plate lunch items. The patterns of colonialism that replace native language with foreign, multi-cultural words and healthy native diet with bad cholesterol are thus reenacted perfectly in this one song's rewriting.

The words we are left with, English and Hawaiian, soon melt into mere sounds, popularly appreciated more for their resonance than their meanings. Part of the reason the "Mai pi‘ikoi" verse is so often left unsung is probably that it does not rely on the repetition of sounds and word play that drives the first and makes it most memorable. "A he i‘a a ha‘i" from verse two rivals the level of vowel sequencing and inversion that we hear in verse one’s "ma ke alopiko . . . piko ka nenue la," but it still cannot touch the appeal of the first verse’s closing lines: "Lihaliha wale ke momoni akula / ‘O ka ‘ō‘io halalē ke kai la / ‘O ka ‘ōpelu e pepenu ana la." It is this sound-play and food-listing that the English verse echoes most. The old appreciation of word-play has survived, along with the lyrics—English and Hawaiian—that gratify it. However, the admonition that accompanies this indulgence when the song is performed in its entirety is quickly being buried in our subconscious, along with the implicated opinion of the plea to remain in familiar waters as anachronistic and provincial—too close to the reefs of an archived Hawai‘i.

By favoring the English verse over the Hawaiian, then, we do just what Mossman’s mele tells us not to: chase after the fatty fish from distant, rich, foreign waters. This ambition and desire for more worldly foods takes on an added layer of significance when the kaona of the Hawaiian-language verses is considered. These are not simple fish that Mossman writes of, nor are they simply fish. Instead, the Hawaiian tradition of using animals, including birds and fish, to represent people is employed here to call a straying lover back from the deeper seas, where he chases "he i‘a a ha‘i"—the fish of another—and to return his attention his own humble manini.

Mossman begins this verse deliberately with "Mai pi‘ikoi ‘oe i ke akule la." Pukui defines pi‘ikoi in part as "to aspire to the best or to more than is one’s due" (327). However, she also makes note of a common saying that is echoed in the first line of Mossman’s second verse: "Mai pi‘ikoi i ka ‘ama‘ama: don’t strive for the ‘ama‘ama […] be satisfied with what you have, why aim for the moon," also interpreted as "be satisfied with what you have, why look for a rich person?" (327, 22). The target of Mossman’s warning, then, is guilty both of striving for someone out of his reach and in another’s possession, as well as of looking elsewhere for excessive wealth and taste when he already has ‘anae, manini, and kole enough to satisfy him. Although the fish he strives for are not identified as foreign, the intended catch of many contemporary lawai‘a pi‘ikoi (ambitious fishermen) is from decidedly foreign waters—thus the shift in population, economy, and language away from their Hawaiian piko.

Mine is an admittedly somber interpretation of what is, especially at first listen, a lighthearted song that teasingly reminds wandering eyes of the deliciousness to be found in home waters. However, just as the threat of "rock-eating" posed by the Provisional Government to the Government Band inspired the words of Ellen Wright Prendergast’s "Mele ‘Ai Pōhaku," the fulfilled threat of replacement enacted in this mele should inspire us to draw connections between Mossman’s "Mai pi‘ikoi ‘oe i ke akule / A he i‘a a ha‘i i ka hohonu" and Prendergast’s "‘A‘ole mākou a e minamina / I ka pu‘u kālā a ke aupuni" (Elbert and Mahoe 62). Both warn us against abandoning the ways and means of our kūpuna and re-placing our focus and value on the richness of others. The earlier words of Prendergast have since strengthened countless arguments for self-determination with their unyielding Hawaiian expression of aloha ‘āina to the death. The younger lyrics of Mossman, coupled with their even more modern replacement lyrics, urge us to retraditionalize our poetic and musical consciousness, in the way that Taiaiake Alfred urges indigenous peoples to "retraditionalize politics" (144). Literary colonialism like that acted and re-acted on mele like "He ‘Ono" needs to be dismantled along with every other form of colonialism in order for decolonization to be truly effective. These words of our people tell us, as does Alfred, to "resist further injustice" by resisting the temptations of wealth and exotic tastes (145).

"Live a Little (Hawaiian Style)" na Wade Cambern

The Hawaiian Style Band CD that features this song is titled Vanishing Treasures. Although probably intended (at least officially) as a recognition of the need to take care of our people’s values and valued objects and to prevent their further loss, such a naming immediately identifies Hawaiians with a broader image of the Vanishing Native. Louis Owens gives us an overview of the Vanishing Indian—the construct of a primitive, savage, natural red man created by white colonizers to define the old people of their "New World," and thereby expedite their violent campaign for the complete destruction of those natives.

The contemporary result of this naming is twofold. First, only artifact natives—those that fit the western-imposed mold of feather-wearing, drum-beating Indian, or here, that of ‘ukulele-playing, hip-shaking Hawaiian—are even recognized as native by their colonizers. The actual, living natives who "do not look, live, and talk like the anachronistic inventions portrayed in novels and movies . . . remain invisible and politically powerless" (Owens 129). Second in the line of injustices that continues beyond these two instances is the confinement of the same artifact-made-real to specific, powerless realms of society. Thus, the "Authentic Indian" is recognized, but only as a relic of America’s past that has no place in and no influence on contemporary time and space. Similarly, the "Happy Hawaiian" is bracketed within Waikīkī lū‘au and state-sponsored event openings, so that any attempt to step into political or other realms of power is immediately cut short, criticized as un-Hawaiian or lacking aloha. The combined result of these carefully defined indigenous characters, along with the cultural material like Cambern’s song that maintain them (See Appendix 2), is that the "actual, living" natives Owens speaks of are erased from any position of recognition, authenticity, or power.

The naming of this, the Hawaiian Style Band’s second CD as a compilation of "Vanishing Treasures" reinforces the position of Hawaiian-ness as perpetually on the edge of total extinction, pushed there to keep it out of central arenas of power, kept from falling over the edge to maintain the "Happy Hawaiian" image that is so profitably exploited. Ironically, of the CD’s ten songs, only two are Hawaiian in language and literary genealogy, and even those two are given in truncated form. The material packaged under the label that seems to advocate careful protection of our national treasures, vanishing or otherwise, actually presents us with that which has and continues to replace them. This musical production, following in the grand history of its American predecessors, identifies a threatened indigenous presence, only to erase it.

The Hawai‘i represented in this Hōkū Award-winning song is the exotic, pain-easing prostitute Haunani Kay Trask describes as the "fantasy […] state of mind" that countless Americans subconsciously assume rights over—rights "to use, to take, and, above all, to fantasize about" (180). She (Trask is quick to note that this Hawai‘i image is decidedly feminine—soft and yielding) provides escape, a vacation from the serious, important world Americans occupy, and she offers instead unconditional kindness and uncharted, calendar-worthy beauty. Her inherent serenity and natural simplicity will, with luck, "rub off on […] the visitor" (180). This song, though, removes luck from the equation—it is our choice, even our responsibility, to live and teach the "Hawaiian Style."

The first lesson we are to receive and share is one vital to the characterization of Hawai‘i as escape and of Hawaiians as happy—stated simply by Cambern, "Don’t worry." Immediately following the opening directive that we’ve "gotta live a little […] give a little Hawaiian Style" is a list of worries to keep at bay. These troubles consist of the decrease of the tide, the setting of the sun, the onset of rain, and the lack of biting fish. Nowhere is there mention of the actual challenges facing actual Hawaiians—loss of land, high poverty rates, and poor health are erased from the landscape, as are the daily manifestations of an oppressive colonial history. The implication is that the most serious problem anyone willing to live in the Hawaiian Style could possibly face is finding himself in the rain with no fish. And even that predicament is of no real consequence—the sun will certainly return, and "you can throw your net again."

Lesson number two is the logical extension of the first. Once the worries have been packed up and shipped out of this paradise of sun, surf, and catchable, if ornery, fish, the Hawaiian Style believer is free to take the time to indulge in life’s pleasures. This seemingly simple and positive outlook is complicated, though, by the prelude to this section, which proclaims "Deep down we’re all a little Hawaiian Style." Not only are the problems facing Hawaiians erased; we as a people are forcibly separated from our distinct identity as Hawaiian. In a single line of lyric, that identity is watered down, repackaged as a Style, and handed out to the general populace to claim as their own. The new identity is Hawaiian in name only; its contents have been extracted and replaced with this image of a life, land, and people devoid of responsibility or worry, whose sole purpose is to give, share, and "show aloha to a friend." As Owens says of "Indian Territory," this space of Hawaiian geography and state of mind is "simply space to be emptied and reoccupied by the colonial power" (27). It is shocking to see this 15th century identity drainage still in operation today.

The final lesson of Hawaiian Style living that Cambern offers finalizes the conceptualization and actualization of Hawai‘i as a resource of land and fantasy to be culled and exploited, of Hawaiians as compulsive givers. It is in this third section that we are instructed to "just give […] just share from deep within," an echo of the historic and continued stereotyping of Hawaiian culture and people as "ʻnaturally’ one of giving and entertaining" (Trask 181). There is particular insidiousness in the teaching of this lesson, though. It preys on the values of acceptance and reciprocated hospitality honored by our kūpuna and others, removing those values from their traditional context of mutual respect and using them to collect unspecified treasures which the audience is expected to give and share. And it does so by appropriating one of those threatened treasures—the ‘ōlelo of our ancestors. The most harmful words of this song, those that instruct us to give everything away and to do it with aloha, are voiced in Hawaiian. Both language and values, which we continue to struggle to protect from loss and misappropriation, are snatched by this composer, detached from their histories and people, and sent back at us as an admonition for being uptight and stingy.

Which brings us to the ultimate question regarding this song—who is its target audience? The composer constructs a fairly obvious speaker-listener relationship that parallels an inherent teacher-student relationship between the song’s persona and ourselves. We need to learn how to live, give, and talk Hawaiian Style, while he already enjoys the perks of such a lifestyle—he’s got the babes, the shades, and the waves. Yet the identity of the "you" he addresses, of the un-Hawaiian Style population, is decidedly unclear. At first, this ambiguity seems to imply a general audience, probably comprised mostly of visitors and stressed-out locals. However, there is a sudden shift from vagueness to specificity at the end of the "Don’t worry" list, when at least a segment of the intended audience is identified through consolation—if the fish don’t bite, "Don’t worry, you can throw your net again" (emphasis mine). With such a specific reference to traditional Hawaiian practices, it is difficult to imagine anyone but the survivors of the Vanishing Hawaiian population as the target of this instruction. Again, insertion of a readily recognizable Hawaiian treasure is used to target Hawaiians as those least "Hawaiian Style," to chip away at the pride and determination we’ve slowly regained through language, culture, and political revitalization and organization.

Though buried in a list of seemingly innocuous bits of advice, this closing line is undoubtedly one of the most damaging in the song, and thereby affects our reception of the song in its entirety. Once Hawaiians are identified as members of Cambern’s audience, "Live a Little," like "He ‘Ono," becomes an extension of the colonialism our ancestors endured. Instead of 19th century instruction in proper Christian behavior and American capitalism "Live a Little" offers a singable handbook outlining how to be Hawaiian (Style). And instead of removing ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i as the medium of instruction in foreign behaviors, it employs our language in order to make the act of sacrificing it to the powers of appropriation seem more Hawaiian. Yet the result is the same—Hawaiians are made to feel inadequate, either because we were too Hawaiian or because we are not Hawaiian enough, and are then expected to abandon that which we know for that which we are force-fed. This song’s addition of the word "Style" masks but does not erase the fact that it is instructing us in an assumed and simplified Hawaiian way of life. "Style" may modernize the concept for young listeners and allow some to dismiss it as harmless, to mentally distinguish Hawaiian Style from Hawaiian and thereby ignore the cultural and political warning bells that might sound if the line were to read: "Deep down we’re all a little Hawaiian." It provides us with a means of viewing the song as innocent and non-political if we so choose, and it provides others with a means of claiming an identity and history that is not theirs. Its powers of oppression are subtle and subversive, yet this song that masquerades as an upbeat, catchy ditty is actually a fully functional tool of 21st century colonialism.

As such, it, too commits a form of mele-murder. Whereas "He ‘Ono" has become patricidal, turning on its parent text as new words are born, the crime of "Live a Little" is purely litracidal. The mele and identities it threatens are numerous, since only the cherubic cartoon image of the simple Hawaiian has any place in the Hawaiian Style world. The maintenance of such an environment requires the erasure of rock-eating Hawaiian loyalists ("Kaulana nā Pua"), of Hawaiian rebellion leaders ("Ka Māmakakaua"), of Hawaiians justifiably unhappy with their treatment, even by Hawaiian institutions ("Noe Wale mai ke Aloha"), of Hawaiians using the language of the colonizer to assert Hawaiian self-determination ("Ea") . . . The list continues.

A most significant attempt at erasure that occurs with each performance of this song is that of the contemporary Hawaiian that embarks on an akule-fetching journey only to return home. This identity is perhaps best conveyed in Ron Rosha’s "He Hawai‘ i Au," a mele that has not yet left the public ear, though it is threatened daily by compositions like "Live a Little." Rosha’s Hawaiian is simple, his imagery minimal—this is a straightforward account of a Hawaiian's return to Hawai‘i and to his self-identification as a Hawaiian after leaving land, language, and culture in pursuit of the prosperity promised to Hawaiians willing to join American capitalist society (Warner 135). Instead of wealth and western prestige, though, Rosha gains both the realization that he is Hawaiian above all, and the determination to proclaim his identity in his ancestral language: "‘A‘ole au e ‘auana hou / Ke maopopo he Hawai‘i au."

The Hawaiian identity Rosha reclaims and proclaims is not the provincial, simple Hawaiian Style identity of "Live a Little." This Hawaiian has lived, and he claims that life, complete with its long roads and search for a fitting home as Hawaiian. It is these multi-faceted, struggle-laced identities that fight against the erasure of mele and mo‘olelo attempted by songs like Cambern’s. And it is these songs which, if kept in the Hawaiian and general consciousness, can heal the wounds inflicted by so many other compositions.

Ha‘ina ka puana e lohe‘ia

The two most damaging attributes of killing songs are their sheer numbers and their ear-candy appeal. I have only explored two hurtful songs in this mini-study. Hundreds more exist and are created each day—songs in Hawaiian as well as English that rename our lands, reassign responsibility for them, replace our kūpuna with ridiculous caricatures, and rewrite our mo‘olelo. Each one of them has the upbeat musical appeal that gets it air time on a number of radio stations and can’t-get-it-out-of-my-head status for its listeners. Our reaction and response to these songs will determine our future—whether we can exist as living, diverse, kole-eating, resistant Hawaiians, or whether we will adopt the powerless positions and harmful diet songs like these offer. Koho au i ke kole ‘ono.

© Kekīpukaohā‘ao Moanauli, 2004


Works Cited

Alexie, Sherman. Indian Killer. New York: Warner Books, 1996.
Alfred, Taiaiake. Peace, Power, Righteousness. Ontario: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop. Boston: Beacon Press Books, 1992.
Cambern, Wade. "Live a Little."
Elbert, Samuel and Noelani Mahoe. Nā Mele o Hawai‘i Nei. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawai‘i, 1970.
Hinton, Leanne. "Language Revitalization: An Overview." The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. Class Reader, POLS 682, Fall 2003.
Owens, Louis. Mixedblood Messages. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.
Pūkui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983.
Pūkui, Mary Kawena and Samuel Elbert. Hawaiian Dictionary. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1986.
Trask, Haunani-Kay. From a Native Daughter. Maine: Common Courage Press, 1993.
Warner, Sam L. No‘eau. "The Movement to Revitalize Hawaiian Language and Culture." The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. Class Reader, POLS 682, Fall 2003.

Appendix 1: “He ‘Ono”
Composer: Bina Mossman. As it appears in Nā Mele o Hawai‘i Nei, p 48.

Keu a ka ‘ono ma ke alopiko la,
Kahi momona piko ka nenue la,
Lihaliha wale ke momoni aku la,
‘O ka ‘ō‘io halalē ke kai la,
‘O ka ‘ōpelu e pepenu ana la.
He ‘ono toumi tou ho‘i tau i to pu‘u te momoni atu.
He ‘ono a he ‘ono a he ‘ono ‘i‘o nō (he ‘ono nō) a he ‘ono no.

Mai pi‘ikoi ‘oe i ke akule la
A he i‘a a ha‘i i ka hohonu la,
Ho‘i iho ‘oe i kahi ‘anae la
Me ka manini pūlehu ‘ia la
‘O ke kole e ka i‘a maka onaona la.
He ‘ono toumi tou ho‘i tau i to pu‘u te momoni atu.
He ‘ono a he ‘ono a he ‘ono ‘i‘o nō (he ‘ono nō) a he ‘ono nō.

Appended verse. As it appears on

Sure make a beef stew heavy on the extra salad,
Two scoops rice on a hamburger bun,
Hot dog, kim chee, chili pepper water
Akule, aku, mahimahi sandwich,
Top it all off with the Kikkoman Shoyu
He ‘ono toumi tou ho‘i tau i to pu‘u te momoni atu.
Manapua, manapua, pepeiao, ‘ōkole, a he ‘ono nō.

Appedix 2: “Live a Little”
Composer: Wade Cambern. As it appears on

You’ve gotta live a little Hawaiian Style
And give a litte Hawaiian Style
Don’t worry if the tide goes out
Don't worry if the sun goes down
Don’t worry if you get caught in the rain
Don’t worry if the fish don’t bite
Don’t worry it’ll be alright
Don’t worry you can throw your net again

You’ve got to share a little Hawaiian Style
And give a little Hawaiian Style
Live a little Hawaiian Style
Deep down we’re all a little Hawaiian Style

My baby likes to ride those waves
My baby likes to wear my shades
My baby likes to get caught in the rain
There’s time to take the long way home
There’s time for you to be alone
There’s time to show aloha to a friend

You've gotta speak a little Hawaiian Style
And give a little Hawaiian Style
Let's all live a little Hawaiian Style
Teach the kids a little Hawaiian Style

Give a little, we’ve got to share a little
Slow down a little Hawaiian Style

E hā‘awi wale a‘e Hawaiian Style
E ka‘ana wale a‘e Hawaiian Style

There’s time to take the long way home
There’s time for you to be alone
There’s time to show aloha to a friend

E hā‘awi wale a‘e Hawaiian Style
E ‘ōlelo wale a‘e Hawaiian Style

E ka‘ana wale a‘e Hawaiian Style
I loko lilo iho Hawaiian Style
Hawaiian Style
Hawaiian Style