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He Mele no ka Pipi Palupalu

Chad Takatsugi

The pipi of this mele (the word was sometimes written in the 19th century as “bipi”) does not refer to beef or cattle but to the Hawaiian pearl oyster known as ka iʻa hāmau leo, the silent fish of ‘Ewa. Although it is commonly assumed that these oysters were so named because of their propensity for “clamming up,” they were actually called “silent fish” because a kapu of silence was placed on kānaka who gathered them; talking of any kind would cause a breeze to ripple the water of the Pu'uloa lochs, and the pipi would vanish. The tasty pearl oyster of “He Mele no ka Pipi Palupalu” is both more and less exclusive than her Pearl Harbor namesake since she allows herself to be caught by one man only—but apparently permits him to be less than silent about his good fortune.

He wahi mele ahahana la
No ka pipi palupalu ahahana la
ʻO ka ʻono aʻo loko ahahana la
O ka iʻa hāmau leo ahahana la
I ke kai kūʻono ahahana la
Noho mālie ahahana la
I kahi huna iho ahahana la
O ka limu ʻeleʻele ahahana la
Naʻu wale nō ahahana la
E moni i ka ʻono ahahana la
E nihi ka hele ahahana la
O paʻa pono auaneʻi ahahana la
Hanohano nui ia ahahana la
I ka ʻono aʻo loko ahahana la
Haʻina ka puana ahahana la
O ka pipi palupalu ahahana la

© Chad Takatsugi, 2004