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Kīhei de Silva

Author’s note: When I wrote this piece in 1996, I was reasonably confident that I had a good grip on the mele and its background. Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit more about "Maunakea," and much of this has changed my thinking about the keepers of the song and the circumstances of its composition. Consequently, I’ve footnoted the sections below where my old thinking is either flat-out wrong or in need of serious revision. I recommend that the reader turn to "E Ho‘i ka Nani i Mānā" for a newer essay that puts "Maunakea" in the context of a series of eight mele composed for Queen Emma’s 1881 ascent to the piko of Wākea.

Haku mele: Listed as traditional or unknown in all but the Roberts Collection MS SC 2.5:36b–38a where the author is given as Lioe. The song, as we know it today, was collected by Eddie Kamae and reconstructed by Kamae and Mary Kawena Pukui. 
Sources: 1) Eddie Kamae (personal communication, 1978). 2) HEN 3:254, Bishop Museum Archives. 3) Kapi‘olani-Kalaniana‘ole Collection, HI. M.30:411, BMA. Lioe. 4) Roberts Collection, MS SC 2:5:36b–38a, BMA. 5) Nupepa Makaainana, Sept. 17, 1894. Micro # 188, BMA.
Discography: 1) Eddie Kamae Presents The Sons of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Sons HSC-1001. 2) Eddie Kamae Presents the Best of The Sons of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Sons HSCD-41012.
Text below: As sung by Eddie Kamae and The Sons of Hawai‘i. Translation: Robert Lokomaika‘iokalani Snakenberg, 1978. 


E aha ‘ia ana ‘o Maunakea
Kuahiwi ‘alo pū me ke Kēhau

‘Alawa iho ‘oe iā Mauna Loa
He moa uakea i ka mālie

Kū aku au, mahalo i ka nani
Ka hale a ka wai hu‘i a ka manu

Mahu‘i ho‘i au la e ‘ike lihi
Ka uahi noe lāo Kīlauea

Ke hea mai nei Halema‘uma‘u
‘Ena‘ena i ke ahi a Ka Wahine.

Wahine kui pua lehua ‘Ōla‘a
I ho‘oipoipo no ka Malanai.

Aloha ‘ia nō a‘o Hōpoe
Ka wahine ‘ami lewalewa i ke kai

Iho nā Puna i ka hone a ke kai
Ke ‘ala o ka hīnano ka‘u aloha

Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana
No Puna ke ‘ala i hali ‘ia mai.

What is being done, Maunakea?  
O mountain sharing with the dew-laden Kēhau

You glance down to Mauna Loa 
A mist-white chicken in the calm

I stand and appreciate the beauty 
Of the house of the chilly water of the birds

I also expect to catch a glimpse 
Of the misty smoke of Kīlauea

Halema‘uma‘u is calling 
So hot with the fire of The Woman

The woman stringing lehua flowers of ‘Ōla‘a 
In order to woo the Malanai wind

Hōpoe is beloved 
The woman swinging her hips in the sea

Puna’s people descend to the soft sound of the sea 
The fragrance of hīnano is what I love

The summary of the story is told 
From Puna the fragrance is wafted.


Eddie Kamae explained to me in 1978 that his version of this song was the result of an extensive search and compilation effort. An old man on the Big Island had given him most of the verses, but Kamae had to travel to three other islands to collect the remainder. When he finally tracked down all of his leads, he met with Mary Kawena Pukui, and together they assembled the "Maunakea" that the Sons of Hawai‘i recorded in 1973. I suspect that the old man of Eddie Kamae’s story is Sam Li‘a of Waipi‘o Valley, Kamae’s mentor and inspiration. "Maunakea" and Li‘a’s "Hui Wai Anuhea" share the same melody line, so it is likely that Li‘a knew and was influenced by the earlier composition and gave as much of it as he could remember to his attentive student.*

I have since discovered several slightly longer versions of "Maunakea" in the Bishop Museum Archives. One provides us with the name of a possible author: Lioe (Roberts MS SC 2.5). A second supplies us with a date of newspaper publication: 1894 (Micro #188). And a third identifies the mele as having been composed for Queen Emma (Mele Index card for HEN 3:254). Perhaps the most inspiring outcome of my comparison of the Kamae and archive texts is its validation of the accuracy of oral tradition.  Through diligent effort, Kamae was able to recreate in the early 1970s a remembered, orally transmitted song that differs in only three lines and a handful of phrases from versions that were written down and stored away in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If, as the old Mele Index card suggests, the song was originally written for Queen Emma (she died in 1885 and last visited the Big Island in 1883), at least 90 years had passed between the event that inspired the composition and the LP that finally delivered it to a modern audience. The song’s integrity over this four generation span of sing-and-listen has held up remarkably well and gives considerable credence to our faith in the powerful memories of our grandparents’ generation.

"Maunakea" presents us with the 19th century poetic equivalent of a panoramic photo; its nine verses encompass a 50 mile view-plane that stretches from Maunakea to the Puna coast. Included in the song’s orderly progression from mountain to sea are Maunakea, Mauna Loa, Kīlauea, Halema‘uma‘u, ‘Ōla‘a, and Hā‘ena (where the Hōpoe stone sways in the waves). We are treated, at each stop, to a description of the beauty and unity appropriate to that place: Maunakea, for example, is adorned and paired with the Kēhau breeze, Kīlauea with the smoke of Pele, Halema‘uma‘u with Pele’s fire, ‘Ōla‘a with the lehua blossoms of the lei-stringing Hi‘iaka, Hā‘ena with the dancing Hōpoe stone, and Puna with the fragrant hīnano. The world of the song, then, is a world of order and completion; everything occupies its proper place, and everything shares that place with its proper companion. 

The harmony of this world leads the human companions of "Maunakea"—the ‘oe and au of verses two and three—to their own harmony of residence and relationship. From their vantage point on the mountain’s heights, they ask "What’s going on here?" They find their answer in the very lay of the land as their eyes are drawn from the wao akua, the residence of gods, to their own place in the orderly scheme of things: to the wao kanaka, the residence of men at Puna’s shore. Their homecoming, the endpoint of their visual lesson and journey, is in a land redolent of hīnano, where the sea sings sweet songs to its people and where the aphrodisiac of male pandanus blossoms underscores the mood of love. Maunakea offers instruction in proper place-finding, and our companions find their proper place with each other in Puna.

"Maunakea" makes an excellent mele aloha / mele aloha ‘āina for lovers and their home-land. It also makes a most appropriate mele māka‘ika‘i for the last of Queen Emma’s tours of the Big Island. Emma traveled through the districts of Hilo, Puna, and Ka‘ū in the spring of 1883; the base camp of the Puna-Ka‘ū leg of her tour was the Kaimū home of Joseph ‘Īlālā‘ole’s grandfather where she resided in contentment until a sky-omen warned her of Ruth Ke‘elikōlani’s impending death and caused her to hasten that May to Ruth’s side at Hulihe‘e Palace in Kona (Joseph ‘Īlālā‘ole, HAW 78.1.2-3, Bishop Museum Archives Audio Collection; Mary Kawena Pukui, HAW 33.2.2, Bishop Museum Archives Audio Collection). She is reported, a month later, to have been riding horses at Kohala (Russell Benton, Emma Naea Rooke, 18–19).

Mele composed for this extended visit probably include the four name chants: "He U‘i a he Nīnau Kēia na Hōpoe Wahine i Hā‘ena," "He U‘i a he Nīnau Kēia na Hi‘iakaikapoliopele," "Hanohano Wale ‘Oe e Emalani i ke Kāhiko Mau ‘ia e ka Ua," and "‘O ka Wai Lani Kapu a‘e Kēia." All four share with "Maunakea" a powerful sense of place-finding and homecoming. In the first "He U‘i," for example, Emma discovers that her most valuable treasure is the reciprocal love of place and people. In the second "He U‘i," Emma’s journey takes her "home" to Kalapana where she finds her place with the most distant of her ancestors. In the third mele, her journey to Puna results in her acceptance by Puna’s people as their sacred, rare, and cherished flower. And in the fourth mele, a red rainbow spreads over the surface of the sea and welcomes her to the birth sands of her ancestors.

All four chants, moreover, exhibit the same sense of divine presence and sanction evident in "Maunakea." In the first, Emma is welcomed by Hōpoe; in the second, by Hi‘iaka; in the third, by Pele and her sisters; and in the fourth, by Kawelohea, the guardian of Ka‘ū. It strikes me as more than coincidental that the first three of these women (the mortal Hōpoe, and the goddesses Hi‘iaka and Pele) appear in a similar context in "Maunakea," and that three of the four mele for Emma begin in the same unusual, interrogative voice with which "Maunakea" opens. The two "He U‘i’s" ask "Where have you been?"  "‘O ka Wai Lani" asks "What sacred chiefess is this?" And "Maunakea" asks "What’s being done?" It seems to me, then, that the five chants share more than enough common ground—in theme, geography, character, and voice—to support the Mele Index contention that "Maunakea" was also composed for Emma. To this, I can add that the mele was probably composed in celebration of her 1883 Big Island tour and subtly invites her to remain in her ancestral homeland of Puna where she has found an unequaled sense of peace, love, and place. 

A fifth undisputed mele inoa for Emma lends additional validity to this argument. The chant "A Maunakea ‘o Kalani" opens with Emma at the summit of Maunakea; it then describes her visit to Lake Waiau, her return to Waimea along a broken mountain trail, and her enthusiastic support of her weary fellow travelers. According to Mary Ka‘apuni Phillips, Emma made this Maunakea trek on horseback in the company of riders that she had brought with her to Waimea. Larry Kimura’s kupuna William S. Lindsey served as Emma’s guide, and a Kawaihae man named Waiaulima took Emma swimming in the chilly waters of the mountain lake (HAW 192.2.2, Bishop Museum Archives Audio Collection).

No date for Emma’s ascent of Maunakea is given in either of the Bishop Museum’s mele manuscript versions of "A Maunakea ‘o Kalani," nor does a date appear in Phillips’s narrative of the trip. Because the chant is clearly patterned after "A Kilohana ‘o Kalani," and "A i Waimea ‘o Kalani" (mele pi‘i mauna for Emma’s 1871 ascent of Wai‘ale‘ale), we can reasonably assume, however, that "A Maunakea ‘o Kalani" was composed after this 1871 Kaua‘i expedition. The obvious hypothesis, moreover, is that "A Maunakea ‘o Kalani" belongs to a later leg of the same 1883 tour that took Emma along the Hilo and Puna coasts to Joseph ‘Īlālā‘ole’s family home in Kaimū, to Hulihe‘e Palace in Kona, and to the windy hills of Kohala. This suggests, in turn, that the song "Maunakea" provides an accurate summary of Emma’s complete 1883 Big Island visit and that the five travel mele that we’ve touched on are specific installments in a poetic travelogue encompassed by "Maunakea."

I am certain that further research will determine the validity of my 1883 Maunakea hypothesis.** In any case, Phillips and "A Maunakea ‘o Kalani" put Emma on the mountain. If we accept "Maunakea" as an Emma song, then we must accept, as well, that the opening verses of the song are not merely figurative; they are grounded in fact. At some point after 1871, Emma was no less at Maunakea and Waiau ("the chilly water home of the birds") than she was at Puna in the soft singing of the sea.

Transcribed below is the HEN version of "Maunakea." I have italicized those portions of the text that vary from the Eddie Kamae version given above. The translation is my own.


E aha ‘ia ana ‘o Maunakea
Kuahiwi ‘alo pū me ke kehau
‘Alawa iho ‘oe ia Maunaloa
Kohu moa uakea i ka malie
Kū aku au mahalo o ka nani
Ka ha‘ale a ka wai hu‘i a ka manu
Kau aku ka mana‘o e ‘ike lihi
Ka uahi noe a o Kilauea
Ke hea mai nei Halema‘uma‘u
‘Ena‘ena i ke ahi a ka wahine,
Ka wahine kui pua lehua o ‘Ōla‘a
I hoa ho‘onipo no ka Malanai.
I ahona Puna i ka hone a ke kai
Ke ‘ala o ka hīnano ka‘u aloha
Aloha ia uka puanuanu
I ka ho‘opulu ‘ia e ke kehau
Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana
Pulu ‘elo i ka wai a ka Naulu.

What’s being done, Maunakea?
Mountain sharing with the Kēhau breeze 
You glance down at Mauna Loa 
It resembles a mist-white chicken in the calm 
I rise, appreciative of the beauty 
The rippling of the chilly water of the birds 
My mind is set on catching a glimpse 
Of Kīlauea’s misty smoke 
Halema‘uma‘u calls 
Glowing with the fires of Pele 
The woman strings the lehua of ‘Ōla‘a 
As a love-making companion for the Malanai  
Puna is refreshed by the sweet song of the sea 
The fragrance of hīnano is what I love 
Loved are these cool, damp heights
Drenched by the dew-laden Kēhau 
This ends my song 
Of being soaked in the Naulu showers.


* I am wrong: Sam Li‘a did not give this song to Eddie Kamae. Eddie got the first verse of this song in 1970 when he visited ‘Olu Konanui of Kalapana. When Eddie returned to Honolulu, Kawena Pukui asked him to sing what he’d learned, and "Before I knew it, she had written down seven more verses." Kamae tells this story in his recently released Hawaiian Son: The Life and Music of Eddie Kamae, 98–99. 

** I am wrong again: I now think it more likely that the song was composed in 1881 when Emma and her company of hoa kau lio (horseback riding companions) rode to Maunakea from Mānā, Waimea. According to Phillips’s account, Emma suggested that her guide William S. Lindsey give the name Kahalelaumāmane to his next child in commemoration of the temporary māmane-branch shelter constructed for Emma when a heavy rain doused the travelers on their ascent to the Kala‘i‘ehā "saddle." William Kahalelaumāmane Lindsey, William S. Lindsey’s son, was born in 1882. Kahalelaumāmane’s 1882 birthday rules out my 1883 hypothesis entirely (he could not have been born before the name was given) and makes an 1881 expedition date all the more probable.


© Kīhei de Silva 2006
The essay above was written by Kīhei de Silva and published in his book He Aloha Moku o Keawe: A Collection of Songs for Hawai‘i, Island of Keawe, Honolulu, 1997, pps. 52–55. It is offered here, in slightly revised and updated form, with his express consent. He retains all rights to this essay; no part of it may be used or reproduced without his written permission.

Moa uakea 2 - us national archives  large

photo courtesy of: U.S. National Archives

When ‘Emalani’s poets looked south from the summit of Maunakea, they compared the distant, snow-speckled back of Maunaloa to a "moa uakea i ka mālie"—to a misty-white uakea chicken at rest in the calm.

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