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Laulani Tealeʻs "Mele O Kaho‘olawe" at (De)Occupy Honolulu

I meant to post this video of Laulani Teale singing "Mele O Kaho‘olawe" last week as part of the 22nd anniversary of the islandʻs return from the military, and thatʻs certainly why Laulani sang it at the April 29, Food Not Bombs jam session at (De)Occupy Honolulu. But the police decided to stage a raid the next morning to seize the artwork that was being created at the very time Laulani was singing, and that really messed up my schedule.

To make matters worse, on May 1, when Laulani approached Mayor Carlisle at the Cityʻs annual Lei Day ceremony, a group of policemen arrested her and injured her hands in the process. Laulani and her mom have participated in this event as lei makers for years. I donʻt know if the cops knew she was a lei maker and musician who depends on her hands, but they seem to have gone out of their way to cause injury. Iʻm glad to have caught this performance for posterity.

Before she started singing, she told us,
"This is a song in Hawaiian by this kupuna named Harry Kunihi Mitchell whose son died out in the waves off Kahoolawe when they were fighting to protect the island from the US military.  It was being used for target practice for almost half a century after World War II when Hawaiians finally decided to take it back. So they started landing on the island, but in the course of that protest two really important guys were lost -- mysteriously -- at sea. Instead of being bitter, the father of one of them wrote this song. 
"It's a celebration for all people who fight for what's right."
[update 5/10/2012: The translation in this version is problematical in certain ways and I am working bringing in a revised version. Keep that in mind and see Laulani's comments below. Doug]

H. Doug Matsuoka
9 May 2012
Makiki, Honolulu


  1. Ok, a few translation notes:

    (note: I am not dissing this translation; not sure who did it and it might've been someone awesome. Just offering alternate perspectives.)

    Kīnohi means "from time immemorial".

    "Kohe mālamalama o Kanaloa" = the original name for the island ("Kahoʻolawe" is recent,and means "the taken"). It means "shining/beaming vagina of Kanaloa" (sea god, who is usually described as male. yeah.). I think the "southern beacon" is a euphamism for those who can't handle the name (though this very different translation is valid -- literally, this would be ko hema lamalama).

    How in the world did "Hiki mai na pua" ("the children arrive") get translated as "until you were invaded by 9 men"?? Especially since 2 of these were women? Jus saying.

    "No ke kaua kauholo me ke aupuni" = "for their (proactive) war against the government", not "for strife they caused the government". Lol. Kinda makes them (& us?) sound like a pain in the butt rather than effective warriors who fought to get an island back and WON.

    Anyway, just some thoughts. There are other phrases in this song I would translate a little differently too -- but these are the main ones.

    Anyways, mahalo, Doug!!!

    1. Of course, I should have checked with you before mounting the video but as usual I was in a rush to put it up. The discussion here on the various translation differences is very enlightening in its own way. If you send me a translation, I will create another version with it, and embed the new one here and mount a forwarding notice on this one.

      In other words, I'll fix 'em!


    2. Excellent video, nonetheless. Hah, flashed back to memories of the translations in Pittsburgh many years ago. Okay, don't know about this selecting profile stuff, but you both know who this is, so I'll just remain "Anonymous".

  2. Wehewehe mai nei kahi ao
    Dawn is breaking.
    Ku mai nd wa 'a kaulua
    Two double-hulled canoes are sighted.
    Pue ke kanaka mai ka wa 'a mai
    The men cheer from the canoe.
    Kukulu ka 'iwi 0 ka 'dina
    Land is sighted.
    'Ailani Kohemdlamalama
    To your left it is like heaven all lit upHAWAIIAN CUSTOMS ON KAHO OLAWE 2 39
    Ho 'ohiki keia moku id Kanaloa
    We dedicate this island to Kanaloa.
    Akua 0 ka moana 'Hi, moana uli
    God of the shallow and deep ocean
    Ke holo nei me ke au kahili
    We are running in an erratic current.
    'Ohaehae mai ka makani
    The wind is blowing from all directions.
    'Alald keiki pua ali 'i
    The chief's child is crying [also the name of the channel
    between Kaho'olawe and Maui ].
    Kapiko hole pelu 0 Kanaloa
    The island of Molokini is shaped like the navel of Kanaloa.
    Kahua pae 'Hi kihonua dhua
    The channel between Molokini—Kanaloa and Maui Kahiki
    Nui is shallow.
    Puehu ka lepo 0 Moa 'ula
    Dust is spreading over Mount Moa 'ul a.
    Pu 'uhonua mo 'okahuna kilo pae honua
    Gathering place of the kahuna [priest] classes to study astronomy.
    Pohaku 'ahu 'aikupele kdpili 0 Keaweiki
    Stone of deep magic of Keaweiki
    Kaulilua ka makani ke hae nei
    The wind is chilly
    Kawele hele nei 0 Hineli 'i
    Light rain is falling
    Napo '0 ka Id i Kahiki Moe
    The sun is setting towards Kahiki.
    Naue mai ke ao Lanikau
    The glow after the sunset is like the colors of the rainbow
    Kapu mai ka honua kupa 'a loa
    The world seems to be standing still.
    Pau ka luhi 'ana 0 ka moana
    We shall no more labor on the ocean.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Mahalo, thank you for this. Unfortunately, as you can see, the text suffers from a miscoded kahakō which scrambles the rendering, and Blogger does not allow me to edit replies. However, I believe it is from this essay in loving remembrance of the author/composer of "Mele O Kahoʻolawe," Harry Kunihi Mitchell, written by Noa Emmett Aluli and Davianna Pōmaikaʻi McGregor. I found a link to the essay here:

      I encourage all readers to go to the link. You can download the pdf document which explains much about the Hawaiian customs, uses, and practices on Kahoʻolawe.

      Again, thank you for contributing to this discussion.



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