‘O ka Hihi Wale iho nō ke Kauno‘a

Author: 
Malo‘eka Kuawehi

 

Photo: Forest & Kim Starr (USGS)

Kauna‘oa -- also called kauno‘a -- growing on pōhuehue at Kanahā, Maui.

 

The haku mele offers the following explanation of his piece: "My intent, here, is to censure the often parasitic state of hula today. Hula that creeps along without trunk or root, that spreads without sanctity or restriction, that feeds without reticence or insight at the trough of shallow rewards. My intent is also to honor the few remaining kumu hula who uphold the integrity of their discipline and retain its deeper knowledge. This mele puns on the similarities of kauno‘a and hula noa. It riddles, as well, over the multiple meanings of ‘ai. Teachers of the ‘ai kū, ‘ai hele variety (those who eat without reverence or protocol at the table of knowledge) measure their worth by ‘ai ho‘okūkū hula (the points by which hula competition winners are determined). Old-school kumu hula ‘ūniki ‘ai lolo (hula masters who have graduated though ‘ai lolo ritual), on the other hand, wield the ‘ai (the carefully delivered master stroke) by which pretension and pretenders can still be swept aside. One of these stubborn, old-school kumu is addressed in the mele’s closing line. The address is meant to be chanted in preface to a legitimately learned and transmitted hula, perhaps ‘Kalākaua he Inoa’ as preserved by the students of Maiki Aiu Lake or ‘Nemonemo ta Pua‘a’ as handed down by Kawena Pukui; hula of that sort would constitute the master’s stroke, the ‘Eia / Ei‘a’ of lines five and six."

‘O ka hihi wale iho nō ke kauno‘a lā-ē
‘A‘ohe ona kumu,
‘A‘ohe ona mole e mole ai lā
‘A‘ohe ‘ai kū ‘ai hele o ka‘u pā hula
Eia ka ‘ai a ke kumu i koe ai iā ‘oukou.
Ei‘a nō.
"‘Ehia lā ‘ai a mākou e eo ai?"
Ē Kauauaamahikalaniki‘eki‘eokohala ē, he aha lā!

The kauno‘a creeps along
Without trunk
Without root
My pā hula does not eat standing,
Does not eat on the run
Here is the stroke that the kumu has kept from all of you.
Here, indeed.
"How many points will it take to win?"
O Kauauaamahikalaniki‘eki‘eokohala, what of it!

 

© Malo‘eka Kuawehi 2003