I was in Aotearoa starting my Ph.D. studies in spring, 2008. Kenneth Makuakāne emailed me and said the De Lima ‘Ohana was looking for a mele to include on their upcoming album. I looked through what we had previously written, most of the songs were ones I wanted Kenneth to hold onto for his next Hawaiian album (Kawaipono) or ones I didn’t think were quite up to snuff. Kenneth sent me an audio file with the melody he had composed, just using the syllables “dee-dee-dee-dee” (as he sometimes does), and I wrote this mele–for my wife Marie–to it the same day, with just a few tweaks done later. I had been reminiscing about the four or five years that we had lived in Waiākea, when our son and daughter still in intermediate and elementary school, respectively. He recorded a demo of it, gave it to Kelly Boy, and when they were ready to record it, we connected via Skype so I could coach Kelly’s daughter Kalena on the pronunciation. Turns out I really didn’t need to; she had it nailed. I just offered a one or two minor suggestions on handling some of the diphthongs, and what vowels she should do when doing her haʻi. Other than that what I heard in the studio that was what she put down on the final version that appeared on the De Lima ‘Ohana’s CD, Kupu A‘e. It gave me chicken skin then, and still does when I listen to it. I’ve not seen anyone choreograph a hula to this, but would love to… someday.

I should add that everything Kenneth and I have ever written together has been done by email or chat (text/audio/skype). We’ve on rare occasions gotten together to tweak things, but by and large we’re never even on the same island when we’re collaborating.

Aia i ka laʻi o Waiākea It is there in the tranquility of Waiākea
Ka lehua a nā manu e liʻa ai The lehua that is desired by the birds
Ilihia hoʻi au ke ʻike aku I am awestruck when my eyes behold
Ka nani hiehie o kuʻu pua The incredible beauty of my beloved flower
Hū aʻe ke aloha ke honi aku Love swells within when I detect the scent
Ke ʻala onaona kau ahiahi Of the gentle fragrance that arrives in the late evening
Haʻina ʻia mai ana ka puana The story is told
Ka lehua a nā manu e liʻa ai Of the lehua that is desired by the birds

4 comments on “Aia I Ka La‘i

Christina says:

It is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Thank you for sharing.

Kanani says:

Mahalo for sharing the mo’olelo of this mele…it’s beautiful beyond words.

Aloha Keola,
I would like to mahalo you for such a beautiful mele and the mo’olelo you share on this mele… I had the opportunity of hearing this by the De lima ‘ohana for the first time when I was traveling on a Hawaiian Airline flight to Australia… Then we had them perform at Kanikapila in Kailua and it called to me again… I am a graduate Kumu hula here in Kailua and would love to have permission to bring this song to life in a hula… I am the 8th child of 11 to the parents of well known musician Father Charles Kalama Jr. and Mother Kumu Hula Elizabeth Kekau’ilaniKaai’akawaha Ako Correa Kalama (aka) Aunty Nana or Lani Kalama who taught me that when the songwriter is alive it is only proper to get there mana’o as well as permission to create only then will your song come to life in our halau..I mahalo you in advance and hope to hear from you… Have a most beautiful day and Blessings to you and your ‘ohana..
Ano’ai Kou Alahele May your way be Blessed
Charlani Kalama

Aloha Charlani, my apologies for not reply to this earlier. I’m flattered by your thoughts, and of course you are welcome to create a hula for this. Kenneth and I would both be honored. Mahalo for asking. I’ll email you as well in case you don’t get this reply.

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