Kenneth Makuakāne and I wrote this mele as a tribute to Jean ‘Īleialoha Keale Beniamina from Kaua‘i. ‘Īlei was a friend, mentor and inspiration who worked tirelessly in support of the Hawaiian people and the Hawaiian language. She was a native speaker of Hawaiian, born on the island of Ni‘ihau in 1955. She was one of the founders of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the perpetuation of the Hawaiian language. ‘Īlei was honoured as a Living Treasure of the Year and of Kauaʻi for her dedication to the people of the island in 2005, and passed away in 2010.
The mele compares ‘Īlei to a lei made of momi shells – one of those used to make Ni‘ihau shell leis. The practice of composing mele to honor individuals is a long-standing tradition in the Hawaiian community.
Listen to “Ka Lei Momi” in its entirety:
Kenneth and I are grateful to both Julie Schmidt and Kekoa Billena for sharing the images that appear on the cover graphic for this release. We hope you appreciate this makana (gift) in the same spirit in which it was composed and recorded – with great aloha.
Keola Donaghy, ‘Ōla‘a, Hawai‘i mokupuni.
Ka Lei Momi – Composed and performed by Kenneth Makaukāne and Keola Donaghy
|‘Auhea wale ‘oe||Where are you,|
|E ka lei momi||The momi shell lei|
|I kāhiko a pāpahi||Decorative and festive|
|He lei makamae||A prized lei|
|Kaulana hoʻi ‘oe||You are famous|
|a‘e lohe ‘ia||And heard|
|Kō leo hanohano||Is your honored voice|
|Puni ‘o Hawai‘i||throughout Hawaiʻi|
|E pūlama iho ‘oe||Cherish,|
|i ʻī mau ai||You always said|
|ka ʻōlelo hiwahiwa||The precious language|
|a nā kūpuna||of our ancestors|
|He makana nui ia||It is a great gift|
|e lei mai ai||that will be worn as a lei|
|nā mamo hoʻoheno||By the cherished|
|Laumanamana||and numerous descendants|
|Ha‘ina ‘ia mai||Told|
|Ana ka puana||is the story|
|No ka lei momi||Of the momi shell lei|
|He poina ʻole||That is unforgettable|